Front Street Smokehouse & Saloon
1 S Front St
Elizabeth, NJ 07202
Barbecue in Northern New Jersey has been something of an unstable animal — we've had some really good 'Q places in the last several years that have burned very brightly, but only for a short time, such as Fink's Funky Chicken and Ribs in River Edge and Stickey's BBQ in Teaneck. While there are no shortage of "Rib Joints" in the local area, none of them are doing actual BARBECUE, that being meats that are slow cooked using wood smoke. "Rib Joints" typically just boil or steam the ribs, then finish them off in the oven with some BBQ sauce. This is not to say that they don't taste good, its just that it's not the real deal.
Front Street Smokehouse in Elizabeth has been doing actual 'Q for about three months now, although their bar has been open for a bit longer. Rachel and I decided to head down there on a Saturday evening and check out their food.
Bar crowd, 9:30PM on a Saturday night. A street festival that was blocking the street just completed, so I imagine that this place gets a lot more crowded on the weekends.
Iced Tea, in a Mason Jar. Kitschy but I like it.
Rachel's Smoked Chicken, with Mac and Cheese and Red Cabbage Coleslaw. Chicken overall did not have a heavy smoky profile until you got to the breast meat, but it was very moist and tasty and good quality chicken nevertheless. Its only smoked for about 3 to 4 hours. Front Street also offers a Chicken Breast over salad or sandwich that is much more smokier due to the fact is a thinner peice of meat and is able to absorb more smoke during the cooking time.
My "Pig Out" Platter, with Memphis-Style Babyback Ribs, Pork Shoulder, Sausage and Brisket.
I thought the Ribs were excellent, had some really nice chew in them, really good smoke to them. I'm not as much of a fan of babybacks as I am KC or St. Louis Cut ribs, but Memphis-style is the overall stylistic choice of the restaurant so I appreciate it. Good quality pork, nice six-hour smoke to them.
Brisket is good brisket although machine-sliced, which I think is a shame. Hand Sliced brisket in nice thick slices is a thing of beauty, although I imagine that in a restaurant situation machine slicing is a lot easier to deal with, particularly if the brisket is a popular item on sandwiches.
I liked the pulled pork, and its very smoky due to its 16-hour smoking process, which is definitely on the high end of what most BBQ places do.
The sausage is a mixed bag. Its excellent quality sausage, procured from a well-known local butcher, but its Italian sweet sausage with fennel that has then undergone smoking, not a Texas Hot Link. Something about eating this kind of sausage with the Italian spicing threw me off, especially with the sweet and vinegary warm Memphis-style BBQ sauce (which overall, I am not a fan of — I dont think their 'Cue really needs a sauce). Don't get me wrong, it's really good sausage, but I think that I'll have it in a Italian Sausage and Peppers sub the next time I come back (although, it doesn't appear on the menu).
Red Cabbage Slaw
Fred Flintsone Beef Rib. Beefy, fatty, juicy.
Front Street is using a combination of Cherry, Wood Charcoal and Gas for the cooking process, as opposed to using all wood fire. Its very expensive to get fruit wood down in Elizabeth and this makes the most economical sense. Plus, I think its working for them:
I also saw them grilling some nice 1/2lb burgers up in the kitchen. They looked and smelled great. If you're not in the mood for Q, I think it would be safe to say Front Street would be great for a burger and a beer.
Sides we thought were all uniformly very good. Good Mac and Cheese, The Red Cabbage Cole slaw was a nice change from the typical slaw, and the BBQ Black Beans was again, a nice change up as well from the typical white beans immersed in BBQ sauce style. Red Potato Salad was excellent. The only thing I found scratching my head about was there was no greens on the menu. NO GREENS? At a BBQ joint?
Overall I would say Front Street is doing really good 'cue. You can talk stylistic choices until you are blue in the face (type of sauce, type of ribs used, duration of smoking process on Chicken vs. the Pork, etc) but at the end of the day, these guys really care about what they are doing and the end product is good. I hope Front Street's success will finally encourage the startup of more BBQ restaurants in Jersey again.