NY/NJ Dining: Johnny’s Smokehouse

April 2, 2011

Johnny’s Smokehouse
50 East Central Avenue
Pearl River, NY 10965-2307

As with sports, art, literature and music, there are tragic figures in the culinary world.

There is one such man who is known among foodie folks in the Northern New Jersey area whose very name conjures up joyful memories.

A man who is a veritable Jedi Master of Barbecue, a rogue samurai chef who had to shut down his beloved River Edge, New Jersey restaurant for the sake of his personal health and well-being.

A man who returned with his talents to two other barbecue restaurants, only to have to move on yet again.

And for three years, he dropped off the face of the earth. We do not know where he went. All we know is that he is… BACK.

Who is this mysterious barbecue man? And where has he re-appeared? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


NY Dining: Baileys Smokehouse

June 5, 2006

Bailey’s Smokehouse
136 Erie St E, Blauvelt, NY
(845) 398-1454

Today we got a preview of Bailey’s Smokehouse, the new BBQ restaurant that is to be housed within Bailey’s Blauvelt Inn, an established Bar and Grill place on Route 303, just down the road from the Palisade Center Mall. For you New Jerseyans, thats about 20 minutes up the Palisades Parkway from Northern Bergen County.

The kitchen will be led by no other than Dave “Fink” Finkelstein, previously of Stickey’s (Teaneck) and Fink’s Funky Chicken and Ribs (River Edge)

Currently he is just getting the Barbecue up to spec, and the full menu isn’t ready yet, but if you come in and play nice, you can get Ribs (both St. Louis and Baby Back) Pulled Pork, Brisket and Smoked Chicken.

Bailey’s, on Erie Street just 2 blocks off Route 303 in Blauvelt, NY.

This Southern Pride Smoker, along with a custom rig (both originally from Stickey’s) will be producing the Barbecue. Wood is Cherry.

FINK!!!!!

The upstairs Sports Bar.

Deck area, for Al Fresco Dining.

The famous Fink Bar-B-Reuben.

BBQ Beans

Shells and Cheese

Ribs. The Barbecue now has a Apple/Honey BBQ sauce on it that goes great with the dry rub.

Sampler Platter of Baby Backs, Spare Ribs, Pulled Pork, Brisket and Chicken.

Another view of the ribs.

Brisket closeup.

Beanless Chili. Very strong cumin flavor and spicy, intended for use on their Hot Dogs and Nachos.

BBQ Brisket Sandwich

Bailey’s Burger, 1/2lb, Perfectly Medium Rare, With Shrooms, American Cheese and Sauteed Onions.

BBQ Pork Nachos

Babyback Ribs

BBQ Chicken

The downstairs BBQ dining area, which is still under construction.


NJ Dining: Front Street Smokehouse

May 28, 2006

Front Street Smokehouse & Saloon
(908) 354-1818
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.

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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.

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Iced Tea, in a Mason Jar. Kitschy but I like it.

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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.

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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).

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Red Cabbage Slaw

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Fred Flintsone Beef Rib. Beefy, fatty, juicy.

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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:

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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.