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May 1, 2007 11:02 AM

Smokey Joe's

We had dinner at Smokey Joe's in Teaneck on Sunday. I had been eager to try this unique kosher experience ever since I heard about the opening.
We got there about 5:30, and found a line of people waiting for tables. We had no reason for complaint, as we didn't have any reservations, and I took the wait as a positive sign that the place was popular. We gave our name, and were told that they would check and give us an idea of how long a wait we would have for a table for two. Luckily for us, there were two benches, and we were able to sit on one, as we waited for our table. It took about 15 - 20 minutes, until we were told that we would have another 20 minutes wait. Since we had already invested the time, we decided to stay. I understand that they can't predict how long someone will take to finish their meal, and I myself don't like to rush either.

As for ambience, this is a family style place a la Dougies. As we waited, we saw several parties arrive, who had made advance reservations. The host apologized, and told them that they would have a 20 - 35 minute wait. Some of these parties were understandably annoyed, and left. I imagine that these types of problems can be worked out after the owner irons out the kinks. I think that a family place like this might be better off not accepting reservations.

After about an hour total, we were finally seated. (Again, no personal complaint, as we had no reservations.)
The food was o.k. but a bit disappointing. We were first served the cornbread, with the onion "jam". I have enjoyed cornbread in the past, but I found this cornbread sickly sweet. The jam was some sort of onion preparation, but had no jam texture, and I didn't find it pariculary tasty.
We ordered the corn soup, which was really good, (the hilight of the meal), and different from any I've ever had before.
For the mains, we ordered one brisket/chicken combo, and one chicken dish.
These were served to us before we were even halfway through our soup. Since we had waited so long to be seated, we didn't bother sending it back, but to say the least, our table for two was pretty crowded, and unwieldy.
I like well seasoned food, but I think that the flavoring on the chicken and brisket should have been more subtle (both the smoked flavor, and the barbeque sauce). Though this is my first experience with this type of food, (I'm no maven), I think that it probably could be done better. The bisket was inconsistent, as some pieces were moist and tender, while some were dried out. The chicken was tender, but though I'm usually a white meat fan, in this case I enjoyed the bottom more. I would suggest ordering the combo, which includes the brisket, and a bottom quarter of chicken, rather than only the half chicken. I can't speak to the other combo choice, which also includes the ribs, as we didn't taste it; but I overheard someone eating the ribs at another table, say that he'd rather have a good London Broil.
Since I assume that the ribs are flavored like the chicken and brisket, I think I would enjoy Dougies ribs more. (I know that those are not smoked.)

Though I wish the owners well, and applaud them for introducing a new taste experience to the kosher market, I wonder whether a place like this can last, once the novelty wears off. The smoke/barbeq flavor, whether on the chicken, brisket or ribs, is the still the same flavor, and I know I would tire of it quickly (especially since it was strong, and not subtle, as I mentioned.)
Of course obviously tastes differ, as you can see by other more positive comments, and this is only one person's opinion. If I heard that the seasoning, sauce, and smoked flavor were altered to be more suble, I might consider trying again.

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  1. Dougie's ribs are absolute dreck, so if you think these are worse, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    1. BS"D

      I ate there tonight (Tuesday night). I didn't find the brisket to be either dry or tough or chewy. The texture, I thought, was quite acceptable. But, I didn't find the food compelling. While I detected some smoke on the meat (although all of it lacked a smoke ring), the overpowering and extremely sweet sauce was disconcerting to say the least, not the least of the reasons for which was the liquid smoke character of it, which I found unattractive. Concluding, then, the food was certainly of reasonable quality, but it was not what I'm looking for in BBQ. I will say, though, that I prefer dry to wet BBQ. People seem to generally be responding to Smokey Joe's, which may mean that I'm diverging from what the normative person desires from BBQ. However, it didn't appeal to me. But maybe it's what most people want out of BBQ.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ganeden

        I have eaten at this restaurant 4 times with my family. The first time was shortly after they opened and although it wasn't the best experience, I found the owners incredibly receptive to feedback and my next 3 visits were nothing but positive. For those of us who eat meat only in kosher restaurants, this place is really a treat. The menu is varied and I appreciated the vegetarian options. The wait staff was very pleasant and did their best to satisfy every need. In fact, they went out of their way to bring the children's meals as quickly as possible. The brisket chili was very tasty and anyone who can get my fussy kids to eat a chicken burrito has my vote. I really enjoyed the carnitas appetizer and the guacamole is as good as any I have had. If you had a disappointing experience, I encourage you to try it again. In my opinion, it has only gotten better.

        1. re: 5rosebuds

          There was a lot to like. I was very impressed with the place. Clean, well lit, even the restroom was clean. Everyone was cordial, ready to do anything to please. Nice earthy tones in the decor to please the eye, kitchy standard butcher paper tablecloths for effect and utility, and personnel providing excellent service. And unlike what I’d heard here previously, the brisket was even acceptably tender. Not wanting to eat too much, I just ordered the combo plate of ribs, chicken and brisket, since BBQ was the thrust of my visit. Unfortunately, that left me without the ability to try the ceviche, a food that I often adore, and of course, the brisket chile about which I’d heard so many good things. Look, they have a full menu, and there's bound to be lots of things I, or anyone else, would like- something for everyone. But I didn't go there for something, anything, that would appeal to me. I went there specifically for barbecue. And while it evidently appeals strongly to a large crossection of the population, judging from the rave reviews, this particular example of BBQ is not my cup of tea. It's what I wouldn't turn down, but wouldn't go out of my way to get hold of.

          1. re: ganeden


            Sorry to follow up my own post. When I went to New York, I brought a couple of my own BBQ chickens (created on a backyard offset smoker) to my sister and bro-in-law there- the miracle of blue ice and an insulated travel bag- it arrived frozen. Well, they just had one of the birds for dinner, and just called me to tell me what they thought. Turns out none of the family had really liked smoked foods prior to this point. My bro-in-law, though, loved the chicken because of the rub, and how that rub interacted with the smoke. However, my sister and 4 nieces and nephews only tasted it and rejected it, and suggested that I concentrate more on sauces and less on smoke, like Smokey Joe's (their words, not mine). Just another verification that Smokey Joe's is on-track for their prospective clientele, and that my ideas about what makes good barbecue may not make sense commercially in the Jewish market at this time.

            1. re: ganeden


              One last follow-up post, and then I'm through. I brought back brisket and ribs from Smokey Joe's to California so my wife could evaluate them. After I defrosted them, I could see very little evidence of sauce on the meat (they gave me a big tub of sauce to heat the meat with, but I guess they did not pack the meat in it). Consequently, I was able to smell and taste the meat without the sauce. The meat definitely has true smoke character. And the sauce definitely has liquid smoke. And the liquid smoke in the sauce overpowers the aromas and flavors of the smoke in the meat. So my objection is definitely not to the meat, but to the sauce. They can clear that up by heating the meat without the sauce, and having the sauce in a small tub on the side. It's nice to know that even I could be satisfied by this restaurant with just 1 or 2 alternate serving procedures. And maybe they could work up a sauce without liquid smoke in it, and maybe not so sweet.

                1. re: Kosher Critic

                  Got takeout from Smokey Joe's last week, the combo platter, Ribs, Chicken and Brisket. The ribs were the best I've ever eaten. Chicken was good, brisket, so-so. Definitely the next time will be the rack of ribs only.

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