Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Soul Fire
182 Harvard Avenue, Allston, MA
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Diasala, Puddly, daFur, Lizaroo

New England is hardly the region one would think of when thinking "southern style American barbeque." Lobster, fish sandwich, fried ipswich, chowder, baked beans — yes. No sweet tea, not pulled pork of any style. The New England palate, in addition, is quite bland. Not that that's always a bad thing, for fresh fish does not require many spices, and could even be ruined for it.

We've tried barbecue efforts in the Boston area. Why? Because some of us live here, and having to travel afar is not always an option when craving the stuff. And making it ourselves can be an option, but sometimes one just wants a few ribs or a sandwich or a few tender, windowed slices of beef. Even traveling south to New York City seems like a long way to go for what should be a not-difficult thing to find in a major American city.

There are glimmers of hope. After all, people from other parts of the country do come here. One assumes they can't just be here merely for New England's native charms. At some point, people do try to reproduce what they know from "back home." And progress in other cities hopefully means that "the Home of the Bean and the Cod" can't be too far behind? (After all, there is superlative 'cue in New York, for crying out loud!)

This place was opened not long ago by a friend of one ours from high school, and another from college. That loyalty issue can make a person nervous — what if it sucks? Better to have never gone than to damn them ... but we are desperate enough for stuff which could pass muster ... so we decided to brave it.

The place is rather Goth in appearance, in that black outfits, tattoos, body jewelry, black hair dye, red walls kind of way. They play soul versions of cover songs and feature portraits of soul, blues, and funk greats. In a way, this place might have been more at home in a place like Baltimore, where the Goth scene is part of the grain of the place. It really does work; perhaps this sort of thing is less "sacreligious" further away from their places of origin!

There is a large blackboard listing what is available. A nice twist, they will also sell you the meat by the pound: Texas style brisket, North Carolina style pulled pork, ribs, and hickory-smoked chicken. Or buy the meal for four, which includes the ribs, chicken, and a choice of one other meat, corn bread, rolls, butter, pickles, and two sides. We chose baked beans and mac 'n cheese as our sides. Curiously, no cole slaw was included.

There were a few sauces on offer in pump bottles: a sweet, a hot, and their own Soul Fire sauce. A nice touch was that these sauces were in a sealed sort of metal box and were heated, probably in a bain marie type of rig. There was also a North Carolina sauce, heavy on the vinegar. None were superlative, but they could be mixed and matched to create a concoction you like. They were certainly tasty enough.

But better news is that the meat was very very good and didn't really require sauce at all. At the top was the chicken, which was coated with herbs like thyme and rosemary before smoking, and it was really delicious and moist. We know chicken is often eschewed by serious Q-ers, but it's a shame since it's so rare now to get dry, flavorless birds. Even the breast pieces were tasty and moist.

The brisket and the ribs were solid, meaning they were more than adequate to sate a craving. They were not the top of the field, but they did show that the cooks knew and understood these pieces of meat and their traditional barbeque cooking methods. This was a big relief, for it meant that it could get better, and not weirder.

The cornbread was served in big slabs and held corn kernals within. They were served with pats of butter, the type where a thin bit of butter is sandwiches between two pieces of waxed paper — much easier to get into that unwrapping. The mac 'n cheese were very good, but needed salt and pepper. The texture was perfect and the cheese sauce was not overly aggressive. They serving came topped with freshly crumbled cornchips — a very nice crunchy touch.

The pickles were a sliced bread and butter type — not wholly sour, not too sweet. For those who love dills, these will appear inadequately sweet, but these were actually delicious served with the baked beans. Ohmigosh, not all of us are fans of the molasses and pork belly baked beans of Boston, but these were awesome. They were a mix between a Boston baked bean, with bits of pulled pork added, and the sauce was runny enough to flow instead of glop.

These items are normally labeled as "filler" by the more experienced eaters among us, but they were very good filler, and it makes you almost cry at the situation. How to apportion stomach space for all of this food??

For drinks, Soul Fire does not offer sweet tea. When asked why, they replied that they hadn't perfected it yet, and rather than have upset people, they offered unsweetened tea with simple syrup. It's an excellent compromise (even though sweet tea aficionados were openly upset). They also offered Arnold Palmers — a mix of iced tea and lemonade, which was a nice beverage, too.

Dessert offerings are thin, but they fortunately had chocolate chip cookies. They come wrapped in plastic, two large chunky cookies per pack. They were excellent, probably made from scratch (they lacked the taste of pre-made dough) and heavy on the chips. Two big cookies were enough for the six of us to nibble on.

With everything, the meal came out to about $15 - $20 per person,depending how much meat you wanted. We ordered the meal for four, and added extra meat, drinks, and cookies.

The place is very clean, the bathrooms are roomy and also clean. They are packed in the evenings, and we suggest you come for lunch or between the normal service hours. Though the music piped into the space is good, you're here for the food, so give it your attention!

Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. This webpage is presented by Wookieehut.com. Enjoy!