Monday, November 2, 2009

Blowing Smoke

I realize I'm a little late with this post, as it was promised several days ago. I can only blame computer fatigue (as in, I look at a computer so much every day at work that I couldn't stand to look at one at home).

Last week, I recounted our tradition of carving pumpkins and getting takeout from Chester's. Noe and I discovered Chester's shortly after moving here. Located past the "downtown" part of downtown, the tiny storefront that you could smell almost a block away called to Noe. Every time we drove past, he would say, "Maybe we should go to Chester's." One night, I finally gave in.

Chester's Barbecue in New London
(photo from 

As I mentioned, the New London location is tiny. It has a few seats but the main business is takeout. (Chester's now also operates a sit-down location in Groton, but I have not been there - mostly because the New London location is convenient to our house, and also because I have heard that if you eat in at the Groton Chester's, you leave smelling like smoke.) According to the menu, Chester's philosophy is that "“Barbecue is not the sauce, It’s what the sauce goes on.” Therefore, Noe and I were expecting some high-quality smoked meats.

Noe and I looked over a menu and decided the best bet would be the Chester's Sampler - "A little bit of every meat we smoke, your choice of three sides, cornbread and two drinks." All this for $26.00.

We weren't sure how little a little bit was. Turns out it isn't "little" at all. Our sampler included brisket, pulled pork, red hots, baby back ribs, beef ribs - and possibly more (believe it or not, it seems to get bigger every time). For sides, we had a choice of baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, corn nibblets, mac & cheese, green beans, collard greens, and cinnamon apples. This was all accompanied by Chester's cake-like cornbread and two cans of soda.

Piles of smoked meats


Sides, drinks, cornbread

I am by no means a barbecue expert. I really am not qualified to "review" Chester's. I do, however, believe myself qualified to tell people what I like about Chester's.

I know that when I eat Chester's I taste more meat than smoke - although the smokers give everything a rich and smoky flavor, the true flavor of the meat shines through. Sauces come on the side for the sampler, and while I use some of them, I'm not much of a sauce person - I enjoy the smoky meat more on its own. I like the texture of the brisket - it's not stringy. The pulled pork is shredded to a consistency that makes it good eaten with a fork or on a sandwich. Ribs have never been my favorite meat, but I enjoy Chester's, drizzled with a bit of sauce (although Noe and I agree that beef ribs in general are too much bone and not enough meat, no matter where they come from).

Bag o' pork ribs

I enjoy most of Chester's side dishes, although the two times we have asked for green beans they have been out. The mac & cheese can be a little on the bland side. The baked beans, however, are fantastic (I love the smoky-sweet flavor of good baked beans) and the coleslaw is not goopy (always a plus in my book). Noe loves the cornbread, which is moist and has a cake-like texture. I tend to prefer a little more crumbly cornbread, buts till enjoy Chester's.

A movable feast

Chester's also offers a good deal if you are trying to feed a group. On several occasions we have ordered the Big Family Special: 2 racks of ribs, 2 chickens, 2 lbs. of brisket, 2 lbs. of pork (Carolina or Memphis style), 2 pounds of red hots, 2 quarts of coleslaw, 2 quarts of baked beans, and 12 pieces of cornbread. The price tag for this feast? $120.00 - a bargain if you are feeding 12 or more people (we've served it to 14 and had leftovers for lunch the next day).

So...while I admit that my barbecue education is lacking, I do not hesitate to recommend Chester's to anyone who wants a hearty (read: meat-centric) meal for a good price. I've never been disappointed - they are a welcome part of the New London dining scene.

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