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November 26, 2013

Alice Eats: Yeah Baby’s BBQ-N-Grill

IMG_6927387 Brooklyn St., Morrisville, 888-2333

A new barbecue spot always motivates me to hit the road, even if it's a snowy one. On my way to Yeah Baby's BBQ-N-Grill on Sunday, I passed hunters in camouflage on their way home after a morning of tracking. The month-old restaurant isn't far from Mo' Vegas' main drag. The crowd and the music on the stereo confirmed that I had stepped into somewhere far from Burlington; I was in the "country."

The place, formerly Sabrina's Café & Bakery, has a lived-in diner feel that suits its new tenant. Local artwork of motorcycle riders decorates the walls, but the centerpiece of the room is a display of sauces — four varieties — all made by the restaurant's owner and pitmaster, Ted Hoadley.

IMG_6926More on those later. On that cold afternoon, we needed to warm up to lunch. The special pea soup called to me, even though I assumed at the diner-style eatery, it would be out of a can.

How wrong I was. The thick, carrot-speckled potage was not only homemade with love, it was done with a dose of smoke. According to our server, Hoadley smoked the ham himself, and it imbued the whole bowl with a seductive waft of the pit. It compared favorably with versions I've had at my favorite Québec sugar shack. If Hoadley wants to expand beyond his sauce line, the next product should be some pea soup. I'd buy it.

IMG_6930Sticking to the homestyle treats on the specials board, we continued our meal with an order of chicken and biscuits. As you can see, at right, it wasn't a particularly photogenic dish.

But my real quibble was the chicken, or rather, the lack thereof.  Aside from three or four small chunks, the only fowl I could locate was in the form of a few wisps of muscle fiber mixed into the sauce.

It was a good sauce, thick and nicely salted, if a bit lumpy, but I missed the protein. At least the biscuits were worth a bite — tender and buttery, with a crisp exterior. Still, next time I'd be more likely to order a hot turkey sandwich from the regular menu. Or try the signature All Jacked Up burger, filled with smoked pepper Jack cheese and served on Texas toast.

IMG_6929But I was really there for the 'cue. I was able to try it all (except smoked chicken wings) with the $15.95 sampler.

First impression: They serve my kind of cakey, sweet corn bread. It reminded me of the kind my mom used to buy at Boston Market back when it was still called Boston Chicken.

The handcut fries were mostly crisp, but might have benefited from another minute or two in the fryer. Buttermilk slaw could have used some acid and the tomato-sauced beans were overly sugary.

But what of the meat? The pulled pork came to me not quite warm and slightly stiff to the tooth. Uh-oh.

Luckily, that was the only failure. The ribs pulled from the bone like silk. But they held on with fortitude until that moment. A competition judge would be pleased, and so was I.

Too bad I wasn't a fan of the sauce. All four that our server brought out to us in a caddy along with ketchup and mustard had a distinct ketchup base. The ingredient lists were more or less the same on all, except for an addition or two. The ribs were covered in the Bourbon sauce, which tasted like ketchup with a slap of uncooked-down booze. The two chipotle-flavored sauces didn't betray much smoke or heat, so I mostly stuck to the "sweet" sauce, which didn't have the unnecessary add-ons.

Luckily, the brisket didn't need it. The smoke-ringed beef whispered of its time over the fire, but it was the tender meat and its big, beefy flavor that made it delicious. And after wolfing down the beef and ribs, you'd better believe I had no room for a pie or pumpkin roll. Maybe next time, I'll get those to go.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected].

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