Davis BBQ

145 Redstone Hill Rd, Sterling

Phone: (978) 286-8888

The Davis family farm is located in the rolling hills of Sterling; an area of country roads and gentle climbs that are great for bicycle touring. Each time I coast past signs for Davis Farm I think, ‘this looks like a neat place to explore, it’s home of the mega corn maze.’ Just minutes away from us, a genuine Great American Roadside Attraction!

Then, year after year pass by and I never follow up on making that visit. That is, until the day I heard they have BBQ. Finally, a compelling reason to make the trip to Davis Farm by car. With friends. For dinner.

First, though, some pandemic dining considerations: With warmer weather upon us, Davis BBQ is ready with plenty of outdoor seating and lots of space to spread apart. Inside there’s a dazzlingly spotless dining room set up with rows of booths, each separated by clear plexiglass walls that preserve the feeling of bright airy space.

The Davis ancestors who started the farm so many generations ago managed to find a huge parcel of land that overlooks miles of countryside. After parking the car, I took some time to do a full 360-degree scan of the assortment of barns and sheds, visitor attractions and rustic farm remains. Amongst all this, Davis BBQ is a new building; its perfume of hardwood smoke was a friendly welcome.

Once inside, we each grabbed a menu, found an open booth and plotted our meal. Davis’s menu features the basic BBQ meat items: St. Louis ribs, brisket and burnt ends, pulled pork and chicken and smoked turkey. Each of which you can get by the pound or half-pound; order as combo platters, in sandwiches or combo-bowls.

They also have bar service and a respectable selection of draft beers.

After making our selections we headed up to a counter to place our orders; then returned to the booth with a number so they could find us when our meals were ready. 

In the time it took Journey to power though ‘Faithfully’ (the soundtrack is softish-rock) servers were approaching with our meals. Food comes on large plastic trays lined with waxed paper; plasticware is sealed with napkins and little packets of salt and pepper (sorry, no Wet-Naps!). Another tray arrived with eight different sauces; in a nice gesture our waiter had Sharpied each of their names.

Initial reaction: Davis’s portion sizes are generous; we’d each ordered the Platter meal format and our trays arrived laden with meat nestled over large slabs of Texas toast; coleslaw, BBQ sauce, pickles and our two sides. 

My platter of six ribs, the half-rack, was a beauty. Half the tray was loaded up with them, bone ends just poking beyond their shroud of meat crusted ruddy brown by a tasty spice rub and glistening with a drizzle of Davis’s own Thick ‘N Bold sauce. I picked one up to admire the bright red smoke ring that penetrated into the meat. A gentle tug was enough to free meat from bone; the flavors of mouthwatering spices, salt and smoke expertly merged with the moist pork.

I’d matched my meal with a glass of Wachusett Brewery’s ‘Larry’, an imperial IPA. Its hoppy bitter flavor and 8.5% alcohol cut cleanly through the smoky goodness of my ribs. When it came to sauce, I found mixing their hottest (Fire!, a spicy mustard accelerant) with smoky-sweet Thick ‘N Bold provided a spark of flavor that accented the pit master’s tasty rub. But really, these ribs held their own without any assist.

Taking a time-out from my ribs, I snagged a burnt end from my friend’s platter (he had plenty of them).  This was a true-blue burnt end! The point-end of smoked beef brisket, where the spice rub caramelized with the fatty meat, had become totally crusty-delicious with a blackened layer of char contrasting with the soft brisket meat within. 

Which takes us to Davis’s beef brisket, which both of my friends had spec’d for their platters. Each tray came loaded with two large slabs of brisket that draped way-beyond the slice of Texas toast. Marbled through with fat to assure tasty-juiciness, they were coated with spice rub and edged with that bright-red smoke ring. They reported; “Moist!” and “More than enough!”

Our votes for favorite sides: Gouda Mac ‘N’ Cheese; luxuriously creamy with a tasty yellow cheese sauce coating elbow macaroni. Grilled Vegetables; glistening chunks of red and green peppers, zucchini and summer squash; soft and rich-flavored. Hickory Pit Beans; a big cup of smoky-sweet baked beans.

When it comes to BBQ in New England, it’s not easy to get all stars in alignment. Davis BBQ is as close as I’ve found to the “Southern Experience”; maybe they could turn the lighting down a bit and let the walls attain the patina that comes with time and grease. But leave the food just as it is!

Davis BBQ is rightly proud of their pit master Josh Freda. A poster proclaiming him ‘The Man Behind the Meat’ pictures him with a cowboy hat, green sunglasses and a huge smile. After such tasty BBQ we all departed with big smiles.