Formaggio BBQ – what am I missing?

It had been awhile (years) since my last visit to Formaggio for BBQ. In the past I remember not thinking it was waiting on line for.

I went by today and picked up a large spread for family and friends. I thought the sides were generally great, but the meats were really sub par. We actually just threw out nearly a full rack of ribs because no one was going to eat them. The biggest issue by far was the seasoning. Their “rub” was predominantly cracked black pepper. The chicken was OK, but the ribs seemed as they were purposely prepared au poivre
style. Beyond that the ribs were badly overcooked and dry. The pulled pork suffered from a similar peppery fate. My kids were complaining it was too spicy. I thought this was strange as they like some fairly spicy food. When I tried the pork I knew right away that it was the black pepper. Also it was more like chopped pork than a shoulder that had been pulled apart. There were pieces that I would swear were cuber loin.

I don’t get the reverential tones and overzealous social media posts about the Formaggio BBQ by friends and ‘food bloggers’ alike. Is it one of those things people think they should like? Maybe we had an off day and there was some newbie prepping the meat. I am a bit miffed to have dropped over $100 and waited on line for this food. Now I am remembering why I maybe haven’t been to Formaggio for the BBQ in years, despite shopping there semi regularly for cheese and meat for special occasions.

As I mentioned, the sides were good. The cornbread was some of the best I have had, not too sweet and the perfect texture. Sweet potato salad was a welcome riff on this dish, with a nice amount of vinegar bite. Everyone enjoyed the slaw (I passed as it had a lot of raisins). The mac and cheese was perhaps best I have ever tasted. Unfortunately sides alone can’t save a meal.

I have never had their Q. My problem with most BBQ spots around is that the sides are just awful. So maybe the answer is, buy your sides, then go to The Smoke Shop and get the meat. Then chowdown?

My answer for parties has been, order the meats, and make the sides myself. Someday, I would love to get everything that we want from just one place. Would be a ton less work for me!

In that case, you can also pre order a day or two ahead of time. I believe you can then bypass the line outside and go directly inside to the cheese counter to pick up your order.

This is quite helpful, as I get distracted by too much black pepper in most dishes and find that it throws the balance way off. Good to know about the sides, though.

Here’s an old chowhound post from 2010 after the BBQ rub recipe was published in the Boston Herald. I can’t find that recipe, but this post includes the bulk recipe that they were using back then. It does have a decent amount of black pepper.

I can not stand tons of black pepper in BBQ. It doesn’t belong there at all. The peppers gets bitter and unpleasant when grilled. Pepper should be added at the table by people like Mr. SMT who love pepper. He, owner of 9 pepper varieties, each with their own grinder at the table, forbids me from adding any black pepper to anything that will be grilled.

[He has deep South bone fides, so I don’t argue with him, plus I really hate black peppers.]

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I am from NC, but left in 1977 and then only spent short times visiting my family there since. My regular DC and I tried the FK “bbq” once some years ago. It was horrible. No, I don’t get why anyone thinks it’s good, but each to their own. Didn’t try the sides. We never went back for the BBQ, often for cheese and other items and I otherwise love the place. I hardly ever eat meat, but pulled pork is in my genes and with a non sweet vinegar sauce, so I do have a particular view on it… Don’t know brisket for BBQ and pork ribs are often too fatty for me. Rub is not black pepper. I love black pepper in most other contexts, but not as a BBQ rub, unless you are doing Cajun and add the other Cajun spices.

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Gotta be honest with you, I’m not sure I would order BBQ from a place whose name means cheese in Italian.

It just doesn’t sound right.

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And I thought it was French for cheese!

Nope, but close. French for cheese is frommage.

You know when I opened the thread I actually thought it was about smoked cheese.

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To be a contrarian, I think their BBQ is largely good. Their brisket, and any lamby thing they have going, are both always excellent. The ribs and pulled pork, I agree, less so. Sausages, 'dogs, etc., are also always good. Sides, in my view, are a mixed bag. The flat breads are very good, the baked beans too sweet, the scorched peaches superb. I advise you all to get brisket, sausage and lamb from them, then fly forward in space and back in time to get baked beans from Mighty Quinn in NYC last year when they were great. You are all Greater-Bostonians (and, of course, Great Bostonians), and such feats of space- and time-travel are within your reach. You have 50 days to accomplish this before the world as we know it ends.

Fromage.

Thanks, French is not one of my better languages. I can use all the help I can get these days.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold