Big Joe shares his favorite New Jersey barbeque restaurants
May is a month when barbeque food is celebrated. I tried to get my birthday changed to coincide with the special celebration of a good barbecue but to no avail.
I have had good barbecues all over this fine country of ours. I’ve had ribs at the famous Rendezvous in Memphis, I’ve had the slab and outstanding sides at Gates Barbecue in Kansas City, The Alamo in Richmond, VA, and enjoyed a great barbecue in Texas, Mississippi, and the Carolina’s. I enjoy it all and go to those barbecue places that know how to do barbecue right.
Every once in a while when I get in the mood for a good barbecue here in New Jersey I like to go back to those places that I have enjoyed in the past and I stay away from those that don’t meet my standards.
The following are my favorite restaurants to enjoy a good barbecue and if your favorite place isn’t on my list let me know, I’d like to try it out.
Here are my favorites in no particular order.
Big Ed’s Matawan, NJ
Big Ed’s reminds me of the barbecue houses of the south, simple setting with really good food. I enjoy the St. Louis ribs and the sides, try the chili-cheese potato or the mac and cheese. The menu is filled with the classics and I get nervous when I walk in there because there is so much good food to choose from.
House of 'Que Hoboken, NJ
Enter the House of Que in Hoboken and you’ll think that you’re in Austin, Texas. The House of Que does an outstanding job of serving up a very good Texas barbecue. From the smoke that they use on their meats to the corn pudding, the stuffed jalapeno pepper to the 18-hour smoked brisket and pork shoulder, both on my favorites list, this is Texas barbecue at its best. Top off your meal with a slice of mama’s pecan pie. Awesome!
Surf BBQ Rumson, NJ
The Surf BBQ in Rumson is a great place with a menu that is full service with all the barbecue goodness to choose from. I enjoy their pulled pork, the cornbread is outstanding and I love the onion rings and mac and cheese. They do a great job on their crispy chicken wings.
Every once in a while they will have short ribs on the menu as a special, if you see them, get them, very tasty. Surf BBQ is a great stop.
Whole Hog Café Cherry Hill, NJ
I’m not too much of a fan of chain restaurants but I need to make an exception in this case for The Whole Hog Café. The owners of this chain were friends who lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, and came up with a great recipe for ribs. They entered them into a world-class competition in Memphis, TN and after two years of competition in the big event ended up with a first-place finish in the “Whole Hog” competition. Hence the restaurant name.
Try the pulled pork and pulled chicken, is it good, they have a large sample of sauces most of which are made exclusively for Whole Hog. They are very good. I’m also a fan of their baked beans. Whole Hof Café is worth the try. Whole Hog is a BYOB so bring your favorite adult beverage to go with your barbeque experience.
Ruthie’s BBQ and Pizza Montclair, NJ
You walk into Ruthie’s and you feel like you’re in some honky tonk in the deepest southern part of this country. I really like the atmosphere, it’s a roll up the sleeves, enjoy some outstanding barbecue and listen to some great blues music.
The one thing I am not sure of is that Ruthie’s also serves pizza. I've heard that the pizza is very good. I don’t know because I go there for a barbecue. I don’t want barbecue at my favorite pizza place and don’t want pizza at one of my favorite barbecue restaurants. I guess it’s a good alternative to those vegan or non-barbecue eaters who have a choice of something else while the remainder of their table chows down on some very good barbecue.
When at Ruthie’s I like the pulled pork, the sliced brisket, and the pulled chicken. Ruthie’s sides are really good with my favorites being the beans with burnt ends, the onion rings and you have to have the hush puppies. Save room for the hand pie for dessert, a deep-fried apple pie like goodness served with homemade vanilla ice cream. You’ll enjoy Ruthie’s and it’s my head-scratching over the pizza that still makes it worth a trip.
Salt Creek Grille Rumson, NJ
This full-service well-appointed restaurant gives you the feeling of country goodness. Walk in the door of the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson and you’ll get the gentle whiff of flaming mesquite wood. That’s what they use on their signature dish for their ribs. They are tender and tasty and worth the trip. The ribs are served with asiago cheese and garlic fries which are really good.
They also have an adult mac and cheese that’s a great side choice, especially with those mesquite-fired ribs.
Mighty Quinn’s BBQ Clifton, NJ
Mighty Quinn’s is a fast-growing chain that started here in the tri-state area. Their barbeque is good as we all do, low and slow. My favorites include the Brontosaurus rib, the Texas-size beef rib that falls off the bone with outstanding flavor. The pulled pork, half chicken, and the sides of burnt end baked beans, corn fritters, cornbread, and slaw are a must to accompany your meal. Try one of the house beers to wash down that big meal. You’ll enjoy this barbecue stop. Glad we have them here in New Jersey.
Make a great barbecue night out to enjoy some of my favorite places. Enjoy your meal like we cook our barbecue slow and with love. Enjoy!
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.