The BBQ Joint

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about the BBQ Joint for a March 2010 First Bite:

Andrew Evans explains the demise of his two-year-old Thai restaurant in Easton in December and its rebirth as a barbecue joint this way: "In a good economy, people are willing to risk their dollars on something they're not used to," he says. But "comfort food and spending less" were increasingly on customers' minds as times got tougher in what the chef describes as a rural market.

And so it was that Thai Ki and green curry fish were replaced in January by the BBQ Joint and pulled pork sandwiches under the peaked roof of what had once been part of an old gas station.

The thematic switch isn't unusual if you follow Evans, the former chef at the much-missed Inn at Easton who recalls an introduction to barbecue at a pig picking in Ashland, Va., 20 years ago as if were today. For the past five years or so, his hobby has been smoke-perfumed meat: making it, judging it, even competing nationally with it.

All that practice is evidenced in the Joint's beef spare ribs in particular. They're meaty, tender and smoky. His four sauces, on display atop the tables, are also distinctive. The "spicy" version, based on Carolina-style barbecue sauce, is true to the region. There's no missing the sting of vinegar or the bite of mustard in the liquid accent.

Did we hit the chopped pork on an off day? We appreciate the crisp bits, but the meat is mostly dry. As for the corn bread, it's too sweet. The collard greens and baked beans are terrific, though. The latter are nicely smoky, laced with molasses and heartier for the meat trimmings Evans mixes in.

Evidence of what used to be can still be found in the tiny dining room, which kept the luxe gold walls and upholstered banquette that set off Thai Ki. But now there are T-shirts for sale on the wall, honky-tonk music in the air and a floor covered with wood shavings.

Barbecue, says Evans, appeals to everybody. His newly busy restaurant supports the claim.

Sandwiches and entrees, $4.50-$20.95.

(March 31, 2010)