Let’s be real, we all assume “BBQ” usually means pulled pork, chili, and mac & cheese, but there is so much more to the genre than slabs of meat and spicy sauces. To get different meats, and have each of those cuts of animal keep their flavor, there are two key components to cooking: “low” and “slow.” This means cooking the meat at low temperatures and for a long period of time. Food & Fire BBQ and Taphouse, in Johnson City, has this two-fold motto down pat. Despite the ten-course meal I’m about to tell you about, and the belt I had to loosen, I had the most flavorful and delicious meal I’ve eaten in awhile. The three owners, all SUNY alumni, made their dream come true of owning a restaurant, and made my dream come true of a mouthwatering barbeque meal.
I was first served their usual complimentary corn bread and a taste of their house chili, which happens to be award winning, and I can understand why. The chili contains only meat and sauce, with no “fillers”. It was full of flavor and not too spicy, which was probably strategic considering the upcoming dishes that were served. The four appetizers I then tried were Fried Pickles, Food & Fire Wings, Smoke Bombs, and Sweet Bombs.
The fried pickles were a delicacy new to me. Whether or not you’re a pickle-lover, they are a must. Hand-dipped, deep fried, and with chipotle-ranch sauce I was in heaven. They are tangy, and crunchy with pickle flavors you’ll enjoy in each bite. The chipotle-ranch adds flavor but doesn’t overpower the taste of pickle.
Famous in the minds of all BBQ lovers, wings are a tradition that can range in flavor from sweet to so intensely spicy that you’re left in tears. One of the owners of Food & Fire explained that their wings are dry-rubbed, meaning that there isn’t any wet sauce on top. The wings are BBQ-grilled with house-made spices, leaving them juicy and easy to tear from the bone. The meat was fresh, and for someone who isn’t the biggest fan of wings, these were hands down the best wings I’ve ever consumed. Their homemade-bleu cheese dipping sauce moistened the dry-rub. Food & Fire doesn’t put sauce on these wings, which makes them the perfect leftovers because they don’t get soggy.
During my feast at Food & Fire BBQ and Taphouse for this review, I ate what the restaurant calls “smoke bombs” and “sweet bombs.” This delicacy is essentially stuffed bacon-wrapped peppers (see cutting board above). The Smoke Bombs were jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and caramelized onion, while topped with a BBQ-glazed. I’ve got to warn you, these are dangerous. They are so spicy, but the best burn you’ll want to have again, because they are so damn delicious. The Sweet Bombs, on the other hand, were stuffed peppadews. These peppers are less spicy, allowing for balanced flavors but still a kick. There wasn’t too much cream cheese inside, and the bacon was well cooked, making this appetizer invention so #op.
The next dish- or platter I should say- was the Madman Platter. This gigantic assortment of meats is the largest option Food & Fire offers, and could definitely be shared amongst your party. From left to right we have chicken, ribs, pulled pork, bourbon-smoked turkey, and brisket. Imagine wings, but supersized, and that was almost like the dark meat chicken. The ribs were “wet,” meaning sauced, and had that deep smoky taste that good BBQ requires. The pulled pork, my personal favorite, was tender and juicy, just as the best pulled pork beholds. (#ProTip order the Alabama white sauce, it’s not on the table). I loved putting Food & Fire’s BBQ Secret Sauce on top, but it’s actually a secret so ask your waiter (I guess I just spoiled it, though).
At this point, your mouth is definitely watering, but maybe you don’t love meat on the bone, so get ready for this: Food & Fire’s Rise & Swine Burger. This burger, with pork, melted cheese, and an egg, all stuffed inside a toasted bun, is the definition of #bulkingszn and it’s delicious.
If you’re on a date or joining your friends at Food & Fire but in the mood for something with more greens, the Tangy Thai Shrimp & Quinoa Salad is the move. Their tangy Thai dressing adds an Asian flare, and when you add that to croutons made from their own corn bread, plus tri-colored quinoa, it’s a dream. The gulf shrimp are BBQ grilled and you can taste the seasoning in each bite.
The last dish we ate was from Food & Fire BBQ and Taphouse’s sandwiches section of the menu: the Pressed BBQ Cuban. This BBQ spin on a Cuban sandwich contained pulled pork, ham, and pickles sitting between two pieces of fresh ciabatta bread. Following in line with the rest of their incredible menu, the sandwich did not disappoint.
A few of the sides we were given during our meal were Beans with Pulled Pork, Gouda Mac & Cheese (#op), F&F Greens (Utica greens from Utica, NY, with bacon), and Tennessee Mustard Slaw (pairs well with brisket and pulled pork). FYI, I didn’t have the stomach room for dessert, but all desserts served at Food & Fire BBQ and Taphouse come from Chroma Café & Bakery in Binghamton, NY.