Our Search is Over: SuzieQue's BBQ & Bar
Thanks to a fellow Montclair, New Jersey resident, Melody Kettle, and her blog, Hot From the Kettle, we have discovered SuzyQue's. It's a really good barbeque joint just down the road from us. It’s in West Orange, New Jersey; and if you live in New Jersey you know that good — really good — slow smoked style barbeque isn’t on every street corner, like the Pizza Pie is in the Garden State. In fact, for really good barbeque in New Jersey it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that you really should go to New York City. That’s before SuzyQue’s, that is. The tectonic plates of the barbeque world have shifted in these parts.
SuzyQue’s is run by a very nice lady, the eponymous Suzy, CEH (Susan Hoffberg, Chief Executive Honcho). She’s the boss, the house mom, the muse, (the whip?). We say, the heart. She came to our table to greet us and we had a very nice chat. A most warm welcome. This joint has a down home soul, and we were made to feel right at home.
The term “joint” really isn’t quite right. It’s a joint in the sense that it is the kind of place where you feel right at home, comfortable, happy to stay awhile. Lots of life going on. There’s a bar and the place looks like it can seat a big crowd. Our next time will be during the full swing evening dinner time when we expect the place will be rocking with lots of folks, chompin’, chewin’, chattin’, and sippin’ ”. There’s live music many evenings as well. Are you getting what kind of “joint” this place is? Décor-wise, goldilocks*** lighting; i.e., not too bright, not to dark; just right. Get it? Nice woody atmosphere: ample wood tables, solid wood chairs, lot's of dark wood interior trim. Oh, do you get it? Smoked wood barbeque / woody atmosphere. (Cooky Cat amazes himself sometimes.) That’s what people in the corporate world call “synergy”. And, “maximizing the synergized analogs for exponentially geometric multiples of returns on investments”. (That one is for Suzy Herself and a little reference to past “corporate” days.)
***Goldilocks©, Cooky Cat original and exclusive usage
But the place doesn’t smell to high heaven of wood smoke; just the parking lot.
The menu has most every type of smoked meat, an arms-length list of sides, lots of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees, burgers and sliders, “bar pies”, and desserts. For our first time we ordered the St. Louis style ribs. For us, it’s the gold standard by which all other smoked barbeque is judged. (Suzy suggested the “large” beef short rib since she got that we were "rib people", rib shack demographically speaking.)
Verdict: Top Shelf. Plenty of deep hickory smoke flavor, and a rub that adds flavor without calling undue attention to itself. Tender with just a little tooth. We like our ribs to bite back a little. (Not like those pussyfied Baby Back Ribs—not that there is anything wrong with that; some of Cooky Cat's best friends are real pussies. Baby Backs are strictly for the suburbanite neophytes. Just kitting. But, a little serious on that preference too.)
Now, it is a great debate among barbeque lovers whether to sauce or not. We like our sauce—if at all—at the table, please. SuzyQue’s is traditional in that respect. Smoker to table. Sauces on the side.
Also, when it comes to sauces to accompany your barbeque, that is a subject by itself. And a very personal matter of taste. But, the really good ones are not that easy to find. (If there is a good barbeque sauce in a bottle, please enlighten us. Anyone? We thought not.) We like a straight ahead tangy style sauce and at the end of this piece you can look at something else we did on the subject. But the sauces at SuzyQue’s are each terrific. There are four, all house made, brought to your table in generous squeeze bottles. If you ask, you can also have a portion of house made habanero sauce.
Like we said, barbeque sauce is of course a personal taste kind of thing. Even whether ever to add any at all. We are content to enjoy good barbeque as is, sans sauce. But what kitty doesn’t like some sauce with that. And, the sauces at SuzyQue’s are each excellent, and each in its own way.
SuzyQue’s House Made Barbeque Sauces (quoting SuzyQue's menu)
Vinegar Base: Memphis style sauce with vinegar base using molasses as a sweetener.
Orange Habenero: Orange Juice, Vinegar and habanero chili’s combine for a sweet, sour and spicy flavor.
Molasses Base: Robust molasses based sauce with dried fruit, tamarind and a big bold flavor.
Tomato Base: Kansas City style thick tomato based sauce with sugar, vinegar, and spices.
And, if you like it HOT, ask for the habanero sauce. But, you gotta ask.
We found ourselves experimenting with combinations. It’s so personal we won’t venture a recommendation. Just to say they all stand up on their own. (OK, if we had a choice we would go for the Tomato Base; but, with a dash of the Orange Habanero.) And, here’s a tip, just don’t eat that corn bread plain, sauce it! And, the beans. And, . . .