Susan Hoffberg, namesake and chief executive honcho of SuzyQues, BBQ & Bar in West Orange, draws on the flavors and techniques of Texas, Midwest, and Carolina barbeque, then follows the three rules of barbeque (low, slow, and smoke) to create dishes that put West Orange NJ on any national BBQ tour map.
A recent afternoon 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 for lunch, or hanging out with the guys to watch the game before returning for a family dinner on your next visit.
The restaurant prides itself on using only the finest premium meats but anyone who knows barbeque understand technique matters as much, if not more than, the quality of the meat. Great barbeque 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 delivered to each table allowing each diner to decide exactly what’s right for them.
For my first 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, barbeque 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. Memphis style sauce has a foundation of vinegar with molasses as a sweetener. 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 sauce is a fruity molasses sauce with hints of tamarind. Being a big tamarind fan I would have liked it to have a more pronounced presence in the sauce, that said it is still my favorite of the sauces. 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 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 day it really was bread. If had room for more I would have asked for more.
There was no room for dessert, so I opted to take a slice of Red Velvet Cake for take away. Dense and pound cake like, it had those wonderful tangy notes of chocolate one usually finds in deep south. I regret not getting two, or more slices, in my take away box.
SuzyQue's BBQ & Bar
34 S Valley Rd
West Orange, NJ 07052
11:30 am to 2 am