On our weekly grocery shopping trip up to Hadley last weekend, we caught a sign for a new BBQ joint called Wildwood BBQ that is located about a quarter of a mile before the Whole Foods plaza on route 9 in Hadley, MA. Being big BBQ fans, my girlfriend and I popped in there tonight to check the place out.
From a food standpoint, it was extremely disappointing. We went with a 'combination plate #2' which came with ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, along with two sides and a piece of cornbread. We also ordered their 'Sidecar' option, which was a sampling of three sides.
I will give the ribs a bit of credit - they were far and away the best thing we had. They were meaty, had a great smoke flavor and the seasonings that made up the rub formed a nice bark. The pulled pork came sauced, which is a big pet peeve of mine because it can cover up mistakes in the cooking process and I think masks smoke flavor. The sauce wasn't particularly that great either. The brisket was the worst I've ever had anywhere. Just looking at our plate, it was obvious the brisket was beyond dried out and because of this it had absolutely no flavor. The brisket is one of the fattiest parts of the cow so to manage to dry it out is a hard sin to forgive. I don't know when the meats are taken off the smoker so it's tough to say whether this happened during the smoking process or a 'holding' period but it's beyond me that anyone in that kitchen could have knowingly put such an overcooked piece of meat on the plate and felt good about it. On this day anyway, whoever put that on the plate either had no pride in their work or doesn't know what proper brisket should taste like.
There are actually two different categories of side dishes - 'Wild sides' and 'Specialty' sides. The specialty sides are mac and cheese, jambalaya, and black beans and rice and are double in price then their 'wild sides.' Our combination platter came with 2 wildsides and we ordered an additional three as part of our 'sidecar' option. The roasted garlic potatoes were fine but lacked any discernible garlic flavor and needed a good pinch of salt. The potato salad may as well have come from Stop and Shop - pedestrian, run of the mill, no different than what you can get anywhere else. This also lacked salt and an acid to round out the flavor. The cajun rice had no flavor either - again, no seasoning and nothing about it made it cajun. There was no heat from paprika or earthiness from thyme or other dried herbs that typically make up cajun seasoning. It was just bland, red-colored rice. The simmered greens were just so overly acidic from too much vinegar that it really became inedible after a few bites. The house pickles were pretty standard although I do respect places that take the time and effort to make things like this themselves. I only regret choosing this as a side because it's tough to eat about 2 cups worth of pickles. The cornbread was excellent.
The price for everything was just under $38, which included a root beer. As far as BBQ options go in Western MA, there really isn't any, but if you're in the Hadley area I think Bub's is still the way to go (even though I don't think the meats are great). Given that you can go to Bub's and get a meat plate, which comes with an unlimited hot and cold bar for $15 at it's most expensive option, I'd put the price point here on the high side.
Perhaps it's unfair to be so hard on a place so new and on one side of the coin I can agree with that notion. But the brisket in particular really left a sour taste in my mouth. I'd figure a place so new would be brimming with pride and would be making sure everything leaves the kitchen perfectly. There were two girls behind the counter and another gentleman who looked like he could be one of the owners and no one came by to ask how the food was at any point. From a flavor standpoint, traditional BBQ is fine when done right but when it's done poorly it looks unoriginal and uninspired. There was nothing about any of the sides that had flavor or balance. While the ribs and cornbread were good, this is not a place we'd return to (even if the prices were reduced), not a source of proper BBQ, and not a place we'd recommend.