Long Island BBQ Scene: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
We nearly drowned in a sea of barbecue the past few months, but this is what we must do to please you, our readers, so that you can make wise dining choices and avoid the hype and pitfalls of the bbq trail. Our “good,” as mentioned in our headline, was discovered only this week as we found ourselves judging a blues competition. It was held at Fatty Beltbuckles, 49 Route 25A, Rocky Point and was one fine barbecue joint.
I don’t usually order burgers at a barbecue place, it takes away from what we are really there for, but after looking with lust in my heart, at my neighbor’s burger platter, I succumbed. What a good move! My jumbo burger was bulging with bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion strings and a mountain of sweet potato fries on the side. The burger was dripping juice, it was absolutely mouth watering. At $9.99, it also was a steal. The fries were excellent.
This would have been the end of the story had Jim Sabella not decided to order a dinner for two for himself. Jim is a bit of an amateur when it comes to competitive eating, so I was more than happy to offer him assistance when he faltered. The St. Louis ribs were tender, the sauce was husky and rich, the senses were well juiced. A pile of brisket proved to be tender, crusty (the way we like it) and with enough fat that you savored every bite. Done to perfection! The sausage had to be a foot long and it was great. Too bad we couldn’t finish it. I lusted after it hours after I had arrived home.
Fatty Beltbuckles has done a great job putting together a strong menu and the service and food is excellent. Don’t miss Fatty’s fried pickle chips or the Burnt Ends as an appetizer. It will get the juices (yours) flowing. In addition to good food, the place has more than reasonable prices and the sides to be recommended are the sweet potato fries, the baked beans and the Cowboy Cole Slaw. Fatty’s can be reached at 631-403-4056.
There must be an axis of barbecue developing, starting at Bobbique in Patchogue and stretching through Port Jefferson to Rocky Point. Our midway point is Rib City Ale House, located on Route 112 where the old Spare Rib used to be. Rib City has a great selection of sandwiches and ribs, with lunch deals going for as little as two for $10 and a dinner special of two for $20. Recommended is the Skyscraper Sandwich at $8.99, a pound of your choice of meat on garlic bread. We went with the pulled pork, a wise move and you have your choice of beans, sweet potato fries or cole slaw. The meat is tender, the sandwich is overflowing, ’nuff said.
Another smart move is the brisket, a generous portion of meat, cooked to perfection. When I go to a bbq joint, I usually go after the brisket and pork. Ribs are often an afterthought, but Rib City knows how to do ribs and has a host of options for you to check out.
Appetizers that I would recommend are the Skyscraper Onion Rings at $6.95 and the 3 cheese fries…waffle fries coated with Monterrey jack, pepper cheese and cheddar topped with bacon bits. I probably would pass on the pork sandwich, which is more like a ham sandwich than barbecue. Rib City is located at 650 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. They can be reached at 631-403-4323.
Taking a giant step down we have Backyard Barbecue in Rockville Centre. I was sucked in because I had seen their ads in Newsday and was real hungry one night as I was driving through that part of town. A brisket burger seems like a good idea except when the brisket is dry as hell, the burger is half cooked and tastes like it was previously frozen, and you get hit for $11.95 for this mess. The brisket was not only dry, but very chewy. Checkers had a better version of this at a much better price. Cole slaw with carrots was vinegary, the corn bread was firm and the best part of the meal. The fries were thin and crispy. Beans with burnt ends were very poor, watery and had almost no meat in them. You would die before you could get your water refilled, one waitress was working all the tables. Backyard Barbecue is located at 12 S. Park Ave, Rockville Centre. I refuse to give you the phone number because I don’t want to lose you as readers.
Bagels & BBQ
What could I have been thinking of when I went into Bagels & BBQ in Garden City Park? Self-flagellation perhaps. Sure I was hungry, spotted the sign and hooked a U across Jericho Turnpike. And I admit, I liked the idea of discovering a place that I could pass along to you, my loyal readers. Why would I think bagels and bbq would work? I ordered the special, a platter of brisket with fries, and ????? That’s what I said. No bread to go along with the meal, the miniscule slab of corn bread had been forgotten, the fires were institutional frozen fries that were delivered white with the meal.
Perhaps someone had forgotten to impart the wisdom of the pit to the pitmeister. The brisket was hot as could be, perhaps it was the residue of chili powder or some other red material that had been flayed across the top without any consideration of how it would taste. Bagels & BBQ is located at 2413 Jericho Turnpike, Garden City Park. Their number is 516-746-6262, and I’m only allowing you this because the breakfast sandwiches looked very good.
