Josh Freda is a man who loves coming to work.
“Love what I do. What I do is love.”
“It is a big labor of love.”
Because being an expert pitmaster requires real dedication.
“We start from early in the morning. Prepping the meat, getting the meat rubbed, smoking it. If you don’t put the work into it, you’re not going to get the love out of it and that’s what barbecue is all about. Welcome to Davis Barbecue. I’m your neighborhood pitmaster.”
Located in Sterling, Massachusetts, Davis Barbecue is a casual counter service eatery dedicated to bringing authentic Kansas City style ‘cue, to Central Massachusetts. The restaurant is located right next to the sprawling family entertainment destination Davis Farmland, which Larry Davis and his family have run for seven generations.
“Davis Farmland is a Children’s Discovery farm where we feature the nation’s largest collection of endangered farm animals. But then coming off of that park is Davis BBQ, and we’re trying to bring authentic Kansas City barbecue to New England. And I think we’ve nailed it.”
“It is a place where people from all over can come, escape, have a great outing. Definitely an Epicurean delight and just kind of get together and have fun.”
And chef Josh has a lot of fun- particularly when he’s spending time with his smoker.
“This is my baby Betsy Southern pride smoker. It’s true to Kansas City style barbecue. So we time everything out. But I let the meat tell me when it’s finished. You know, it’ll let me know. I kind of just sit back. The meats doing all the work. It tells me when it’s done. I use the smoke as an ingredient. So the hickory wood gets me to where I want to be. That’s for sure. That is for sure.”
And according to Josh, that wonderfully smoky aroma makes more than just the food smell great.
“This is the only time in my life I’ve ever gone home smelling better than I’ve come in.”
If you’re looking for meat, you’ve come to the right place- and nothing gets Josh going quite like the ribs.
“I can talk all day about ribs. It’s a St. Louis pork style rib, which is true to Kansas City. We tend to err on the side of more of…your bigger meatier ribs.
“We really take pride in what we do. And we want to make sure it’s top shelf.”
And when he’s not smokin’ ribs, or talkin’ ribs, he’s eating ribs.
“Well, there should be just a little tug. Just enough to say it’s still on the bone but yet all coming off the bone. It’s Nirvana.”
If the ribs are nirvana, then Davis’ Triple Play Platter is pure barbecue bliss.
“That’s for the big boys. That’s three meats. You get your choice of any of the smoked meats, comes with two sides. Add in any sauce. You want to go with it.”
This delicious hat trick can include slow smoked turkey, juicy brisket and Josh’s personal favorite, the burnt ends.
“That would be the Cadillac. As it’s smoking, it’s caramelizing up beautifully working with all the spices, the smoke’s hitting it. It’s melt in your mouth morsels. I mean, you’re not going to find another decadent piece of meat that you’re going to enjoy in barbecue with burnt ends.”
And for some smoke you can share, get the table an order of wings.
“Oh best wings in mass. They’ll smoke for about a good three hours under all that hickory. Then we flash him in the deep fryer just to give that little extra love.”
Sides are always a staple at any BBQ restaurant, and at Davis serve standards like baked beans and creamy Mac and cheese. And more creative additions like Buffalo Cauliflower and Fried Cornbread.
“That’s our New England twist on a hush puppy…you know the way those sugars fry up and it really crisp. if you close your eyes, you’re thinking you haven’t dessert with your dinner which to me is gold.”
If you’re looking to have some hand-held cue, you can opt for a classic pulled pork sandwich. Or go over the top with Davis’ Smokehouse Sandwich, loaded up with burnt ends, brisket and pork, and smothered with onion strands. But for something you don’t usually see at your average BBQ joint, try one of the bowls.
“The bowls are absolutely spectacular. You get a mixture of everything. You can have the special Gouda Mac that is mixed with the burnt ends, right down to the keto bowl. It’s been a huge success.”
And once you’re done enjoying all of that bbq, it’s time to enjoy some dessert, like hot beignets served with chocolate sauce for dipping or this over the top sundae Colossal Cookie Sundae.
“If you’re going to have dessert, what will we do around here the words mega and colossal come to mind. So if you’re going to get something around here, especially dessert, it’s going to be a colossal Sundae. There’s almost a half a dozen cookies in their towers of whipped cream, cartons of ice cream drizzled with sauce.”
And if you can’t finish the sundae, Josh is happy to help.
“If they need help, I’m always ready to tap in and sit down with them and enjoy.”
And with one trip to Davis you will know just how much the people behind the product care. Whether it’s the seven generations of dedication to the farm land, or Josh’s commitment to the cue.
“To say dedicated it’s, it’s more of a passion. You know, when you’re passionate about something, you’re going to pursue it. I’ve always approached it as I’ve never mastered. I’m always learning. You try and come into that mentality and sky’s the limit. sky’s the limit.”