The Blue Collar Foodie Laments about the Impending Demise of Backyard Barbecues

As the end of summer draws near and the seemingly endless supply of weekend barbecue invites slowly dissipates on my Facebook page, I can’t not help but shed a hickory flavored tear.  The enticing sound, amazing smell, and astonishing taste of searing meats, which were marinated for two days in homemade sauces, cooked to perfection with flawless grill marks is enough to cause a foodgasm, and the sheer thought that soon these events will  soon disappear is enough to make this foodie blue with sadness.

Just as I was contemplating going to Costco and buying a Fred Flintstone sized rack of ribs and going into a Barbecue induced Hibernation for the cold, soul less, barbecue-lacking months that lie ahead, I received an E-mail from LivingSocial.com, an online company that delievers local deals to your inbox.  Like a warm beacon of hope this E-mail shined through the impending gloomy darkness, and invited me to try a barbecue spot called Bourbon BBQ, located at 529 Goffle Rd., Wyckoff, N.J. 07481.  Living Social had come through in the clutch and delivered not only a new Barbecue joint to test out but a half off coupon for something called the Garbage Plate, which appeared to be a barbecue sampler for two.

Upon further research I found that the Garbage Plate was in fact made for two and consisted of bourbon ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, Texas smoked sausage, coleslaw, smokehouse beans, collard greens and corn bread.  I immediately purchased this living social coupon and scheduled a date with Kat for the first available day in our calendar to try this alluring dish offered by Bourbon BBQ.  Their website also informed me that Bourbon BBQ is a BYOB establishment, which always makes this foodie smile, and I noticed that you can make reservations on their site as well.

As we entered Bourbon BBQ, the first thing I noticed was the tantalizing smell wafting about.  I could tell right off the bat that this was not a B.S. BBQ joint due to the smell of smoke lingering in the air.  Kat and I approached the counter and spoke to the hostess who allowed us to choose any table that was available.  We made our way to a table that was empty and sat down with my beer and Kat’s cider in tow.

Before our rumps could warm the seats we had just taken, our waiter appeared in front us and handed us our menus.  We explained that we had the Living Social Garbage Plate coupon and took our drink orders at this time as well.  Our waiter then left the table, and returned quickly with a bottle opener and some glasses for our adult beverages.  The prompt service was highly appreciated because we arrived to dinner close to 8 P.M. and were famished.

As Kat and I discussed our hectic days over a few sips of our cocktails, we eagerly awaited our meal.  Which we did not have to wait long for, and that made both of our bellies smile.  What exited the kitchen and landed on our table was a colossal pile of barbecue, and it was love at first sight.  In addition to the food itself, the server also delivered a caddie full of homemade barbecue sauces, which he described in detail to us one by one, and a roll of paper towels.   More so, before the server left he explained the Garbage Plate to us, pointing our each item of the plate, which for a first timer at Bourbon was extremely helpful.

I consider myself a sauce aficionado, so when the server explained each sauce and informed us that they were all homemade, I paid attention like a physicist listens when Stephen Hawking talks about black holes.  With that said I feel obligated to not only name these sauces but also give you my first impression of them as well, the following is the list:

  1. Kansas City:  Bourbon’s take on a Kansas City style sweet Barbecue Sauce.  This sauce was fantastic for a sweet Barbecue sauce which I tend to shy away from most of the time.   I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork.
  2. Carolina:  Bourbon’s vinegar based Barbecue sauce which I found simply divine.  This sauce complimented everything I put it on, instead of overwhelming the flavor of the meat.  Great on the Brisket.
  3. Delta:  This sauce blew mine and Kat’s mind.  A great combination of a spicy yet sweet Barbecue Sauce with an almost three dimensional flavor.  Our favorite sauce by far and we ate it on everything.
  4. XXX:  This is Bourbon’s spiciest sauce offered.  Although we enjoyed this sauce, we found that the Delta had a deeper flavor with just a little less spice.  I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork for a spicy twist.

