Restaurant Review: JD’s Smokin’ Grill and Bar (CLOSED)

Today we have a guest blog post from John Wild, who created the local food blog The Stuffed Buffalo.  He’s got some serious BBQ knowledge, so we’re hoping he’ll become our go to BBQ reviewer. For his first post on Buffalo Eats, he checked out JD’s Smokin’ Grill and Bar in West Seneca.

When I heard about JD’s Smokin’ Grill and Bar a few months ago, my first impression was that this was simply another burger and wing joint that just happened to serve a few barbecue dishes. Luckily, I was wrong. After Jill and I met a few friends out for a late dinner last week, I can now testify that JD’s is most certainly an authentic barbecue place that knows a little something about smoking them pigs.

What JD’s is not, is a little hole in the wall, off the beaten path barbecue shack. It is a pretty large, open space that has plenty of seating, booths and tables, as well as an outdoor patio. It’s very easy to overdo the vintage sign and old license plate look when you’re trying to give a place that “ole’ country” feel, but JD’s is simple and gives off a very warm feeling for such a large space. The cleanliness throughout was impressive and worth noting, and the wait staff was extremely friendly.

JD’s menu is pretty extensive for a restaurant that touts itself as having authentic barbecue, so for this review we skipped the more traditional burgers and salads, and went straight for the “q”. We started with two appetizers: the Red Neck Egg Rolls ($6.50) and the Jumbo BBQ Wings ($6.29). The egg rolls were filled with JD’s pulled pork and homemade coleslaw, served with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce. The actual fried roll and the coleslaw had a nice crunch, complimented by the tenderness and mild tang of the barbecue pulled pork. The dipping sauce offered just enough sweet and mild heat, so it did not overwhelm the pork and slaw flavor, but complimented it just right. My only suggestion is that these could be served on some sort of napkin or deli paper to soak up a little of the oil that settles on the bottom of the fried rolls. The “jumbo” barbecue wings were just average size actually, but once we tasted them, we were not disappointed. The wings are first smoked on JD’s pit. In my opinion, they hit the smoke just right. It was not too heavy, which can be easy to do with small cuts of meat, but strong enough to stand out. The wings are glazed with JD’s mild barbecue sauce and finished off on the grill. Again, the sauce and char were mild enough that they did not overpower the great taste of the smoke, but gave just enough sweet flavors to make it all work well together for an exceptional barbecue wing.

JDs_SmokinGrill_01Next came out the complimentary homemade cornbread. According to their website, this is owner Dinah’s special recipe and it is served hot with a generous spoonful of their maple butter. I am not a huge cornbread fan in general, but after listening to our friend Taryn go on about it being “perfect”, I had to dig in myself. The cornbread had an ideal consistency and crumble, with just the right amount of sweetness, highlighted by the rich, nutty flavor of the maple butter. (Hint, melt the maple butter right over the cornbread while it’s still hot.)

But onto the main event barbecue. JD’s sample plate ($15.99) included sliced brisket, quarter chicken, and ribs. We first tried the brisket which was sliced thin and served with the original mild sauce on top. The brisket was tender, moist, and easy to pull apart. The smoke was rather mild, and could have gotten lost if a stronger sauce was used, but overall it was really well done brisket. The quarter chicken consisted of a leg and thigh (you also have the choice of getting a breast and wing) and was again smoked on the pit, glazed, and finished on the grill. I would have liked a little less char since I think it overwhelmed some of the other flavors. However, the meat inside was moist and enjoyable.

The ribs were not as great. To be honest, we came to the restaurant late in the evening and were the second to last table to be served. I’m not fishing for an excuse here, but the ribs we were a little dry. There were some good flavors there in the spice rub and glaze, but overall, they were a disappointment compared to the other meats that night.

JDs_SmokinGrill_04JDs_SmokinGrill_03Okay, now wait. You don’t think I’m going to review a barbecue place and verbally slap around their ribs without doing my research do you? I drove back down to West Seneca a couple days later for lunch all by myself, cozied right up to the bar, and with a cold beer in hand ordered a half-slab of ribs ($15.99). I made it a point to ask the bartender (shout out to Irma!) to tell the chef “light on the grill char”, and she happily did. I enjoyed some friendly chit-chat over another beer and when the ribs came out I knew I did the right thing. Presentation was outstanding with a beautiful dark-red color and shiny glaze. (Sorry, but I forgot to take a picture. Give me a break. I’m still new at this…) When I bit into the first rib the meat was tender, with just enough pull to keep the meat on the bones without making it difficult to eat. The meat had a nice smoke ring and the hickory flavor came through really well, complimented perfectly again by the mild house sauce. For many barbecue joints, reputations can be made or lost on their ribs, so I am glad to say that my second try at their ribs more than made up for the first.

Some final thoughts and opinions:

  • JD’s offers three original barbecue sauces table side: Mild, Original, and Rebel Yell (spicy). In general, I think barbecue should be about bold flavors, but I thought in this case the mild sauce complimented most of the meats the best. It was sweet without being too aggressive, while the flavor of the original sauce didn’t hit me as well. The Rebel Yell sauce had a strong cayenne pepper taste.
  • I tried three of JD’s side dishes not including the cornbread. The big hit for me were the real mashed potato with gravy. A hearty mash of potato with some chucks and skins left in, underneath a thick ladle-sized potion of gravy. Recommended.
  • JD’s offers a pretty standard fare of bottled and tapped beers including the usual Blues and Buds, along with some local choices from Great Lakes Brewing and Flying Bison.
  • Sorry, but there was no room in the bellies to review any of the homemade desserts.

It can be extremely hard to get all of the flavors that go into barbecue to play nice together, but overall, JD’s does it well. When I describe the flavors and techniques as mild, don’t misunderstand, it’s not a bad thing. JD’s offerings had a milder smoke flavor, but that was complimented extremely well by the mild sauce they are glazed with followed by a mild char on the grill. All of those profiles together make up really enjoyable barbecue. Owners Joe and Dinah have done a really nice job putting together a welcoming restaurant and some pretty smoking barbecue.

Thanks again to Jill, Taryn and Cale for a fun night out and helping me with this review! At the end of our evening I did ask if I could go back and look at Joe’s pit, but alas it was past closing time and they had to promise me next time. I’m holding them to it.

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