For years, I’ve searched for Western New York’s best barbecue. My hunt has taken me from Lockport to Angola. Some of the local barbecue is outstanding, but some is not, and I’ve swallowed my disappointment many times. The search continues.
When I learned of a stand serving its own smoked brisket and pork at the Hamburg Farmers Market, I had to check it out. On Saturday, I tried Wayno’s BBQ and was impressed.
Before I tell you why, let me say this: Barbecue is a dynamic cuisine. The quality of smoked meat, especially exterior crispness and interior moisture, can vary widely from day to day even when made by the same pitmaster. Which is another way of saying I can’t guarantee what you’ll find if you search out Wayno’s on Saturday, when he’s back at it from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until he runs out.
What I know for sure is the barbecue I had Saturday would make it worth the trip time and time again.
Wayno’s BBQ is the creation of Wade Starnes, a native of Michigan. He's been making barbecue for family, friends and catered events since 2006 when he and his wife, a native of Cheektowaga, moved to Western New York. In April, he purchased a commercial rig and decided to take his skills to the farmers market.
He plans to serve barbecue for breakfast and lunch every Saturday during the market, whose season runs through October. For breakfast, the menu includes a Breakfast Burrito ($7), a Breakfast Sandwich ($6) and a Breakfast Taco ($4).
Lunch options include barbecue sandwiches made with brisket or pork and a side ($9) or platters made with either meat and two sides ($11). Sides include Smokey Beans, Smoked Mac & Cheese, Creamy Slaw, Vinegar Slaw and Country Potatoes ($3 each).
My family arrived around 9 a.m. to find a short line already seeking their barbecue fix. The air was thick with the smell of burning hickory and oak. We decided to forgo the breakfast options and go right for the meat. I ordered a platter of brisket and asked for the beef ribs, which weren’t on the menu, but I’d glimpsed them on Facebook.
Wade, working the smoker and the line by himself, got right to work. He piled up some of the best brisket I’ve had in Western New York and picked out one of those special ribs. Our sides included the Smoked Mac & Cheese, Smokey Beans and Country Potatoes.
When I opened the brisket container, a thick aroma of smoke and beef made our mouths water. The portion had several thick slices of brisket that were sliced to order. The brisket had exterior crust, or “bark,” that was well-seasoned with salt and pepper, as well as plenty of caramelization. The bark also offered a slightly chewy bordering on crispy texture which was a great contrast to the meat beneath. The interior had a pink smoke ring and was both juicy and tender. There was a small portion of the fat cap left on the brisket which helped keep it moist.
I couldn’t get back to the stand to try one of Wade’s homemade sauces – Vinegar, Traditional (mild) and Espresso – because our children devoured the brisket too quickly.
Of the brisket I’ve had in Western New York, this was near the top of the list. Much of the brisket I’ve had locally in restaurants has been dry, lacking smoke and bark or a combination of these. Wayno’s brisket did not suffer from any of these deficiencies.
The ribs, though, may have been the best barbecue I’ve eaten in Western New York. Like the brisket, the rib had great bark. I later learned that it was the product of a much simpler seasoning that I’d expected – nothing more than a slathering of hot sauce topped with salt and pepper. With the caramelization and flavor it had, I would have guessed many more ingredients were used.
Beneath the plentiful bark was rib meat that was tender and juicy. The meat had rich beef flavor, like velvety smoked pot roast, complemented by the deceptively simple rub. Like the brisket, the flavor of smoked hardwood was present but not overpowering. Given the cut of the meat, most bites had some bark, which was a touch I personally enjoyed. So much local barbecue has little bark and this certainly wasn’t the case with this rib. This rib is worth seeking out, especially since you can’t find it frequently in Western New York.
The sides each lived up to the quality of the meat. The Smoked Mac & Cheese is made with four cheeses – Gouda, Swiss, cheddar and parmesan – and smoked on the pit for a few hours. It was gooey with a hint of smokiness. It also had a mild chile bite of spice.
The Smokey Beans were a mix of Great Northern and Butter Beans. They were mixed with bacon, onions and a sauce made of Wade’s barbecue sauce, maple syrup, molasses and cider vinegar. The beans were my favorite side and everyone loved them. They had a nice smokiness from being on the pit for a few hours, harmonizing with the sweetness from the syrup and molasses and the acidic bite of the vinegar.
The Country Potatoes featured grilled potatoes along with sweet peppers and onions. The potatoes were seasoned properly with salt, pepper and olive oil and received good caramelization from grilling.
The barbecue from Wayno’s was top notch. The ribs and brisket rank at the top of the best offerings in Western New York. Along with several well-made sides, Wayno’s BBQ has a lot to offer from its small Hamburg Farmers Market stand.
The best part is that summer isn’t even here, officially. You have many more opportunities to try Wayno’s. Remember the first rule of barbecue, though: When it’s gone, it’s gone.
(Wayno’s BBQ, Hamburg Farmers Market, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through October)
Michael Chelus is a Buffalo attorney who writes about food and wine at The Nittany Epicurean. Find him on Twitter @michaelchelus.