When the cold weather comes, I get hungry. It must be the extra energy expended to stay warm in the biting wind and low temperatures that jump starts my appetite. I want to eat something that will stick to my ribs.
It’s meat I crave: not just any meat, but slow cooked savory barbecue. Beef, pork, or chicken all tastes great from a long stay in the smoker. Slathered with barbecue sauce – spicy or very spicy, vinegar or tomato, sweet and tangy or with a kick – there’s nothing better to keep up my strength.
A platter of cue usually comes with an array of sides that offer a contrast to the richly-sauced meats. Slaw, collards, or baked beans; mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, or corn bread; they all have their supporters. I can hardly limit myself to two. Usually Marsha and I agree on four different sides that will be shared.
Barbecue restaurants are also known for having a good selection of beer and bourbon. They’re warming too.
B. J. Ryan’s Banc House just off Wall Street has always been a reliable source for tasty barbecue. HooDoo Brown in Ridgefield is the smoking BBQ destination of the last few years, drawing SRO crowds from across the region. But now, Bobby Q’s Cue & Co has come to Norwalk.
Bobby Q’s Cue & Co. touches all the bases. After a long run in Westport, Bob LaRosa has brought his much-loved Kansas City style barbecue to Norwalk. Part of the Waypoint restaurant complex on West Avenue, it’s a welcome addition to the Norwalk restaurant scene.
“We brought our original smoker from Westport,” Bob told me, “and still cook the same award-winning recipe low and slow over hickory wood.”
As you enter the high-ceilinged space, the bar is to the left and the open kitchen to the right. Wall-sized guitars and music festival posters line the barn-panelled walls for a mix of industrial chic and southern charm.
Barbecue is at the heart of the extensive menu. Beef brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, chicken, and sausage are all served with a drizzle of Bob’s famous sauce (original or bold) and the house pickles. You can even order beef burnt ends (when available) if a heavy char is your thing. A combo platter of two favorites and two sides is $21.
When the brisket is good I know I’m in the right place. Bobby Q’s was tender and smoky with just enough fat for a rich mouthfeel. Pulled pork, my other BBQ standard, was flavorful, porky, and moist with tender shreds and a few dark bits that had seen the fire.
Marsha’s half chicken ($12), with a color of burnished mahogany from its turn it the smoker, was moist and juicy inside. Each bite, both white and dark meat, was a mouthful of smoky flavor. I kept reaching across to snag a taste.
Our quartet of shared sides was a display of southern favorites. The collards ($4) were braised with bacon and cider vinegar and came with a little kick from hot sauce. Crunchy slaw (4) helped to cool the BBQ spice. Lightly-sweetened cornbread (3) came with a decidedly northern maple-bacon butter. Slow-cooked stone-ground grits (4) were finished with bacon and cheddar. (Two of the sides were included in my combo platter.)
The barbecued meats also appear in a dozen tempting sandwiches like the big dipper with brisket, smoked portobello, sauteed onions and Swiss ($14). The McBobby has boneless baby back ribs that could take the mess out of eating ribs along with pickles and onion (12). The cowboy ruben pairs smoked brisket with slaw, Swiss, and remoulade sauce on grilled sourdough (14).
Pulled pork and brisket make guest appearances on flatbreads like the Taste of Charleston with fried green tomato and pimento cheese ($12). Brisket is matched with roasted poblano peppers, caramelized onions, and gruyere on the Austin city limits (12).
A dozen rotating taps dispense craft beers and cider. Twenty four bourbons and six rye whiskeys are available to wash it all down.
You know a good barbecue restaurant by the smoky aroma as you walk in the door. I once bought a hat in a BBQ restaurant that carried the sweet smoke aroma for months. On the menu at Bobby Q’s there’s an apology for the efficiency of their Smoke Eater system that filters out the aroma. Still, when you walk in, take a deep breath and you’ll know you’re in barbecue country.