There’s plenty of cuisine we do right around town: Italian, New American, French. But barbecue? That’s a category that hasn’t quite caught on yet. But things are changing. More barbecue joints are popping up around the state, including the Great Northern BBQ Co. on the East Side. Currently it’s a food truck, going from event to event, but it makes a point of stopping by The Point Tavern every Sunday from 5pm-12am.
The whole operation started with a homemade smoker built by Peter Landry five years ago. He started smoking meat as a hobby and sharing it with friends. “What appeals to me about cooking barbecue is that it’s process oriented, and I’m getting to perfect the process,” Peter says. “It’s what’s drawn me into low and slow barbecue. You can make it scientific but it’s also intuitive the more you do it.”
Shortly thereafter he teamed up with his friend Jimmy James, the former chef at Figidini Wood Fire Eatery, to start the great Northern BBQ Co., which made its debut at the first annual Ocean State BBQ Festival (OSBF) this past June. They won best brisket, no small feat.
While Peter takes on the role of pit master, Jimmy takes on a more chefly role. “I take all the layers that Peter puts into the meat and I try to do justice to it,” Jimmy says. For example, he takes Peter’s brisket and turns it into a piled-high sandwich with Texas toast, pickles, red cabbage and mustard.
The last piece to this smoky puzzle is their business partner Dan Becker, owner of the Duck and Bunny and Ogie’s Trailer Park. He just so happened to try Peter’s award-winning brisket at the OSBF and it was love at first bite. “Peter smokes his brisket for 15 hours, and it’s the most difficult cut of meat to pull off,” Dan says. “It’s like the bonsai plant of barbecue.”
What’s so interesting about these three heads (which are clearly better than one) is their approach to barbecue in Rhode Island. “We’re not reinventing the idea of barbecue. We’re redefining what RI barbecue is: that it’s year round and that it’s an homage to barbecue,” says Dan. “We want to respect all of the barbecue that exists. Maybe New England or Rhode Island barbecue is the collaboration of all these traditional styles, but we put our own twist on it,” says Peter.
They’re keeping the traditions of barbecue alive the best way they know how: by perfecting the recipes then playing with them. “If barbecue is rooted in the past, it’s something that’s truly uniquely American, and we want to pay homage to that,” says Dan. “But let’s take what we love about it and see what we can do with it.”
Great Northern BBQ Co.