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#SundayFunday – Don’t Stay Cooped up this Weekend

The Coop in Millbury, MA

We all salivate at the mere thought of barbeque. There is something about a brisket sandwich smothered in a flavorful, smoked barbeque sauce that makes us reminiscent of summer days and while we can all indulge in a little more barbeque from time to time, it is often hard to find a great place in New England. Yes, we have B.T.’s Smokehouse, but they can’t be the only ones holding down the fort for the entire barbeque industry in Central Massachusetts.

Enter Millbury’s The Coop – where the name lives up to their obsession with chickens and barbeque. With over 17 barbeque sauces and 6 dry rubs, the Coop offers no shortage of distinct tastes. Barbeque varies by region, with four main styles: Memphis, Tenn.; North Carolina; Kansas City; and Texas. Each variation is unique to its place of origin, but something must be said for the classic flavors with a twist provided by the Coop. Located in downtown, Millbury, the Coop is quickly becoming a favorite for local barbeque enthusiasts.

Yes, their menu offers classic barbeque platters like 2lbs of Coop house spice rub chicken wings with a side of fries, but they also offer platters unique to their location. The Sunday Brunch sandwich – a pulled pork sandwich stuffed with waffle fries, bacon, fried eggs, and buttermilk ranch barbeque – and the BBQ Brisket Ruben – a classic Ruben sandwich topped with slaw, Swiss, fried pickles and boom boom sauce (obviously, a house special) – are only but a few unique dishes at The Coop. But if these dishes are not #SundayFunday enough for you, then opt-in for the St. Louis Style Ribs – served with cornbread (a must have) – and end your meal with brown sugar vanilla bread pudding. Between the caramel sauce and whipped cream from the bread pudding and the famous Coop Juice – their twist on a classic Sangria – you’ll leave fully satisfied and wish you had more time to enjoy your #SundayFunday adventure to Millbury.

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The Chameleon’s Rub and Pull, a BBQ Burger

The Chameleon's Rub and Pull BBQ Burger.

When I found out that a new restaurant was opening up in the same location as the old Mezcal/The Fix/The Usual, I was less excited than I was skeptical. Given the circumstances under which the previous restaurant closed, I was worried future customers might be deterred from trying something new in the same space. It is worth noting that both Mezcal and The Fix were wildly successful at 166 Shrewsbury Street. So successful in fact, that they needed to uproot to larger venues to handle the demand from customers – not a bad problem to have in the restaurant business. Now, the space is occupied by The Chameleon.

As noted on the The Chameleon’s website, it’s a restaurant that isn’t so much about the reptile itself, but what it represents. The food scene is all about being able to change and adapt to your environment. By being able to constantly adapt to your surroundings, you can evolve and inevitably survive in an industry that is ever-changing.

The menu and concept of The Chameleon will change on the first day of each new season to keep things new, exciting, and fresh. Since it opened in June, the concept has centered on BBQ. There is a lack of true BBQ places in Worcester and the surrounding areas, with the stellar exceptions of BT’s and Firefly’s. The Chameleon has found a nice niche (at least, for the next three months or so.) After perusing the menu, right off the bat, I noticed that I could’ve easily ordered a dozen items and fully engulfed myself in BBQ. However, I knew I had come for one thing, and that was a great burger.

I was immediately drawn to the Rub and Pull Burger ($13) for a few reasons that I will touch on shortly. This burger was topped with brisket, BBQ sauce, stout onion jam, smoked Gouda and served on a bulky roll. The first thing that drew me to the Rub and Pull was the promise of brisket. If I could have my choice of a cut of BBQ, I would choose brisket seven days a week and twice on Sunday. There’s something about the tenderness, the smokiness, and richness that always brings me back. The second thing that attracted me to this dish was the smoked Gouda, one of my personal favorite cheeses. It’s a hard cheese that takes a bit longer to melt compared to most other burger-bound cheeses and delivers an ever-so-slightly smokiness to whatever you’re pairing it with, whether it’s beer, fruits, nuts, chocolate or in this case, BBQ.

The burger was slightly overcooked but was instantly rescued by the juicy brisket piled on top. The brisket had a beautiful bark on it from hours of cooking and had just enough fat content to bind with the burger patty. The stout onion jam was definitely at the forefront of my palate. The BBQ sauce was sweet and smoky and helped blend all the flavors together. We were actually presented with a six-pack of house-made BBQ sauces to try on the side as well including a pineapple mango BBQ, Carolina and spicy. The bun helped hold everything in place. There is something about a reliable bulky roll when it comes to burgers and sandwiches in general that you just can’t go wrong with. On the side, there sat a mound of waffle fries, cooked to a crispy, light brown color and tender on the inside. Pair those with the house BBQ sauces and you have yourself a match made in waffle fry heaven.

While we finished up our meal, we sat admiring the pop of the bright green chameleon wallpaper. I was filled with hopeful optimism for The Chameleon. I felt as though they could use their new space to create a great brand and put out a product as unique and ever-changing as Worcester itself. The BBQ was a great foundation to start with, given the summer months. If there’s one strong concept that Worcester is missing, it is authentic BBQ. I was also excited to come back and try some of the other enticing offerings before Fall. In Autumn, The Chameleon will switch to German cuisine. If you have a burger suggestion for next month, give me a shout at @EDioufUC5 and you might see your favorite burger featured.