We’d be the first to admit that barbecue in the Northeast must be graded on a curve. We’ve rarely had barbecue in our home region that compares favorably with the stuff obtainable in the barbecue regions of America’s South, Midwest, or Texas. It’s just a fact of Northeast life. But it doesn’t mean that we and our fellow cold-weather Q-lovers are condemned to a barbecue-less existence. We just have to readjust our sights somewhat (and avoid the local Q for a few months following a barbecue-country trip).
Every so often we pay a visit to Blue Smoke or Virgil’s in New York City, or Syracuse’s Dinosaur (and even on rare occasion, gasp, a local branch of the chain Red Hot & Blue). We love Big W, the only one of the bunch playing in the big leagues, in Wingdale, NY. W is now a full-fledged restaurant but we were big fans of his barbecue even when he set up shop by the side of the road. They are all good for scratching that once-in-a-while barbecue itch. And now we can add one more to that list: Philadelphia’s Sweet Lucy’s.
Sweet Lucy’s opened in 2003 and, since then, has received glowing accolades from the local Q-starved populace. Much like the acclaim heaped upon Dinosaur, we feel it goes a little overboard: they are not in the same league as their Memphis or Carolina counterparts. But, as at Dinosaur, the food is generally good, and we are happy to pay them repeated visits.
As soon as you enter you are confronted with the ordering counter and kitchen. Tell ’em what you want, then help yourself to drinks, find a table, and wait for your number to be called. Food is presented on plastic trays, in Styrofoam clamshells. Much of their business is takeout, although the dining room is usually buzzing too.
What do they smoke here? This is the Northeast, where most barbecue joints cover as many of the regional styles as they can. Lucy is no different. You can get pulled pork or chicken, brisket, whole or half chickens, wings, turkey, and kielbasa. Occasionally you’ll find beef ribs. We have not been disappointed with anything we’ve tried, although the smoke flavor is a little muted for our tastes (once in a while the pork ribs can have a slight reheated/refrigerator flavor; we’ve never noticed that with the other meats).
Sides here are better than at many other area barbecues. Cornbread is a little sweet and cake-like, collards have an agreeable bite, and the garlic mashed are thick, lumpy, and satisfying. There’s a table where you can help yourself to various pickles and sauces, and we especially appreciate the pot of barbecue sauce that is kept warm. The sauce won’t blow you away with interesting flavor but it’s nice to have on the side for an occasional swipe.
The menu offers all sorts of multi-meat combo platters, and there’s a Monday night all-you-can-eat deal (currently $21), too. On Fridays they add salmon to their repertoire.
Sweet Lucy’s is in North Philadelphia, only a couple of easy minutes off an I-95 exit. They share a warehouse with Gershel Brothers (“new and used store fixtures…”), and they are not all that obvious from the street. You can see their smoking wood piled up against a razor wire-topped fence along the edge of the parking area. Who’s Lucy? She’s the owners’ dog, a black Newfoundland.7500 State Road Philadelphia PA 19136 215-333-9663 Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse’s Website Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse on Facebook