“DEAR IMPROPER BOSTONIAN:
“On a recent visit to your fine city, I read a review by Mr. Evan Mallett, whom I respectfully must call a damn Yankee if ever there was one, using lots of big words to talk about pork and soup and other easy things to say in plain English. Well, my sister Evelyn says to me, ‘Barbara Lynn, you best write a letter and give that paper one of them high and mighty restaurant reviews to set them boys in Boston straight.’ Anyways, I am submitting this here review of a fine barbecue joint I went to in Boston just last week, during the Oatroller Equipment Expo.
My Uncle Otis in Mechanicsburg has a saying that there’s nothing quite like a fat pig on a stick to get the summer rolling. I used to think he was talking about Aunt Zelma, but now I think he meant barbecue. Been a few years since I saw Otis, but I hear he’s holding up just fine in prison. Every summer, I get my yearly fill of wild, foot-stomping outdoor barbecue. Just like Uncle Otis said: ‘Summer’s a time for good girls to let their hair down, take off whatever they can and just get greasy as an oil pan. Barbecue brings it out in all of us,’ he says. Well, he shouldn’ta proposed to Sheriff Taylor’s daughter, not even if it was her 16th birthday, especially with Aunt Zelma going through the change of life and all. Anyways, he had a point about barbecue, and he woulda liked this East Coast Grill place in Cambridge.
I went there during what they call ‘Hotter Than Hell‘ Night, which to me doesn’t sound like a very good Christian expression, but I took the advice of some fast-walking schnauzer type man on Newbury Street who asked me if I wanted to patty later. ‘Go to hell,’ he said, so I did. But I was in the mood for real barbecue, so off I went without hamburgers. No one prepared me for the weirdos and hairdos of Cambridge, but I had my sites on ribs, so I scurried through a place called Half-a-Square and fell into East Coast Grill shortly thereafter.
I enjoy a hot pepper from time to time, specially on one of them sweltering summer nights like we get back home, as my momma used to say, peppers keep the devil away. Well, the devil himself stopped by the East Coast Grill when I was there, and sure as the sun sets, he done taken a few souls with him when he left.
No lie. Fortunately, when I ordered Pasta from Hell ($6.50), I knew what I was in for, having read up on Revelations just before I left the hotel. The menu described it as ‘fettuccine, way hot sausage, tropical fruit juices and grilled banana,’ but all’s I could taste was pure habanero pepper fire.
In fact, my mouth got so steamy, I ordered ‘The Antidote,’ ($2) but when I saw the devil comin’ to deliver me a creamsicle, I warded him off with my breath and kept on eating.
Capital Punishment Chicken ($14.25) was much easier going down, as my gullet was numb from the pasta. Rebel Fire #3 yams made for a fine sidekick to some of the juiciest smoked chicken I ever did eat, and the seared kale on the side made my momma’s famous greens look like stale goose trailings (sorry Momma). The overall experience, including very sympathetic service from a nice girl named Taylor, made me so homesick I went back the following night to get the ribs.
Now, ribs are serious business, and I believe I know ribs better than most Boston Yankees, so when I say there are no better pork ribs in Boston, you better believe it. The fact is, East Coast Grill has taken barbecue to a scientific level — without giving up the soul that makes soul food so soulful.
Folks who enjoy all kinds of barbecue should try the Trio BBQ Plate ($13.95), which includes real Carolina-style shredded pork, tender-as-can-be ribs, divine beef brisket and beans — all covered just so with a sauce as sweet and spicy as sugar magnolia on a July breeze.
Vegetarian folk should try the Vegetarian Platter of the Day ($13.25), which I ordered as a side dish, because that’s what vegetables are for. ‘Course, now I realize it was an entree — alt those rich greens, grains and beans adding up to a whopping meal on their own.
The next night I was feeling downright adventuresome, so I went back to East Coast Grill for one last meal. I don’t know how he made it, but the impish redhead in the kitchen, who called himself Andy, whipped me up a mild Gazpacho ($4.95) with big hunks of avocado, and a special dish of tangy Tuna Sashimi ($7.95) that came heaped up on top of shredded Napa cabbage, which grabbed ahold of all sorts of Asian flavors in the vinaigrette. It was not just better than the usual tuna salad, it was one of the best things I ever tasted.
Still, nothing could top the Spit-Roasted Pork Loin ($15.95) that rose up from my plate like an Appalachian plateau. Picture the meat of two plump and saucy pork chops, tender as a baby’s soft spot, all propped up pretty on a salad of rice, beans, tomato and oregano, and you got the finest pig ever poked in the North. Uncle Otis would have slapped himself silly over this one.
I should point out that an appetizer of Corn Crusted Grilled Shrimp ($7.25) was chewy, even with a tasty Caribbean salsa on the side. Other than that, though, I’d say Boston’s lucky to have such a place as East Coast Grill.
Please give my best to Chef Andy. It’s too bad about his hair and those awful tattoos, but I’m sure gonna miss his cooking. Maybe next time he’s in the South, y’all can have him stop by and serve up some of them ribs to my Uncle Otis; he could sure use some good food where he’s staying.
Warm Regards, Bobbie Q.”
-Excerpt and images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “The Moveable Feast: To Hell and Back,” by Evan F. Mallett, July 19, 1995
July 19, 1995 — Onramp to Superhighway, Roadside Eatery
August 2, 1995 — Marijuana Hits Home
-Images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “Marijuana Hits Home,” by Scott Farmelant, August 2, 1995
August 16, 1995 — Dead: Boston Reacts
-Excerpt and images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “Dead: Boston Reacts,” by Paul Robicheau, Michele McPhee, Gareth Flanagan, photos by Allan E. Dines, Melissa Mermin, Paul Robicheau, Mark Wilson, August 16, 1995
August 30, 1995 — East Meets West
“Andy Husbands, executive chef of East Coast Grill, has resigned and is leaving on November 9 for LA-LA land to study the art of motorcycle maintenance and riding. When (and if) Andy tires of California dreaming, he intends to return to Boston.”
Stopped the Music
“The final Cookin’ with Jazz hosted by Ron and Joyce Della Chiesa was last Friday and Saturday at Scullers Jazz Club. Ron’s show MusicAmerica is off the air, but you can still catch him on 89.7 FM with a different format called Pro Musica. This delightful cooking- cum-music format will be missed.”
-Images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “East Meets West,” and, “Stopped the Music,” by Peter McNamara, August 2, 1995
October 25, 1995 — ‘Night, Andy
“Andy Husbands, East Coast Grill chef and cover boy for the Oct. 19 Globe Calendar feature ‘Chef’s Night Out’ will be out for more than the night. Andy is leaving Boston in November to work on an organic pepper/cattle/bean farm in New Mexico.”
In the Kitchen With…
“Bridget Batson is leaving the Blue Room to go to Hamersley’s Bistro; Mark ‘Red’ Hall has taken the chefs position at the Blue Room; Andy Husbands turns the pit and grill over to Ken Goodman in November, when he leaves East Coast Grill and Jake & Earl’s and heads for San Francisco.”