Mar

22

 I do reckon I found a gem of a BBQ place and had to go all the way to Fairfield, CT to find it. A good friend, and fellow spec, took me there to prove the Northeast has BBQ that will stand on its own — and he was right. He was quite apprehensive in trying to score a good fix of BBQ, as I'm known for being very tough to please and rather discerning.

Walking into Wilson's (1850 Post Rd, Fairfield, CT) our senses were immediately assailed with the sounds of good music, the sight of tasty food, a funky atmosphere, and very helpful and cheerful employees. Before the food was even discussed and ordered, I had that sixth sense that told me that this would be good. We stepped up to the counter and each ordered a slab of St. Louis style ribs (dry rubbed), and several sides. My companion had sides of beans and slaw, and I had fries and slaw. Wilson's served a lagniappe of homemade cornbread with each order. They provided three different BBQ sauces, a Chipolte, a Carolina Vinegar, and a Sweet/hot sauce. I wasn't taken by any of the sauces, but my companion enjoyed the Chipolte sauce very much with his initial taste test. Our food came very quickly, and we dove in with gusto. The slabs were extremely meaty, tender, and juicy, no dryness at all. I didn't use any sauce, and really enjoyed my ribs as the bark was to die for, and made the meal 100% enjoyable. Anytime one doesn't need any sauce with his ribs means they hit three sevens and the proverbial jackpot paid off big. The sides were awesome, the fries being A+ in taste and quality. The slaw was rather drab, and I suspect the owners preferred to make a bland slaw as to not overpower the meat when used on the pulled meat sandwiches. Anyway, the slaw was a perfect counterbalance to the wonderful taste of the meat. I looked at the beans my companion ordered, and they looked and smelled delicious, being homemade with several different types of beans. The cornbread was especially notable, made from scratch, moist, and with the right amount of salt to give it that Southern zing. I was pleased that Wilson's offered sweet tea. Their sweet tea was the real deal, and would be home anywhere in the South. They offered unlimited refills, which this sweet tea deprived person took full advantage of. All in all, it was wonderful to eat at a BBQ place where it was obvious that the food was prepared with a lot of love, and the staff takes their BBQ seriously. Additionally, the blues cranked on the Jukebox instantly transported me to Greenville, MS — another place and another time.

Jeff Watson, surfer, speculator, poker player and art connoisseur, blogs as MasterOfTheUniverse.

Charles Pennington weighs in:

I heartily agreed with MOTU about Popeye's, but I dissent on Wilson's. I've been there a couple of times, most recently with my wife. We got indifferent service, prices about three times that of a good Southern place, and mediocre food. Also they won't even give you a fountain coke with ice — they'll only let you buy a 12 ounce can if you're nice. It's also small and has not very good seating. There is a place called Bobby Q's in Westport that is pretty good, and there are plenty of places in Manhattan that are fantastic, though expensive. Bottom line though is that whenever I head down South I'm bowled over by the quality, low prices, and plentitude of the 'cue. Most recently I enjoyed Shane's in Atlanta. It's a chain, but it's great.


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10 Comments so far

  1. Sam Humbert on March 22, 2010 7:50 am

    To each his own. I live just a few miles from Wilson's, but find myself patronizing Bobby Q's — a few miles away in Westport, CT — much more frequently.

  2. Jeff Watson on March 22, 2010 9:57 am

    In fairness, I looked at Bobby Q's menu. I do declare, I would be afraid to eat at a BBQ place with a huge menu that also included wrap sandwiches, crab cakes, fish taco's, turkey reubens, lasagna, grilled salmon, ny strip steaks, crab cakes, meatloaf, calamari, chicken wings, spinach dip, burgers, and quesidillas. I might be wrong, but those huge menus tend to diminish the quality of the 'Q, as they try to be all things to all people. The best BBQ places have just a few things on the menu with a small assortment of sides, and don't allow anything out of the BBQ food group to get in the way of the real food.

  3. Sam Humbert on March 22, 2010 11:23 am

    Yes, they've added women-and-children friendly menu items over time, but their BBQ is unchanged since they opened. The night the restaurant was filmed for Food Network, I happened to be there eating with a group of discerning Southerners, and their positive comments are available for viewing on the archived TV episode.

  4. Jeff Watson on March 22, 2010 11:48 am

    The Food Network must have been busy that week as they went to Wilson’s on that same leg of the road trip where they hit Bobby Q’s. Like a Frenchman is able to better judge French cuisine, a person from the South has a similar advantage with BBQ. Still, it would be disingenuous of me to discount the food of Bobby Q’s without scientific testing. I’ll report back.

  5. Sam Humbert on March 22, 2010 12:29 pm

    As to Wilson's — they do remarkably little business, considering the glowing reports of some enthusiasts. The restaurant has very little seating — as MOTU can attest from his visit — yet generally isn't full. I'm not sure what to make of this. One might conjecture that Fairfield County diners don't appreciate or reward good BBQ, but in my experience, any remarkably good restaurant in the county is immediately thronged. Fairfield has ~1 million population, and is among the wealthiest counties in the US, so any exceptionally good product is aggressively bid.

  6. anton on March 22, 2010 1:56 pm

    The indigenous Chicagoan should also evaluate the competition to Uno’s deep-dish and the distinctive Maxwell Street Vienna Beef dog.

  7. Jeff Watson on March 22, 2010 3:00 pm

    Although comparing apples to oranges, Uno's pizza is not the best pizza in town by a long shot. Maxwell St. Vienna Dogs are not the best hot dogs in town either, with many establishments making tastier (and more hygienic) dogs than the Maxwell Street variety. One would be well served to check out D&D in Evanston which makes a great dog, one of the very best in town. Lou Malnati's deep dish is better than Uno's. But then again, Uno and Malnati's are chains, and why would one want to get pizza from a chain? Chicago drops the ball as far as pizza is concerned and New York pizza is much superior but that's a discussion for another day.

  8. Sam Humbert on March 22, 2010 5:14 pm

    One last comment re central Fairfield County BBG: Be sure to try Jeff's in South Norwalk. Tell him Prof sent you, and Jeff will treat you right. Jeff's a big-hearted, generous guy, and a fine chef.

  9. Jeff Watson on March 22, 2010 7:27 pm

    Since most people that read Daily Speculations visit the East Coast of Florida, they should probably check out Tom Jenkins in Lauderdale. Good world class 'Q. If one is serious about BBQ done the right way, one needs to drive three hours west to Arcadia to Slim's, who have been doing it correctly since 1957… Slim's needs no further comment as they're the penultimate BBQ establishment in Florida.

  10. anton on March 23, 2010 6:44 pm

    Malnati’s makes a decent pizza, but for many, the original Uno at the corner of Ohio and Wabash streets produces a superior Chicago deep-dish pie. Our favorite ensemble consists of layer upon layer of the tastiest meats, mushrooms, caramelized onions and fresh mozzarella, smothered with a distinctive thick and perfectly seasoned tomato sauce that’s well dusted with grated Romano. This perfect combination fills to capacity a generously buttered, thick and flaky crust. This is substantial food, a meal in a slice for most. The only drawback is the 60 minutes of anticipation from decision to plate.

    However, as to their other many other locations, admittedly there are likely perceptible quality inconsistencies. And I concede, if one would compare their thin crust to a mediocre New York slice, I suspect Ono would fall short.

    Much of the allure of a Maxwell Street polish sausage or Vienna dog is the frenetic mood; the hustle and bustle of food vendors and their hurried clientele, complete with the added bonus of fare that is delicious.

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