Suzy Hoffberg, namesake and chief executive honcho of SuzyQues, draws on the flavors and techniques of Texas, the Midwest, and Carolina barbecue, then follows the three rules of barbecue (low, slow, and smoke) to create dishes that put West Orange NJ on any national BBQ tour map.
A recent visit resulted in big flavors, big portions, and big doggie bags. (Don’t tell the doggie, the leftovers were for me.) But let’s rewind to beginning : SuzyQue’s is located in the former Charlie Brown’s location on South Valley Road in West Orange. The space includes a large dining room, a substantial bar area, and a glass enclosed patio just off the bar. The variety of rooms set the stage perfectly for trying out SuzyQues with co-workers just after work, or hanging out with the guys to watch the game before returning for a family dinner on your next visit.
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The restaurant prides itself on using only the finest premium meats but anyone who knows barbecue understand technique matters as much, if not more than, the quality of the meat.
Great barbecue starts with a great dry rub. Hoffberg blends her own from scratch before putting the meat in their smoker. When the order arrives at the table the rub has permeated the meat and formed a crust that is oh so thin but incredibly flavorful. Don’t worry, lesser places base their rubs on salt, at SuzyQues herbs and spices are the foundation of the rub. An assortment of sauces is found at each table allowing each diner to decide exactly what’s right for them.
For my most recent visit I chose the Beef Brisket and the Baby Back Ribs, with sides of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, and creamed spinach. Corn bread comes with each order. The relaxed atmosphere made it possible to share a bit of everything and experience as much as possible.
The brisket was juicy and fork tender. Alone, with just the dry rub, it was an entrée worthy of a great review. Was this really happening in New Jersey, barbecue that didn’t need sauce? I slathered anyway. I turned what could be described as “flying business class” (have you ever heard anyone complain about flying business class?) into “flying first class.” It was that good.
The baby back ribs were equally impressive. Like the brisket they came to the table simply seasoned with the dry rub. Having tried the brisket first I dove right in without adding any sauce, and like the brisket the ribs were top drawer. The half rack was more than enough (some had to go home with me) and were so tender that eating ribs with a knife and fork was totally possible.
But what about the sauce? SuzyQue offers four sauces, all made on site, served in squeeze bottles so patrons can put on as much, or as much more, as they like! The great thing about serving the sauce in this manner is that a little of each can be tried throughout the meal. Texass style sauce has a foundation of molasses with vinegar and spicev. For some heat try the Orange Habernero which features the perfect blend of sweet, tart, and spicy flavors. The squeeze bottles are ideally suited for this sauce as customers uncertain about chilis can try just a few drops on a forkful of barbeque before making the decision to slather away, just as I did. Kansas City style sauce is tomato based with sugar and vinegar. The fourth is a Carolina style sauce with a vinegar base and Worchestershire sauce – those tamarind notes in the wooster sauce make this my favorite. A source told me at the end of the night the bottles are emptied and contents discarded before being washed and refilled. Similarly when the bottles near being emptied during the day they are washed before being refilled.
The sides were generous. The stand out is the macaroni and cheese which is made with real cheese, then topped with more cheddar before being baked. It was almost a meal unto itself. The big surprise was the cornbread which was dense, almost like pound cake. Instead of the usual crumbling messy muffin consistency that passes for cornbread these days it really was bread. If had room for more I would have asked for more.
34 South Valley Road
West Orange NJ
Mon-Thurs3 pm – 1 am
Fri/Sat Noon – 2 am
Sunday Noon – Midnight
Alcohol: Yes (Beer and Barbeque – Perfect Together)
John Lee is Black Tie and Flip Flops’ Raconteur-In-Chief: the World of food is his playground ~ the whole world! Having a Navy Dad gave John the passion to discover the world. Whether in one of Mr. Boeing’s flying machines, as an armchair traveler with a great book, or a plate beaming with the exotic flavors and fragrances, his day is all about discovering the world and sharing the stories with everyone he meets, and playing with his rescue dogs Ricardo and Rosalita. John is also the Director of Taste of Montclair, the Montclair Rotary Club‘s annual charity event where 100% of ticket sales go to charity.