The BBQ Joint in Easton
The Dining@Large reader by that name suggested that I try The BBQ Joint in Easton on my way to the Tawes crab-and-politics fest in Crisfield this week. What a great find.
From the fresh wood shavings on the floor to the Homer Simpson quote on the menu -- "Pork chops and bacon, my two favorite animals" -- the place is full of playful charm.
Chef-owner Andrew Evans, once owner-operator-chef at the Inn at Easton, opened Thai Ki restaurant at the Dover Street location in early 2008. It closed last December.
"Easton wasn't really ready to support an ethnic restaurant like that," said Ian Ferguson, sous chef at the barbecue place who also cooked at Thai Ki.
Evans opened BBQ -- I hesitate to call it "The Joint" on second reference; sounds too much like Eastern Correctional Institution -- three weeks after shutting Thai Ki.
On my lunchtime visit, I had a terrific pulled pork sandwich and side of baked beans. I passed on the house-made sodas, but kicked myself for that later, when I heard more about them in a phone interview with Ferguson.
But first, the sandwich: a hefty mound of succulent pork on a soft bun, served with a pickle. Several house-made sauces were available in squirt bottles. I used two of them -- one sweet, one spicy, both thin and vinegary in a pleasantly North Carolinian kind of way. It set me back all of $4.50.
Other meals on the menu include a chopped beef brisket sandwich ($5.99), sliced brisket ($6.95 for a half pound), and St. Louis cut spare ribs ($6 for a half rack, $12 for a full).
The beans: black, navy and kidney joined forces with tomatoes, peppers and bits of beef, pork and chicken. There was a hint of brown sugar and mustard, but not too much of either. They cost $2.50.
Other sides, all $2.50, include corn bread, collard greens and coleslaw. It is clear, even from the sides, that the kitchen takes pride in making everything from scratch. For that slaw, BBQ starts with whole cabbages and makes its own mayo-and-sour-cream dressing.
"Anyone can open up a bag of chipped cabbage and put mayonnaise in and call it coleslaw," Ferguson said.
The scratch-cooking philosophy extents to the sodas, which I foolishly ignored in my rush to get to Tawes.
Ferguson, a home beer brewer, made his first batch of root beer five years ago for an event Evans was putting on.
"It really was something different," he said. "People didn’t realize that, 'Oh, wow, you can make sodas.'"
In addition to root beer, BBQ has ginger ale, orange and lemon sodas. They cost $2.00.
"We juice oranges in the back," Ferguson said. "We make a simple syrup. We add a little bit of preservatives to prevent yeast from reproducing and making an alcoholic beverage instead of a soda, and that's it."
Service was quick -- my meal arrived within minutes -- and friendly. I sat at the bar, arm's length from one of the cooks.
"What's in these beans?" I asked, admiringly.
"Love," was his reply.
The waitress, hanging out at the bar between orders, put on some lip balm as she chatted with me. In a more formal setting, that would have put me off. Here, I took it as a mildly amusing bit of informality.
If I worked around that lip-smacking food all day, I'd need a lot of ChapStick, too.
Chef-owner Andrew Evans. The BBQ Joint photo