Ooh, there is something about a snow day that either gets you pumped up to do all of the inside things that you haven’t done in a while, like organize, cook, or write. Or the complete opposite: hunker down and do absolutely nothing. For the first few hours, not even the plows would come out. Why bother? The road would just cover up as fast as it was laid bare. The thick layer of white precipitation may physically stop you from getting in your car and driving somewhere, but mentally, it also impedes you from communicating with anyone, anywhere, for any reason. It’s a snow day! You are cut off from the world as if the apocalypse has fallen. Here in New Jersey, we haven’t had many opportunities for a snow day this year, so this week, I splurged and did the latter. But it did get me thinking about the last big storm we had about a month ago, still early in the season, in which I chose to not let the snow ruin my plans. And fortunately, it didn’t ruin the plans of some of New Jersey’s barbeque restaurants, because when the women are out of town, little white flakes falling from the sky will not ruin the well laid plans of men. And on this night, we had our little men with us to try a new place that we hadn’t tried before, Nik’s Outpost Barbecue on Route 202 in Bridgewater. With more snow in the forecast, and a couple of inches on the ground already, it was good to see this photo on their Facebook page, with the caption “Might be snowin’, but we’re still smokin’!” The place was open, the smoker was going and keeping temperature, and we were ready to eat some meat. I called ahead to see if they were BYOB because they don’t have a bar (they are!) and if they had a television because it was NFL playoff night and they don’t have a bar (they didn’t!). Not a deal breaker though. So I threw some IPA’s, random leftovers from Oktoberfest and my youngest son, Brennan, (not specifically in that order) into the car and drove down the hyperspace-like highway to meet my buddy and bbq teammate Boy McBoy and his youngest, Nathan, to try out a new joint.
The place is huge for a barbeque restaurant. Very open, decked out in stone and wood (palm trees were a little out of place), with large amount of space between the tables to walk between. There was an extra room that wasn’t even being used. With the large windows and the snow falling outside, you could have very well been in Aspen rather than Bridgewater. When I came in, the blinds were drawn, but I wanted to see the large offset smoker that was parked on the deck right outside, so I drew up the blinds to get a nice view of the smoke billowing into the cold night. Rarely, do you get to see the smoker right outside your window that is cooking your food, It reminded me of going to Shakey’s in Memphis as a young kid when we would walk along the ramp and look through the window as the cooks made the pizzas. (Sorry, I can’t control these flashes). Every hour or so though, someone from the kitchen would venture out and lift the lid to check on what was inside. Usually the smokers are boxy Southern Prides, hidden away in the kitchen that don’t add anything to the experience for Northern newbies, so I have to hand it to (Nik?) for the great touch of putting it right outside in line’s sight, along with the pile of wood to feed the beast. Unfortunately, the manager never came out or emailed me as promised, so I couldn’t get any more information on how they cooked their food.
I had read on Yelp about the large chalkboards on the walls for the kids to draw on, to mixed reviews, and saw that they were very popular, as each square inch had been explored. The place was not crowded when we came in but a few groups braved the night, and the boards continued to be really popular, with our own kids as well, though most of their comments were Eagles or Jets related. Such good boys!
We ordered the Sampler for Two with cole slaw and baked bean sides, along with the smoked grilled hot links to start. The boys ordered Tennessee Pup hot dogs each, since they seem to be the specialty here, and they include all of their favorites: hot dogs, pulled pork, and mac and cheese. This went along with a promise to share our sampler with them, of course. Each table came equipped with four types of bbq sauce, including the rarely seen in these parts, Alabama White. You can see Brennan’s reaction after being forced to taste that one. I am not a fan of the mayo-based barbeque sauces either, but would love to visit those parts of the South where it is popular to see how it is used and to sample traditional barbeque that uses it. We enjoyed trying the sauces as we waited and talking about each one. The consensus of the table was that the Texas Sweet was the sauce of choice here. (But beware when there are so many sauces on the table… for you may need them.) The hot link appetizers came and we loved them! Although there were many of them to be had, they had a great taste, so we took our time to savor them. I recommend getting them, but if you have a large party, you will need two of them.
When the main course came, Boy and I were split. The pulled pork and ribs were well cooked and tender, but did not have much taste to them at all, whether through any infused smoke or from the rub. Boy thought that each was very good with the different barbeque sauces that were provided and that this was part of it, whereas I felt that each should be able to stand on their own, first and foremost. I want to taste the smoke from the wood that is used and then appreciate the spices that make up the dry rub. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there for me. With the sauce, yeah, it was good, but I tried it without the sauce first, and so my disappointment lingered. The chicken was well charred on the outside but moist inside, allowing you to bite through the thin skin and enjoy the taste of coal-fired meat. The brisket was somewhat of a mystery. It was very thinly sliced and basting in its own sweet ju-ju, but minus the tell-tale smoke ring. It had a great flavor to it and was the table favorite, with each of us agreeing that when we came back, we would order the smoked (?) brisket sandwich. Again,without being able to ask the pitmaster, my guess is that the brisket was covered while smoked which would have prevented any obvious smoke rings, and perhaps sliced when it was cooled to get the very thin slices without falling apart. If he comments on this to let me know otherwise, I will change this. The kids enjoyed the messy hotdogs, but overall I think that atmosphere lent itself to a great place to gather some friends together.
Below is Boy’s review, which I copied from his Facebook page. We talked about it a few days ago, so I wanted to put his comments up too.
JD: Here’s the high level review: I’ll start with what I didn’t like. The pulled pork and ribs were bland. That would be ok if I can get a good pork taste bit no. Needed sauce. However, because they had a good sauce selection, it made it ok. The chicken I would call just good. Can eat it with or without sauce. The highlight and what made the trip worth it was the brisket. Probably the best around. Sauce with it would be a violation. The blackboard walls kept the kids entertained and it’s BYOB.
Note from Author: BTW, don’t blame me for the lateness of this post, blame damn Netflix for putting up all of the seasons of Spartacus!!!!