Long Island is about to drown in a tidal wave of barbecue sauce. Barbecue joints are springing up from one end of the Island to the other, satisfying the public’s growing lust for all things southern. After being told that what we called barbeque all these years is really grilling, sit back and get ready for a trip to Texas, Memphis, and Carolina via the LIE
Over the years, Long Island has been a vast wasteland when it came to real barbecue. Ten years ago, Tony Roma's and Bobby Rubino's tried to ride the rib craze, only to be closed down by public apathy. Now, two strong contenders have turned the barbecue landscape upside down. Smokin Al's, located at 19 W Main St in Bay Shore, is the new gold standard that all other barbecue joints have to be measured against. Al' s is an attractive place, with exposed brick walls and great paintings of pigs doing unpiggy things like torch-singing and dancing. St. Louis ribs are good, the baby backs are better. A half-pound hamburger was juicy and delicious, the fries are home-made and outstanding. Cole slaw is fair. Pork is the way to go at Smokin' Al's, the pork sandwich is excellent, but The Works is in a league all its own. It's a gargantuan hoagy roll covered with pulled pork, sausage and brisket. Succulent, tender and mouth-watering. Onion rings and French fries cover the sandwich. Eating it as a sandwich is near impossible, knife and fork are required.
Check out some more of the menu at www.SmokinAls.com.
The meal known as "The Works" is still our favorite. It’s a Po-Boy hero stuffed with chopped brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken, and smoked sausage. It’s topped with delicious fried onions and melted cheese on top, accompanied by French fries that are golden. This is a monster sandwich and a super bargain.
Other standouts are the Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich, slow cooked and delicious. The Texas sliced brisket is a work of art. Add to all the great food outstanding sauces and colorful pig murals and you have our top choice for barbecue on Long Island.
Eldorado Southern Barbecue
While barbecue aficionados are sucking it in at Smokin Al’s on the South Shore, Eldorado Southern BBQ has accepted the gauntlet with its location in Port Jefferson Station on Route 347. Eldorado is a big place, and the menu has great items. Chicken fingers were declared to be “from heaven” by our official chicken finger man, Richard. But let’s not beat around the bush, we’re here for barbecue, aren’t we? A great time to go is between 3-6 pm, Monday to Friday, that’s when the appetizers are 1/2 price as are the gargantuan margaritas. Chipotle chicken wings are a great selection, and the Texas onion loaf is a work of art. A platter of riblets is over one pound of tender meat. Highly recommended is the "Pig Out", over 1 pound of Memphis pulled pork, Texas brisket, and bbq chicken breast. It comes with great French fried potatoes, excellent cole slaw and wispy onion straws. At $13.95 it’ s a best bet. Jim, the owner, has owned other restaurants on the Island but his love for this place is obvious. The second location in Port Jeff can hold nearly 200 diners. It is decorated like a Texas Roadhouse and the music is true Texas. This place is great and it’s hard to decide which I like better, this or Smokin’ Al’s, so I try to go to both and give each equal time.
Bobbique (70 West Main Street, Patchogue (631) 447-7744) is serving up some fine fixings. Their two meat combo for $14.95 is a good bet. The pulled pork was tender as hell and the beef brisket melted in your mouth. It comes with two sides, although we were surprised to find that French Fries ($1 extra) was not a choice. BBQ Brisket sandwich at $8.95 is a thriller. Corn bread portions were miniscule; we barely got a taste. Bobbique also has a very impressive beer selection, and it has live blues and music four nights a week. Overall, this is a super-comfortable place with great food.
Harbor Q ( 84 Old Shore Rd., Pt. Washington, 516-883-4BBQ) is the closest we’ve come to Texas style barbecue outside of Lockhart, Texas. Harbor Q is easy to miss, the building dwarfed by the car wash next door, but it’s worth the ride to Port Washington’s coastal area. Barbecue-pit master Keith Dorman traveled the country, checking out the different barbecue capitols of the country, learning what stands out, and brought it all back to his new restaurant. Dorman slow cooks his brisket and meats for 22 hours over hickory. It shows in the results. Carolina style pulled pork is the best of the trough, tender, smokey and delicious.You can order it for lunch on a ciabatta roll (which unfortunately takes away from the meat) or as an appetizer, 3 pork sliders for $6.99. Skip the skimpy portion of Smoked Beef Sausage with crackers and cheese from Kreuz’s Market in Lockhart. Inside, go for some nouveau barbeque (coined by Jim Sabella of Sabella Studios) with the Buffalo Soldiers, a crisp egg roll filled with intense buffalo chicken and Gorgonzola cheese in a sweet dip. It works! Buffalo or Texas Wings, 12 for $7.99 are a must taste. Entrees are a super bargain at $16.99 for two meats and two sides. Pass on the BBQ Beef Rib and head right to the Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs, wet or dry. Dry is especially tasty and almost has us converted. The BBQ grilled chicken is great. The brisket was the highlight of our visit on three out of four visits, a bit dry the last time out. Otherwise, they have an intense smoky flavor and you’d think you were in Austin. Ends are coated and ask for slices that have some fat (you’re not on a diet if you’re here).Great sides include the sweet potato fries or regular, and the baked beans, which has chunks of brisket in them is outstanding. Harbor Q is located across from Manhasset Harbor. Décor of the restaurant is casual, but we would can the pictures of boating scenes and put in some authentic advertising signs, no repros please. Harbor Q has a party special that can’t be beat…1 slab of baby back ribs, 12 Texas Wings, 12 Buffalo Wings, 4 mini pulled pork sandwiches, 4 sides…all for $47.99 and it feeds 4-5. Enough said … hitch up the buckboard and head over to Harbor Q for some of the best barbecue you’ll have outside of the South.
