This review originally appeared in The Ramapo News
A Kentucky-style barbecue restaurant, Bourbon BBQ has moved in where famed hot dog joint Clixie’s used to be, and it may be even more worth the trip than a few Texas wieners would’ve been. Admittedly, last time I was there I was around four feet tall, so I have no real remembrance of the food—but I do remember this trip to Bourbon BBQ as if it was yesterday.
As you approach the Goffle Road restaurant you’ll probably be most struck by their simple sign. It just says BBQ. Nothing else, no subtitles, heck, it doesn’t even have the full name of the restaurant on it. Despite that it tells you everything you need to know, unless you’re a true barbecue freak who’s going to get very, very angry if they don’t get their East North Carolina style barbecue and quickly.
You won’t get North Carolina style, which is rather popular in New Jersey, and to be honest you won’t get it quickly. The Bourbon county style seems to be Worcestershire-heavy and decidedly less sauced than North Carolina style, and here it’s served with a spicy mix of spices called “gunpowder” and a flavorful barbecue sauce. Barbecue is one of the slowest foods around, and as their smaller, less prominent sign says, it gets smoked for hours. Because we didn’t just order barbecue, we also ordered fried chicken and fried catfish, the order took a while longer. It’s hard to get all of those foods hot and ready at the same time, so I don’t really count it against them.
Best darn empanadas we’ve ever had
Another reason I don’t hold it against them is due to their otherwise great service. After ordering our meals and waiting a good while, our waitress brought us two BBQ empanadas despite us only ordering one. The attention to customer happiness shown even while in the throes of a difficult order is a definate positive of Bourbon BBQ. What did we order? We got too much food—way too much food: a “Garbage Plate”, which consists of Saint Louis ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and a delightful smoked sausage, a fried catfish platter, and a fried chicken platter. Of interest to “localvores” is their chicken, which is sourced from the Goffle Farm, a mere hundred feet or so away. Can’t get much closer than that!
Since we then had time to look around we discovered that Bourbon BBQ is truly a dive. In the best way, I mean. You get a roll of paper towels instead of napkins, the walls are decorated in RC Cola (their soda of choice—and with free refills!) ephemera, and the tables are covered with that red and white picnic tablecloth everyone’s seen at their grandma’s house during a Labor Day barbecue. Insert your own red and white picnic tablecloth moment if you’ve never had one.
Time passed after the empanadas, and we were starting to lose hope. Then a single plate about the size of a tray at the Birch appeared, carrying with it four kinds of meat, separated by slices of white bread. A heap of hot catfish and fried chicken arrived with their seasoned fries.
The fried chicken, while disturbingly blackened (we all stared at it as though it had crash-landed on the Earth for a moment), was actually great: the chicken had been smoked and the crispy yet dark coating of the chicken appeared to be that way on purpose, though I can’t figure out why it was like that. The garbage plate was an immense pile of delicious, juicy, beautiful meats, from the strong flavor of the brisket to the (not falling apart, in a good way) ribs. At 22.00, you’d obviously hope it was immense. The catfish was fresh tasting and light on the tongue, though the tartar sauce it was brought with had very little flavor. The only true issue was in a side we ordered, the chili mac. It really had very little flavor and was all the same texture, leading to a very mushy sensation.
Bourbon BBQ is an ideal place to go if you’ve got a lot of hungry friends and only a few bucks, as we spent only about forty five dollars there. It does tend to be a little slow, so it might not be a great idea to go there if you have to, oh, catch a plane or something, but lingering over a table with friends is healthy anyway, especially when you get to smell your dinner being prepared the whole time.