Last weekend, my Grandfather, my older brother and I traveled to Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue in Hartford, CT (89 Arch St, Hartford, CT, http://bearsbbq.com ). Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue also has a location in Windsor, CT and is known by many to be the best BBQ in Connecticut. Jamie “The Bear” McDonald is a nationally ranked competitive professional eater and is the proud owner of Bear’s Smokehouse. “The Bear” was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and as a result Jamie spent his high school years in BBQ joints all around the city. If there there are two things that it seems Jamie has mastered, they are eating and cooking.
As we entered the vast open space of Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue, the first thing we all seemed to notice was the smell. The smell of the restaurant was incredibly enticing. Full racks of utterly perfect ribs, rubbed with the most mouth-watering blend of spices, cooking to a juicy, crispy perfection in the oven. Sliced and shredded meats smothered in barbecue sauces and oils, cracked and popped on stove. All of the wondrous smells of barbecue melded together and guided us to the ordering stand. The restaurant’s ordering area was configured like a cafeteria’s ordering line, so that you could make your way down the line ordering your main courses, appetizers, sides and desserts at different stops on the way to pay for your food.
We ended up ordering: Fried Ribs, Pulled Pork Poutine, Two Full Racks of Ribs, A Quarter Pound of Brisket, Mac and Cheese, Corn Bread, and Baked Beans.
The Fried Ribs were fantastic. The hard, crisp, oily fried shell melded perfectly with the meaty, succulent, fall-off the bone goodness of the inner rib. The ribs were so meaty that often times I would begin chewing on bones, because there was so little bone compared to the abundance of meat.
When you think of Poutine, you may think of the wonderful Canadian feast made with french fries that are floating in an ocean of light brown gravy sauce and tangy cheese curds, but the Poutine at Bear’s Smokehouse was something else. This Poutine was made up of crisp, snappy warm fries smothered with ooey gooey american cheese and then finished with an abundance of tender, juicy pulled pork, or any other meat of your choice. The Poutine was served in a huge sumptuous pile of oily, juicy goodness, and the was able to serve all three of us, with enough left to bring home.
The Two Full Racks of Ribs were most definitely the highlight of the meal, if not my weekend. Cooking ribs is a very difficult thing to do, especially baby back ribs. Baby back ribs have a very small amount of meat usually, so it is very easy to burn a rack of ribs or just have a really dry plate of ribs. Luckily, it seemed as though the restaurant had a fool proof plan to keep the ribs moist, and juicy: aluminum foil. The chefs would wrap the full rack of ribs in aluminum foil after marinating them, rubbing them down with their glorious blend of spices, and the foil kept in all the wonderful fattening juices of the ribs.
We ordered three delectable sides: Mac and Cheese, Corn Bread, and Baked Beans. The Mac and Cheese was extremely creamy and thick, and the warm oozing cheese was cut perfectly with the tender pasta (note that Mac and Cheese topped with BBQ sauce is a marvelous combination).
The Corn Bread was moist, buttery and fluffy on the outside, and grainy and beady on the inside. The Corn Bread was topped with a hefty slathering of warm, overly-sweet honey, that was absorbed into the slightly sweet bread and left a yellow tint to the otherwise white bread.
As I have said before on many occasions, Baked Beans are the perfect representation of the restaurants food. The dish incorporates the sauce that is used on the other meats, and often times the meat itself. Each of these pieces of the puzzle are mixed together in harmony, and create the ultimate BBQ side. The Baked Beans at Bear’s Smokehouse were frankly, delicious. The beans were tender, the sauce was just the perfect temperature, and the meat that they used was the perfect binder of the dish.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to sample the brisket before it was doled out between my Brother and my Grandfather, who devoured the thick, voluptuous pieces of meat and left none for me
The atmosphere and layout of the restaurant was very smart. The downstairs portion of Bear’s Smokehouse was oriented so that one was able to see each and every part cooking process of the food, and the upstairs balcony-esque area of the restaurant was looking directly at all the happy customers in the downstairs area.
Overall, the restaurant was a wonderful addition to my lineup of delectable Connecticut restaurants, and I hope I can return in the near future. I would give it, ZZZZX- 4 ¾ Z’s- Fantastic.