Blackstrap BBQ, Winthrop

Located in the charming center of the northern seaside town of Winthrop, occupying the old Moonstruck Cafe space, Blackstrap BBQ is a great find. Started by some former East Coast Grill folks, this barbeque joint is named after blackstrap molasses which is commonly used in a lot of barbeque recipes.

The brick lined sidewalks, metal outdoor patio furniture, a large blackboard menu with lots of colorful graffiti and colorful decorations make this small barbeque joint fun and unique. Please note that there is no parking lot but there’s plenty of street parking. They are open for lunch and dinner.

The menu itself is quite varied, but one thing is key here- there’s plenty of meat. That’s what barbeque is all about! There’s all types of barbeque and side dishes in their different regional forms. There’s Texas style beef brisket, Memphis style dry rub ribs, Kansas City baby back ribs, Louisiana style catfish po’boy, and a combo of South Carolina and Eastern North Carolina styled pulled pork as well as all sorts of daily specials. For sides there’s homemade baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, two types of coleslaw, mashed potatoes, green beans, and watermelon to name a few.

We stopped in on a Sunday around 7pm for a dinner. It was a quick 20 minute drive after some sailing in the Boston Harbor. The place was empty save for a duo that was leaving as we sat down after ordering. There are only four tables and an over-the-counter-top dining area, enough for 16-20 seats, making the majority of their business primarily take out. The owners and staff are warm, friendly, smiling, engaging people. They checked on us a few times to make sure we were enjoying our meal. Portions are large and generous, as we both had to take home half of our meals and appetizers. Note that the plastic cutlery is very flimsy, so just dig in and use your hands. If you need to clean up afterwards, you’re better off using a few WetNaps or washing your hands in the bathroom than using lots of thin napkins. We tried:

The buttermilk fried onion rings were wonderful. They had enough tender onion inside and plenty of well-seasoned crunch on the outside. I’ve always liked my onion rings on the crunchy side with a thin coating of batter so these are right up my alley. If you’re looking for substantial beer battered rings, these are not them.

We got a medium order of wings, half of each type that Blackstrapp BBQ offers. Smoky BBQ wings are coated in a sticky sweet bbq sauce that goes well with the tender smoked chicken. Of the two kinds we tried, the smoky bbq wings were my favorite. I could see myself eating these cold straight out of the fridge after getting home late at night.

The Buffalo wings are prepared in a similar fashion, they’re slathered in a spicy red hot sauce that still allowed a hint of the smoked chicken flavor to come through. Not my favorite Buffalo wing that I’ve had ever, but certainly if you passed me some at a party I wouldn’t say no.

The Memphis style dry rub pork ribs are delicious. They are cooked low and slow so that they have the right hint of smokiness. You know how a lot of places have meat that tastes like it’s been soaked in smoke? Or worse, use liquid smoke flavor? Not here. The ribs have a nice savory crust and moist juicy innards with pleasant subtle smoke flavor throughout. You can sauce these however you like. I preferred to lightly slather my rib in a touch of sauce. They are also great alone if you’re the anti-sauce type.

One of us had the two meat combo plate for $14.99 which came with two sides. We chose smoked BBQ chicken, burnt brisket ends, mashed potatoes, and baked beans. The smoked BBQ chicken was very good. It was tender, moist, slightly sweet and had a lot of rub on it. It wasn’t dry like many of the barbeque places I have tried recently were. The mashed potatoes were a bit heavy on the butter for my tastes but I was glad to see potato skin in there. The baked beans however were scrumptious. You could tell these were made from scratch and had the pleasant taste of molasses while the beans were soft but not overdone to mush.

The burnt brisket ends were my some of the best I’ve tried. You get a few chunks of smoky, soft and tender semi-fatty textured meat with a slightly crusty and chewy outside that is evenly doused in sauce.

Every meal combo comes with cornbread (not pictured). Surprisingly, it’s good. It’s a dense square of buttery goodness that is not overly sweet, but has just a touch of sweetness. Nothing like the commercial over-sugared cardboard-like New England cornbread I’ve had at other places. It’s great alone or with a swipe of soft salted butter. You could even used it to make a mini brisket-onion ring-cornbread slider of sorts, like I did.

Blackstrap BBQ also has a rib challenge. That’s correct, you read it right! A R-I-B challenge that no one has won so far. You must finish a whole rack of fried ribs coated in Billy Badass BBQ sauce. The hot bbq sauce is like a Jamaican Jerk sauce since it has notes of ginger and allspice in it. It is very spicy and hot at the same time. Chef Chris Thompson says that Billy Badass is hot but he doesn’t use ghost chilies or anything. The sauce reminds him of his trip to Jamaica with his wife. Are you going to be the one that faces this challenge and wins? Give it try! It could very well be you!

Blackstrap BBQ is a wonderful place that has only been in business for a little less than a year. The food is beyond great and I hope they continue to churn out consistently good quality barbeque out of their hulking 650 lb smoker. They are New England’s Home of the Hog, where beef and swine are mighty fine and their motto “BBQ = Love + Happiness” rings true. I can taste the passion!

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