Although the offering of specialty craft Barbecue Sauces, which you can purchase online or in house,  is all well and good, let’s face it, one goes to a Barbecue Restaurant for the meat not the sauce.  I would be remiss if I did not discuss the Garbage Plate Sampler in detail and tell my loyal audience all about Bourbon’s actual Barbecue.

Kat and I attacked this monumental mound of mouthwatering meat as if we were at war with the plate, and employed the “divide and conquer “strategy.  We started with the Pulled Pork, and shoveled a healthy helping onto our plates.  We first tried these delectable slivers of swine sans Barbecue Sauce and at that moment we knew the rest of the meal was going to be utterly remarkable.  The meat was so tender, chewing it felt like overkill, all I needed to do was let it linger in my mouth for a few seconds as it dissolved on my tongue.   Then we decided to splash on a few drops of the different types of Barbecue Sauce and the pulled pork, in the immortal words of John Candy in Spaceballs, went to plaid.  All the sauces transformed this meat into something else, something almost entirely different but equally as tasty.

Next up was the Brisket which was piled high enough to be a meal of its own.  Kat and I once again divided the portion and dug in first without sauce and then with.  This may have been the best brisket Kat and I have ever had, and that is saying something since I like Brisket like Rex Ryan from the New York Jets likes feet.  The meat was tender and succulent with just the perfect pink around the outside to remind you that it lived in a smoker for quite some time.  Once again the sauces that were offered only added complexity to the already impeccable taste.

The Texas smoked sausage reminded me of the smoked Kielbasa that I make at home.  Except for Bourbon BBQ is able to get the skin to the perfect amount of crispness that I just can’t seem to achieve.  I was unsure just which barbecue sauce to match up with these crisp morsels of smokey goodness, so I ate them naked.

The piece de resistance of all Barbecue plates and really how I ultimately judge barbecue chefs is the ever important ribs.  These behemoths were not your run of the mill miniscule baby pork ribs either, these ribs looked like they came for hogasaurus.   Bourbon’s ribs are the type of ribs that make most men feel inadequate if you know what I mean, and that is just the way I like it.  At first bite I noticed that the meat did not need much help in separating from the bone, which is a great testament to the chef with ribs this size.  I was a little underwhelmed by the flavor of the ribs during my initial bite but then I added a small amount of barbecue sauce and the rib came alive like Frankenstein’s Monster.  It appeared that Bourbon’s Ribs were only cooked with a dry rub so as to allow the customer to choose the type of sauce they want to add at the time of consumption.  The sauce complemented the rib meat effortlessly and I found myself leaving not a speck of meat left hanging on the bone.

As for the sides, the Baked Beans actually have what appeared to be pulled pork in them, which made them even better than I expected.  The Cole Slaw seemed fresh and did not have that store bought chemical taste to it that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  The Collard Greens tasted fantastic, as they were not too vinegary, which tends to happen in the north.   The corn bread was exactly as I like it, sweet enough to be a side, but not sweet enough to be dessert.  Kat on the other hand was hoping for dessert corn bread, but she was pleased with the other sides.

Not only was the food marvelous but during our dinner our server came over several times to check on us, which is always under appreciated.  Furthermore, throughout our time at this restaurant who I believed to be the General Manager walked around to every table, including our own, to speak to the customers.  One by one he approached every table and made sure that everything was cooked to their liking and just made some small talk.  Kat and I love small businesses and this added special touch made us feel like Bourbon BBQ truly cared about us, as individuals and not as just another customer.

Bourbon BBQ’s menu is quite extensive and if our first visit is any indication of how all the other items are going to taste, I can see this foodie squandering many an hour at this establishment.  Kat and I both felt that Bourbon’s amazing sampler dish can compete with any and all Barbecue joints that we have frequented in our decade together.   This combined with the fact that they are right next door in Wyckoff and their prices are truly affordable, very well may have placed them number one on our BBQ list.  So when the snow begins to fall and you place your cover on your grill for the last time this season, make sure to stop by Bourbon BBQ when you get the hankering for some good old fashioned BBQ.

