OL WEST BBQ, ANNANDALE/CLINTON AREA REVIEW
Ol’ West BBQ, at 1316 Rte 31 N, Annandale, NJ 908-735-6700. To me that’s Central, so here we go. Their web site is www.olwestbbq31.com. The building is close to the highway and positioned so you come up on it in a rush, from the south. It’s about 12 minutes north of Flemington. The building looks very old west on the outside, and a bit Revolutionary War Inn on the inside. Neither is, apparently, the case; I asked and it’s about 60 years old.
The food was terrific, except a few touches to the side dishes which were a matter of personal taste, like a green pepper overtone to the cole slaw, and a mustardy taste to the grilled vegetables.
They serve 4 kinds of ribs and several other bbq dishes such as chicken, brisket, Carolina chopped pork, pulled pork and more. Everything is said to be smoked, and it looked right, though perhaps not as smoky as I would like.
Although not on the take-out menu, there is a crazy combo platter for 4 called Diamond Jim. It’s 75$. There’s also the Mini-Jim for 2, at 40$. We were waiting for our (very patient) waiter’s return to ask about that and the onion loaf when another waiter went by, carrying a huge platter to, presumably, replenish the buffet I didn’t know they were having. I asked our waiter what the other one had been carrying, and he said, “Oh that’s the Diamond Jim”. Seriously it was 2 feet wide, by about a foot deep and a foot high. There was no buffet.
So we ordered the half loaf of onion straws, at 6$, and it was, I kid you not, a foot long, 4” wide, and about 3” tall. This was the half. We asked 3 different people. The full is apparently 6” tall. They were able to get them extra crispy all the way through, which is no mean feat, because they have a ‘pressure fryer’.
We got scared and only ate about 2” each.
Our Mini-Jim (oh yes, we ordered the Mini-Jim) arrived. It was a 12” round platter, very very full and also a foot high. They also brought out 2 potatoes, 4 hunks of corn bread, 10” dish of grilled veggies, baked beans, and cole slaw (10” dish EACH). This was insane, of course. (These were our sides choices; there are others.)
From the top down, the Mini-Jim contained 2 leg/thigh quarters and one breast/wing quarter of chicken. Great rub on the chicken. Spit roasted.
Now, they were out of their Oklahoma Beef Ribs (sigh) so that may be why we got 5 Righteous Country Rubbed Short Ribs (they were about 10” long each, and also quite wide). One was about 2” thick with meat, the others normal trim. They were good, and not too fatty for short ribs. Though the menu says ‘slathered with sauce’ that is, thankfully, an overstatement. Sauces are good (there are more on the table) and cooked on.
Under those ribs were about 6 or 8 Gunslinger St Louis Ribs. Also very good.
Bottom layer consisted of sections of Kansas City Baby Back Ribs, probably a half rack all together, 4 gorgeous slices of brisket, and a bunch of Memphis Pulled Pork with an apple flavor (not Carolina chopped which is an available sandwich). Good stuff. The baby backs were pink, and juicy, though not membrane-free. My fingers smelled of sauce not smoke when we left, with a shopping bag with 7, yes 7, Styrofoam boxes of leftovers, and we didn’t take the slaw or veggies with us. The beans were terrific, and I thought they had a slight taste and smell of coffee. Waiter said no, they were plain Bush’s Beans, which I’d never tasted, to my knowledge.
We walked around the place, and found two attached sheds with major electric going to one (utilities?) and about 5 industrial size exhaust fans on the other which adjoined the kitchen area.
I asked if they allowed four people to order the Mini-Jim and the answer was, ‘of course’. There is a football season AYCE brunch on Sundays, and Tuesday night is two for 1 on chicken dinners, including chicken/rib combos.
And, for you beer drinkers (like my Milwaukee-born husband) they have Samuel Smith Taddy Porter (?) and Oatmeal Stout too. $7 the bottle. This is a big deal for a restaurant to have that brand, I am assured.
It’s 45 minutes for us to get there, and I am sure we’ll be back. After we finish the leftovers which may take a while.
My family and I have only been to this restaurant once, and it was over a year ago I guess, but our experience was nothing like yours. The food was downright terrible, and I mean terrible. The service was worse. I remember the pulled pork being dry, and if it tasted like anything at all, it tasted like it had been left lying around a little too long. The ribs had absolutely no meat on them, the fries were limp and greasy and the coleslaw had brown edges. From your review, it sounds like we ate at two different places! Does anyone know if this place changed hands or something, because that sounds like a miraculous turnaround to me.
This really is incredible! Only Corky's in AC (and they have never replied to my email, folks) has had such disparate experiences reported. The main thing I was impressed with was the freshness, which is really rare, I've found, for smoked meats in a commercial setting. I didn't say so in the review, but that appley pulled pork was quite moist, and lack of that is the main reason I don't like pulled pork generally. I should add that the brisket slices had a pink ring around them; they weren't rare, just had that ring, which was neat; I'd actually never seen that in person. Our server was tense during one of our (interminable) question periods, :) but he was polite and forthcoming then, as well as the other 42 times we spoke. He stopped by several times to ask if this or that was ok. We spoke of HI Rib, which is closer for us and was familiar to him, but his remarks lead me to believe that Ol' West has not changed hands. By the way, though the St Louis and the Baby Back ribs were quite meaty, I can't really say those huge short ribs were (except that one with the 2" thick meat on it) , but I have nothing to compare them to. I've only ever had short ribs at Korean places and they were cut in pieces I presume.
If you try it again, please let us know how it was!
Update - went to the Sunday Football Buffet today at Ol' West BBQ; on any Sunday :) from 1 to 4 or so. The place was virtually empty from 1-3 and we were the only customers for buffet!
The food consisted of:
1. St Louis ribs and baby back ribs
2. Asian chicken, very very crisp pieces with a slightly orangey sauce, not on the regular menu. Delicious!
3. Pulled Pork (never my favorite)
4. Pork and beans (not as good as the plain beans we had had)
5. Wings with celery and blue cheese dressing (nice meaty wings, dry not wet) (hot unless you're actually from Buffalo)
6. Cole slaw, salad, soup and corn bread
They refreshed the ribs as we went thru them, but none of the other dishes got close to needing it. The lack of customers meant the steam dishes did cause the food (not the ribs though) to dry out a bit but this isn't unusual. I had expected 25 tables to be full, what with 6 different channels on wide screen TVs. Not to be. Anyway, the buffet cost 15$. This would not be too expensive except for the fact that you could still order the Slim Jim for $40 and take home an equal amount to what you ate. Just depends what you're looking for.
By the way, the beans are apparently by B&M, not Bush. We ordered and tried one of the Oklahoma beef ribs, and could swear we had them on the Slim Jim though the server that night swore they were out of them (the same server who said the beans were by Bush). Go figure.
I'd stay with the Slim Jim.
Also, needless to say, Corky's has never replied to my email.