Ah, summer! It’s the time for laid-back, relaxed entertaining—and with that comes BBQ. While lots of home chefs like to try their hand at cooking on the grill, most people agree that there is nothing better than smoked meats that are cooked slow and steady in a professional smoker, with the right wood, the right rubs, then paired with all those delicious sauces and sides. Unlike throwing burgers on the grill, delicious BBQ takes time, patience, and a lot of work.
I spent a few lazy Saturdays sampling local BBQ restaurants with friends, and the experience was nothing short of amazing. Our first stop was the Wire Mill Saloon & BBQ, located at the corner of Route 107 and Route 57, Georgetown. You probably won’t need a GPS to find the place. Not only is it easy to locate, but as the restaurant’s slogan proclaims, “you can smell our butts for miles.”
“The smells really do bring people in. Our owner Gino Marsili uses a combination of oak, apple, and hickory wood to bring out the flavors of the meats,” explains General Manager Matthew Rispoli.
The owner Gino Marsili had initially opened the space as a deli and used a small smoker to serve up BBQ.
“I lived in South Georgia for eight years and got to love real BBQ. So when I came back here, and the economy crashed in 2008, I decided ‘maybe it’s time to reinvent myself’. There were many delis at the time, so I just took a chance and started a BBQ place.
Considering the number of people I see packing the place, it appears that chance has paid off. They serve up southern comfort food. We ordered the smoked wings and fried pickle chips per our server Adam’s suggestion for appetizers. The wings were crisp and smoky and served with an Alabama white dipping sauce that was creamy and had just the right kick. “That’s made with mayo, horseradish, a little bit of cayenne, and lemon juice,” Marisili explains.
The fried pickle chips are a surprising “show stopper” of an app. Unlike other fried pickles, they have the perfect sweet/salty balance, and somehow the pickles are not mushy although they are enrobed in a batter then deep fried. For the main course, try the smoked ribs that fall off the bone and brisket that really does melt in your mouth. The Wire Mill Saloon and BBQ folks make all their sauces from scratch. The sauces are on the sweeter side, as is to be expected from a Georgia-Style BBQ. If you’re only going to choose one mac and cheese from the menu, go for the Pepper Mac and Cheese. It’s gooey, and the slight heat from the Monterey Pepper Jack cheese balances out the tangy/ sweet BBQ perfectly. Their famous smoked platters are served with two sides, and excellent homemade cornbread that’s moist yet crumbly.
Located at 967 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield, Hoo Doo Brown BBQ is a family-style restaurant with fantastic food, a well-stocked bar, and lots of southern charm. Co-owners Cody Sperry and Chris Sexton were inspired 9 years ago when visiting Austin, Texas.
“We went on a guys trip and went to a bunch of great BBQ places in Austin that influenced our menu, but we are not tied to one style. For example, if you are in Texas, they want the one style. They want salt and pepper seasoned beef brisket. Kansas City has that sweet style BBQ sauce the KC Masterpiece. The Carolinas are whole hog, pork with a vinegar mustard sauce. If you are there, that’s what people want and expect. By being located in Connecticut, we are not restricted geographically. So, our beef, brisket, and beef ribs are Texas-inspired with salt and pepper rubs, 16 hours cooks, low and slow in the smoker. Our hogs are done authentically Carolina style. Our Pork Belly is almost like a Puerto Rican influence with the Chicharrón on top.”
“The family-style dining allows guests to order a la carte. All meals are made for sharing.
The cocktails are easy, simple, and not overpowering,” Sperry says. And our server Samantha knew her menu and suggested great drinks. In my opinion, no visit would be complete without sampling the cornbread, pork belly, and brisket.
The pork belly cracklin is crisp and crunchy with a velvety rich, satisfying finish. It just may be the best bite of BBQ you will ever enjoy. Wash it down with a beer, sweet tea or Smoked Old Fashioned featuring moonshine-soaked cherries and you’ve got yourself a Hoodoo Brown Barbeque. If you were wondering where the restaurant’s name comes from, legend has it Hoo Doo Brown was the leader of the Dodge City Gang in the late 1800s and the “baddest cowboy” that ever lived.
For local foodie Brian Putorak, there’s none better. He recently made the trek from Trumbull with his wife Nicole to celebrate his birthday with his absolute favorite local BBQ.
“Whenever I find myself craving BBQ — real Texas-style BBQ – you can’t convince me to go anywhere else other than Hoodoo Brown,” Putorak says.
“I made the mistake of waiting 36 years to try ‘real’BBQ from Texas, until my wife and I travelled to Austin 5 years ago. That trip to Texas completely changed my impression of just how incredible BBQ food can be. But after a few days in Austin, just like that we were back in CT. The realization started to quickly set in that we’d never experience Texas-style BBQ again…not here in CT. Thank God for Hoodoo Brown!” he exclaims.
“The first time I had a bite of brisket at Hoodoo Brown I felt instantly transported to Austin. It’s my favorite thing on their menu, which itself is impressive all around. The sides – from the scalloped potatoes to the cornbread – are just as high quality as their meat selection.” Putorak says and I agree.
If you crave great BBQ, look no further than Ridgefield or Georgetown. It’s the perfect meal for a summer day—and both restaurants offer easy take-out options. •