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Aug 31, 2007 11:12 AM

HELP! Where is good barbecue near Princeton/Trenton?

Looking for good old fashioned pit barbecue - ribs, pork ESPECIALLY brisket! We have great Chinese, Italian etc., but where's great casual barbecue? Any help would be appreciated, willing to drive 30 minutes or more!

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  1. I don't know of any GREAT bbq in the p/t town area, but there is Big Ed's BBQ on Rt. 130 in Dayton. All ribs though, no brisket.

    Big Ed's BBQ Ribs
    Rte-130, Swedesboro, NJ 08085

    2 Replies
    1. re: njeggy1

      Thanks, I am a big brisket fan, maybe I should open a restaurant here. Can't live on pasta and pizza alone!

      1. re: njeggy1

        Big Ed's recently closed a number of their restaurants, IIRC, didn't they?

        While Big Ed's is often mentioned positively on the various NJ food groups, from what I've read, observed and tasted, their ribs are not truly "barbequed" (slow smoked) but rather typical chain restaurant "baked in sauce-thrown on the grill for char-marks" ribs.

        Notice that their websites (I only can find websites for the Old Bridge and Burlington currently on the 'net- and while the Old Bridge site has a "Locations" - note the 's'- page, it only lists the Old Bridge facility), while full of cartoon pigs, make no mention of a pit, of smoke, of wood/charcoal, etc. Check out the "photos" section of their website- what true 'cue restaurant wouldn't have a picture or two of their pit? (Some folks mention the aroma in the parking lot, which is not of smoke but the smell of burning tomato based sauce on the grill from the exhaust fans on the roof).

        And while some might say "it's good for what it is" (altho' I've always thought a lot of the popularity is due to their "All you can eat" offers which strike me as "anti-Chowhound"-quantity over quality) the last few times I tried their food (once at that Dayton location) the sides were all but inedible and the ribs sure tasted like they were serving me Sunday's left-overs for lunch on Monday.

        For "30 minutes or *more*" from Princeton, I'd jump on the NJ Tpk and try Elizabeth's Front Street Smokehouse or check out some recs in the Philly area. And, there's always the hit-or-miss, yeah-it's-a-chain-but "Famous Dave's" (altho, do they even do brisket?)..

      2. I will mention this place but I cannot recommend it for the simple reason that I've never been there. Nor do I know anyone who has been. Perhaps others can comment.

        On Route 31 in Pennington, which is not far from Princeton, there is a restaurant called H. I. Rib and Company. It's on the north bound side of the highway.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ambrose

          H.I. Rib has great pulled pork sandwiches and also great ribs. Try it. They also have coupons out in the mailer things. The pulled pork is really exceptional!

          1. re: dichroqueen

            I've only been to HI RIbs once, and don't remember much about it (tho' if it was out of the ordinarily good, I'd think I would). I recall it as just another casual restaurant-type ""rib joint" serving baked and/or grilled meat. The OP was clearly looking for "good old fashioned pit barbecue" (slow cooked with smoke, over offset wood/charcoal heat) rather than using the term "barbecue" to mean simply grilled, or food covered in barbecue sauce.

            Seems to me any true barbecue restaurant (especially in NJ, where it's rare) would openly state and boast about their cooking methods, complete with pictures, on their website and would smell of smoke from a chimney (not burning tomato-based sauce out the exhaust) before you even walk in the door...

          2. re: ambrose

            HI Rib is gone. Not closed, gone. The entire shopping center was demolished.

          3. How about the R.U.B. Hut in Manville - it's pretty darn good. Even the sides are tasty. I almost never can bring myself to eat the "slaw" that is dished out at most restaurants. I actually like theirs - not as good as mine, of course, but good. :)

            4 Replies
            1. re: flourgirl

              I was talking to someone just last night about this place, which is pretty close to 30 minutes from Princeton. It's now the Grub Hut. Apparently they changed the name to avoid confusion with the NYC place (don't know if litigation was involved). In any case, I hear very mixed comments about this restaurant, which means I will have to check it out myself! Here's a year old review that weighs the pros and cons.


              1. re: ambrose

                Definitely give it a try and let us know what you think - but I should have left in the part I originally wrote and than decided to delete for some reason - it IS pretty good - in comparison to all the other so-called BBQ places that my family and I have tried in Central Jersey. Most of them are terrible IMHO.

                1. re: flourgirl

                  Thanks for all the suggestions! I will try the Grub Hut, Manville is close enough! Off topic, there used to be a country dance place called the Yellow Rose out there, I'm sure it's closed down now like the rest of the "roadhouses" hereabouts! Thanks also for the H I Ribs suggestion, they are OK but overpriced for what you get, don't think they have brisket. I told my husband we should open a place and he said there probably aren't many places with pit barbecue because there's not much space left in Jersey to build a place with a smoker that the neighbors wouldn't complain about! The Front Street Smokehouse sounds interesting too!

                  1. re: crazykidkate

                    Front Street Smokehouse is the best BBQ in New Jersey, how's that for a backhanded compliment!? Really good though. You can order your stuff to go and sit in the small park across the street where you get a great view of ships in the Kill.

                    Grub Hut is ok, and they get automatic points just for actually BBQing rather than doing it the cheater way, but their smoke flavor is too weak for me. They use sassafras wood, which I guess imparts a milder flavor. I'm only 2 miles away from Manville, but I rather drive to Elizabeth.

                    Both places have brisket, as does Famous Dave's. But let's not go there. Literally.

            2. Here's a link to an earlier discussion. Whistler's Inn (Cinnaminson) is still there and still good.


              5 Replies
              1. re: johnpm

                Happened to be at the Trenton farmer's market the other day. Superb bbq (I think it was an Italian specialty spot prior), but forget the name. The owner is a competitive bbq-er who somehow ended up in NJ. I had a killer brisket sandwich. Basic Kaiser roll. The meat was the real deal. $8 w a side of baked beans enhanced with smoke and a touch of jalapeno. Pulled pork and ribs available. He also had a few catering orders scheduled to be picked up that day. Worth the trip.

                1. re: chefdaddyo

                  It's called Hambone Opera--and that brisket really IS killer---In fact, that whole market seems to have found a new lease on life.

                  1. re: stillnotdon

                    We tried Hambone Opera a few weekends ago. Excellent! The owner was very happy to hear that my husband, who grew up in KC, gave it a big nod of approval. Had the brisket and pulled pork, both terrific. Also liked the beans and coleslaw.

                    Wanted to add - the BBQ at Stockton Market is also incredible. Their brisket is the stuff dreams are made of. Their sides are fantastic too.

                    1. re: pellegrino31

                      I thought I had a short fuse! Chillax, TomDel. I mentioned good brisket at the Trenton Farmers Market but forgot the name, you shot back 'Local Smoke' as if you knew the name. Not 'I like Local Smoke' or 'I think Local Smoke'. Hey, Hambone Opera's got good brisket. Not much of that in Mercer county.

                      1. re: chefdaddyo

                        uh..."Local Smoke" was not a reply to anything you said. it was a reply to the original question "where is good bbq near princeton/trenton?"

              2. Local Smoke

                I haven't been there but I watched them on TV. They were in a BBQ contest and apparently have won a number of awards. They have Two locations, one in Cookstown (near Ft. Dix) and another one in Neptune. See

                5 Replies
                1. re: TomDel

                  TD, I know how much you love LS. Not a bad choice, not a great one, not bad one. I'm just not in love with Local Smoke - do love their jalopena poppers. The brisket isn't all that memorable, pulled pork is pulled pork, and I've yet to try their chicken <<<< for great Southern chicken, I go to 'At the Table' which is fantastic.

                  If we're to expand the circle of spots for BBQ, I'm going to say 'go west young man'. BBQ Blues in University City (Philly) is where I'd go if I lived in suburban Mercer.

                  I think their food is kickin.


                  1. re: JustJake

                    I would skip BBQ Blues, and either go to Blue Belly BBQ in Bella Vista, or go to Fette Sau in Fishtown. Percy Street is a great option too, as is Sweet Lucy which is closer than having to go all the way to Center City.

                    With regard to Local Smoke, they make both great smoked hot dogs, and a great hamburger too. I am not in love with their BBQ.

                    1. re: JustJake

                      Huh, you know how much I love LS? I don't really have an opinion about them one way or another. I thought I was pretty clear in stating that I had never been there but happened to see them on TV in a BBQ contest.

                      The OP was looking for a BBQ place near Princeton/Trenton. Philly hardly meets that requirement. Why not send them down to Lockhart TX. I hear Kreuz Barbeque or Smittys Market both have pretty good brisket.

                      1. re: TomDel

                        Relax. When somone cited the Neptune location (which is all of 45 minutes from downtown Princeton) putting Philly into play wasn't a reach or my being dyslexic when it came to geography.

                        As for you loving LS, I may have thought from earlier threads on LS that you were a big fan of the place. Guess I was wrong, eh?

                        Thought my post was pretty non inciteful or judgemental - I'm not in love with LS brisket. I've got a friend who makes wonderful dry rubbed ribs (no sauce ever touches them); I've got BSB for great wings; finding great bbq brisket is the problem, then again, we're above the Mason Dixon line and I don't bother, though I can still remember a party I went to up on a farm in Warren where a pretty good chef, slow cooked a 1/2 dozen slabs of brisket for 16 hours (that was the last good brisket I've had in NJ). That's my taste bud benchmark.

                        CWdonald, I'll try those other spots should I be in Fishtown; but I do go to a lot of events at the World Cafe and BBQ Blues is so close and you could do far worse with your dining dollar on that side of the Scuchyll. I happen to really like their brisket and chicken.

                        1. re: JustJake

                          Really good point about World Cafe live... I tend to eat elsewhere as well, but usually in Center City before I go to WCL. Now that the Tria near it has closed definitely need to venture further afield...