by Amy Scheuerman
55 Chester St.
Type of Food: BBQ
Price Range: $ $
Walking into Redbones is like stepping into the South for the evening. Non-alcoholic drinks are served in mason jars, there’s no dress code, and the place feels lively. Upstairs is brightly lit and is a great place for families and old friends to catch up. There’s a full service bar hidden on the back wall for folks either waiting for a table or just interested in grabbing a drink and a bite.
Downstairs feels like an entirely different restaurant that happens to have the same menu. The room is big and dark with a smoky charm to it. The walls are splashed with murals and the music is mostly indie bands. If you want a drink or dinner with friends, the quirky downstairs room is the place to go.
The table service is efficient and humorous. One waitress will memorize your order if you have the same meal twice in a row. There’s also a friendly waiter who will cheerfully make fun of your group for as long as he takes care of you. The staff is happy to bring extra sauces, napkins, or drinks when requested. I highly recommend sitting at the counter. Not only can you watch the cooks serve up ridiculously large amounts of meat to the masses, but they frequently throw in a free appetizer for no reason.
Bar service is a little slower, although you can hardly blame the staff for that. With 28 beers rotating on tap and 38 more bottled brews, 8 margaritas, 12 specialty cocktails, and a couple of coffee drinks, the bartenders have their hands full. Every person I’ve talked to across the bar has been knowledgeable and enthusiastic. In fact, part of the slowdown is a result of the enormous drink menu and the time the bartenders are willing to spend helping each customer choose the perfect drink. So relax and enjoy the southern hospitality.
Taste and Presentation:
Here’s my only problem with RedBones: the food is good. Not amazing, just solidly good. The entrees tend to be heavy on the meat and low on variety. The sauces are cloying and dull. All the BBQ tastes of tomato and is overly sweet. Over several visits my group tried the pulled pork, both the Memphis and Arkansas ribs, the pulled chicken, and the baby back ribs. They all taste exactly the same. Vegetarians beware: the grilled veggie burger is duller than a doorknob and your other entrée options are few and far between.
Two entrees that redeem the menu are the sausage dinner with dirty rice and beans and the fried catfish sandwich. The latter can also be had in the form of an appetizer called catfingers: little bits of catfish fried to delicious happiness, served with squeezed lemon and tartar sauce.
The side dishes and appetizers allow for a nice variety, are frequently vegetarian friendly, and if you mix and match you can create a satisfying meal from that section of the menu alone. They include potlikkers (a lightly seasoned broth of greens), hush puppies, nachos, chicken or buffalo wings, chili, sausage, fried oysters, succotash (a stew with lima bean, tomatoes, and corn), dirty rice, any number of potatoes, mac n’ cheese, candied yams, slaw, and beans.
Presentation is not a high priority for the RedBones crew. The restaurant is BBQ, and, as most people know, this involves a slab of meat on a plate. I admire the lack of presentation; there are no silly sprigs of parsley to distract from the main course. However, it might be nice to see a vibrant side of greens or some colorful slaw with brightly purple cabbage and flaming orange carrots.
RedBones is a fun restaurant with friendly service, an amazing beer selection, and no pretension. As a transplanted southerner I was skeptical about the ability of a Boston restaurant to provide a real, down home barbeque experience. RedBones, although not truly a taste of the south, is the best BBQ joint I’ve found in Boston and has by far the best atmosphere.
Get in early! There’s no waiting area and you’re liable to feel a little crushed against the door if there’s a wait. The downstairs bar is a good place to wait for a table when it’s busy, but on Fridays and Saturdays even that can be crowded and difficult to navigate.
$ Average entrée is $10, Highest price is <$18
$$ Average entrée is $15, Highest price is <$25
$$$ Average entrée is $20, Highest price is <$30
$$$$ Average entrée is $25, Highest price is <$40
$$$$$ Average entrée is $30, Highest price is whatever you can dream of
NONE: Pack a lunch
Beer or Wine List: