Smoke signals in the skies above Ridgefield. Fairfield County's smokin' barbecue scene just got even better: Hoodoo Brown, a Texas-style barbecue, opened in Ridgefield several months ago.
What's Texas BBQ? That's a matter of debate as wide as Texas, but when owner Cody Speary fell in love with barbecue joints in Austin, Texas, and decided to open a BBQ joint in his hometown, he was wise to hire pit master Nester Laracuente, formerly of Dinosaur in Manhattan and Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Hoodoo Brown Barbecue, named after a Texas outlaw, is decorated with faded photos of gun-toting bandits. The design focuses on wood — distressed posts and beams, accented with corrugated tin walls, and a glass window gives a view of a smoker. A separate bar opens off the dining room. A smaller room off the entry offers a communal table. On weekends people line up out the door. On a recent weekday evening, Hoodoo kept getting busier, tables filling up and lots of take-out.
An appetizer of fried green tomatoes, thick cut, deep-fried in batter, were some of the best we've had, with the crunchy golden coating giving way to the sweet-sour acidity of the tomato. Chicken wings, lightly smoked, were quickly fried and dressed in a choice of three dressings. The light citrus bourbon teriyaki didn't overwhelm the wings.
Texans will agree that barbecue must include beef. Hoodoo's beef brisket arrived in meltingly soft slices, edged with peppery spice rub. A must order. As is the rack of ribs, covered in black bark. The rub is simple, pepper, salt, with a touch of sweetness. Hoodoo serves beef ribs, but we chose the St. Louis pork ribs ($18 half rack/$34 full). The first bite revealed a balance of succulent smoked and spiced meat, with a fine pink smoke ring. There are two sauces to squirt on the barbecue, one with mustard seeds; both were good enough to alternate.
Sides come in "just for me" ($4) and sharing portions ($8). The pit beans were smoky, soft, slightly sweet. Collard greens were tender and flavored with chunks of smoked turkey. The mac 'n' cheese was a creamy, comforting Velveeta-style. At another table, a man smiled as a serving of corn cake, topped with melted butter, was placed before him. Food is served on metal trays topped with brown paper, which works for meat but is awkward for sharing the sides.
The Old Texas Margarita, garnished with a slice of jalepeno, was sweet and not spicy. Our nice server described the large smoked ice cubes in the Smoked Maple Old Fashioned. Unfortunately, when she brought the drink, she explained that many of the large smoked ice cubes had broken, so they had substituted regular ice. The cocktail lacked balance; she graciously took it off the bill and we switched to draft Sea Hag.
>>Hoodoo Brown, 967 Ethan Allen Highway, Ridgefield, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m. Information: 203-438-6033.