At Hickory’s (674 Port Washington Boulevard, Port Washington (516) 883-7174), Eddie constantly delivers top-notch barbeque in this small, mainly take-out place with a few tables in the back. Prices are exceptional. A full rack of baby back ribs is only $11.45, and the Beef Brisket Sandwich at $4.95 is a winner, as is the pulled pork sandwich. Fries are only $1.85 extra. The marinated sliced steak is great.
Tennessee Jack’s (148 Carleton Avenue, East Islip, (631) 581-9657): We came, we saw, we ate…Nothing special, dry meat. The meal came slathered in sauce. We asked the waiter if they had other sauces, he said yes but they don’t put them out, people steal the bottles. Enough said.
Famous Dave’s (720 Route 347, Smithtown (631) 360-6490 and 1600 Corporate Drive, Westbury, (516) 832-7300): For a national chain operation, not bad at all. More than reasonable prices, Texas Beef Brisket sandwich for $7.99, with a side of beans, fries, coleslaw, more. Excellent two-meat combo for $13.29 that includes brisket, chopped pork, BBQ or roasted chicken, rib tips or sausage links. Extra meat is only $2.99. Real down home roadhouse atmosphere. A winner on all fronts.
Smokey Bones(5012 Expressway Drive South, Bohemia (631) 580-2675) is the other side of the chain coin. A 45-minute wait to be seated after two attempts to get in, a 45-minute wait for food to arrive (this was during lunch time). A burger ordered medium came well done. Onion rings were very good. Pulled pork was tender but nothing special. Mustard is yellow, which doesn’t go with the meats served. Colorado ski lodge style décor. Beef brisket was dry. Pass on this one. Go for the real thing.
Smoking Sloe’s (847 Fort Salonga Road, Northport (631) 651-8812): I drove 22 miles to eat at this place at the recommendation of Jim Sabella of Sabella Studios, who has become a bit of a barbeque addict. Never got to try the food though. Their menu is somewhat limited and I wanted to try a two-meat combo. They only offer chicken and ribs for $17.99. Since I don’t consider chicken barbeque, I wanted to try two meats like brisket and pulled pork. The owner refused, simply stating they’re not set up to do this. I was astounded. I just told this guy I drove 22 miles to eat at his restaurant and no go on putting two meats on a plate? I don’t usually tell restaurants I’m doing a review, but figured this might help him be reasonable. No way. He simply stated once again they weren’t set up to do that. I couldn’t understand this. I offered to pay whatever he wanted for the two meats, all he had to do was take a plate, put the brisket and pork on it, and voila, we have a combo platter. The girl at the counter even said people have been asking for combos.This is one place that doesn’t understand it's in the hospitality business.
Bad Bob’s BBQ (3112-3114 Lawson Boulevard, Oceanside) is not open yet, but this is a place to watch. Windows are filled with trophies and awards from national BBQ competitions, including Memphis. Menu looks great with combos, or meats by the pound or rack. A pound of pulled pork is only $10.95. Super friendly owner who took the time out to chat, even though he was trying to get the place fixed up for their opening in three weeks; more on this place in another issue.
So that’s it, fellow porkers … get your motors running and step up to the trough
I wonder if you have notes about the flavor attributes, smokiness, sweetness vs. vinegariness, etc? Everyone's tastes are different, so describing, rather than recommending, can help readers decide if they want to eat what you recommend.
What did the food you ate taste like, besides "thrilling" or "good?" :-)
You dodged a bullet at Smokin' Sloes as far as I'm concerned. I finally bought a stove top smoker after my third or fourth disappointment there, since I haven't found any bbq worth going out for around here.