The Place for Kosher Barbecue
One of the good things about being a Kosher-observing Jew in the tri-state area is the sheer number of dining options available. There are places that are elegant and expensive, and others that are simple but affordable. However, there are not many that are a happy medium between the two. There also is not much variety in the way of Glatt Kosher BBQ. Smokey Joe’s offers both.
Located in Teaneck, New Jersey, Smokey Joe’s BBQ markets itself as the first authentic, wood-fired, slow-cooked, pit smoked Glatt Kosher barbecue restaurant in the United States. The restaurant has a comfortable ambiance, great for families or a casual date. Decorated in wood and orange colors reminiscent of the styles of Southern Texas and with soft rock and country music, the BBQ casual atmosphere makes it a great stop during the day. The decor welcomes you in, but it’s the food that will keep you coming back.
I visited Smokey Joe’s BBQ with three other guests: I and one of my friends are voracious carnivores, ver much looking forward to sampling the wood-smoked samplings. One is a casual fan of BBQ and the last is not so big on red meat. After we ordered, the wait staff, numerous and very helpful without being excessively interrupting our meal, supplied us with our bread basket.
Or rather, our cornbread basket. The cornbread basket with Onion Jam is actually a Menu item, but ingeniously one basket is complimentary for the sampling in lieu of more traditional breads. I took note that many other patrons amended their orders to include additional cornbread. The cornbread was freshly baked, moist without being noticeably oily, and the onion jam was freshly made and quite tasty. The table was conflicted whether to add the jam to the bread or not, as it was very good with or without. Additional baskets were only $3.99.
Despite the full house our appetizers arrived shortly after we polished off the bread. The table shared two appetizers. One was the Onion Ring Loaf (serves two). If you think you know what a great onion ring tastes like before setting foot in Smokey Joe’s BBQ, prepare for a delightful surprise. These onion rings were enormous, about the length of a pearl necklace and as thick as a sausage. The sweet and sharp onion is covered in a batter that is crispy and crunchy on the outside, but on the inside tastes like turkey stuffing bread.
The other appetizer was the guacamole with tortilla chips and salsa. As you would expect at this point the guacamole featured fresh avocado, some red pepper and other spices. The guacamole was a little bit spicy, but unlikely to overwhelm even those with sensitive taste buds. The tortilla chips were baked on the premises, and will leave you melancholy for weeks whenever you reach for a bag of the store-bought stuff.
Make sure you take a quick breath after the appetizer, because once you are done with the starters you are likely to have the main course placed in front of you. I partook of the Texas BBQ Brisket plate, tender slices of brisket wood smoked with the Special Smokey Joe’s house rub. The meat itself was perfect; soft and easy to cut and chew but did not fall apart. The house rub imparted a dark, smokey flavor that complemented very well the wood-smoke aroma that had been cooked into the meat. The dish came with grilled vegetables, notably onion, red and yellow peppers, zucchini and red onion all rubbed with the same seasoning mixture as the steak. If you are a fan of grilled veggies, you have to try them like this. The entrée comes with a choice of second side dish from the menu, from which I chose the Tex-Mex potato salad. If you have never tried it, it’s basically your typical potato salad with bits of diced pepper along with black pepper and other spices for an added kick.
My fellow carnivore ordered the Smoked Sausages, which were cured and wood smoked. There are four choices of sausages (you can get 2 for $15.99 or 4 for $24.99) which you can have served the following ways: On a baguette with peppers, onions and sauce with coleslaw and a side; or on a bed of rice with peppers, onions and choice of side. He chose the latter, but changed the rice to rice and beans which I highly recommend. The sausage choices are lamb merguez, turkey sage, chicken basil pesto and beef chorizo. I only partook of the lamb merguez and it was a delicious piece of lamb, well-spiced (no surprise there), that just melts in your mouth. Fortunately I was wise enough to ask for a sample of that before he partook of his sausages, he refused to share any of the rest after; he was that enthralled, saying, and I quote, “If you want to find out if it’s as good as it smells, come back and get your own. This is too good to share more than one bite to [the three of] you.”
My third companion had the Shredded BBQ Sandwich, a shredded version of the Texas BBQ Plate on a brioche bun. If I had to do it all again I would have taken the sandwich, the bun was delicious and is a good sponge for the meat’s juices and the house rub. Also available with chicken, not just brisket.
Even the anti-carnivore was impressed by the cooking at Smokey Joe’s. When we walked in you immediately pass a glass display full of various dessert cakes. The anti-carnivore had every intention of just having “a bite” of the main meal and getting a desert while the rest of us would sit and let the post feeding-frenzy euphoria wash over us. As it turns out, our review of dessert will have to wait thanks to the Smoked BBQ Chicken. Slow cooked in the same BBQ rub as the brisket, the chicken was blackened perfectly with a crisp outside, the whole thing infused with the rub’s flavor.
All four were basking in the aforementioned euphoria after and noticing how the other patrons partook in the wide variety of the other dishes available. Smokey Joe’s BBQ menu includes different types of Buffalo Wings, a variety of salads with and without meat and with various spices and sauces, even a full vegetarian section of the Menu. There are also steaks, a large variety of burgers smoked to perfection, and other Tex-Mex specialties including Gazpacho (a spicy and tangy soup only available June to October), fajitas, tacos, red gumbo and for those with a sweet tooth, a Chicken Chocolate Mole.
Smokey Joe’s BBQ also caters events like Shabbat meals, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, etc. In addition, they sell prepackaged sausages for you to cook at home, and have frozen packaged meals available for pickup or can be shipped to via Fedex, giving you an option when you’re on the road in a non-kosher area.
I look forward to returning to Smokey Joe’s BBQ to try more of their extensive menu, and will be keeping tabs on them this winter. Last year they had Saturday Night music series at the BBQ, and I hope it comes back. Glatt Kosher BBQ and live music, sounds like a perfect Motzei Shabbat.
[Editor’s note: Jewish Voice readers will also be interested to know that Smokey Joe’s—along with Fairway Market and the 92nd Street Y—is co-sponsoring the first annual Manhattan Kosher Grilling Challenge, taking place at the 92nd Street Y’s Street Fest 2012, on Lexington Avenue between 79th and 95th Streets, Sunday, Sept. 23 from 12-5 PM. Kosher BBQ aficionados are invited to send in their recipes for grilled burgers, chicken, or veggies, and the top three picks will be invited to the 92Y street festival for an in-person grilling challenge! The first place prize is a $500 gift certificate to Fairway Market, a trophy, and of course, the bragging rights that go with being Manhattan’s Kosher Grilling Champion. Word is that Smokey Joe himself, Joseph Godin, will be among the judges!
The deadline for contest entries is Sunday, Sept. 9. To learn more, and to enter the contest, visit the Smokey Joe’s website at www.smokeyjoesbbq.com.]________________________________________________________________________________________
Smokey Joe’s is located at 494 Cedar Lane in Teaneck, NJ. It is under the supervision of the RCBC (with mashgiach temidi on premises), and they’re open Sunday-Thursday from 11:30 AM to 9:00 PM, on Fridays from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM, and will be open Saturday nights starting November 7
For more information, call (201) 836-RIBS, or visit their website.