 

Judgment:

Overall:                                4 out of 5

Taste:                                   5 out of 5

Presentation:                      3 out of 5

Value:                                   4 out of 5

Bourbon BBQ Hickory Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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The Blue Collar Foodie’s School of Endless Shrimp!

Sometimes foodies, out of habit, seem to be somewhat pretentious and give off a like hipster vibe.  It is this ostentatious elitism that rubs me the wrong way and basically caused me to create this blog for the everyday foodie that welcomes noteworthy food no matter where it comes from.  With that said, this week I am reviewing a chain restaurant that rarely is uttered in the foodie realm without contempt.  This chain is none other than Red Lobster.

Red Lobster is usually synonymous with sub-par seafood and over salted steaks like most large chain restaurants in America.  But once a year, Red Lobster offers a promotion that no Blue Collar Foodie should miss, and that time is now.  Endless Shrimp has returned to Red Lobster and every single server in the employ of this eatery collectively has begun to weep in unison.

Other than the servers, who honestly loathe this time of year, everyone else should be rejoicing that Red Lobster is still offering this amazing deal.  For $14.99, you can shovel unlimited quantities of Teryaki Grilled Shrimp, Parmesan Shrimp, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, and Hand-breaded Shrimp, a salad, a potato, and unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  After nearly a decade of attending this event, the economics of this deal still baffle me, but I am not complaining and neither should you.

Some of you are sitting in your ergonomic office chairs adjusting your horned rimmed glasses, preparing to write me angry hate mail about the quality of the shrimp, or the fact that the parmesan cheese is not organic, and you are entitled to your own opinion but dude seriously this is ALL YOU CAN EAT SHRIMP we are talking about.  This event is not about the tantalizing Amouz-bouche or the tastefully created radish flower, this experience is all about strapping on a feed bag and attempting to devour literally an entire school of shrimp in one sitting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a classy black tie restaurant as you should all know if you read my blog each week, but there are sometimes that the Blue Collar in me, ties up the foodie, 50 shades of grey style, and drives me straight to yummy town.  The shrimp that Red Lobster offers during this event is not Sushi Grade by any means, but I love shrimp like fat guys like cake, so when I am offered an endless supply, I tend to get a little excited.

Before we discuss the individual types of shrimp that Red Lobster is offering this year, I think we must first discuss a good strategy for optimizing your shrimp intake.  First off, soda fills you up as does beer and wine, so I always order water with lemon as my drink selection for the evening.  Next we must discuss the Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  These miniature scrumptious morsels of sheer fatty goodness tend to be irresistible but very filling, so I try to only eat one with my salad to save room for the main course, and the reason we have decided to enter the threshold of Red Lobster to begin with.   As for the main course, I shy away from ordering a potato with my meal, because starches fill me up eight times more than any other side dish in this world, so I usually pair my shrimp with whatever vegetable they are offering.

Now that the side dishes have been discussed there is also a strategy when choosing your shrimp plates as well.  Two of the selections on the Endless Shrimp Menu seem to have been placed there with the purpose of filling you up quickly, so you reach your limit rapidly and thus saving Red Lobster some money.  The Teryaki Grilled Shrimp, although very tasty, comes with a side of rice, and the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, are chock full of stomach filling belt loosening carbohydrates that will stop you in your tracks immediately and cause your endless shrimp adventure to come to an early end.  I am not saying don’t try these tasty dishes, all I am saying is save them for last.   Stick with the two scampi selections and the fried shrimp at first to maximize your shrimp eating ability.

In order to make this event even more enjoyable, I usually hook up with a few of my foodie friends that enjoy a good feeding frenzy and venture to Red Lobster to participate in a gluttonous eating competition that would make vegetarian’s far and wide weep for the entire crustacean community.   During one of these competitions, which get pretty heated, my record is 155 shrimp in one sitting.  I am both proud of this record and slightly disgusted with myself when I think of it.

Whether you are attending this promotion with one other person or ten other people, be aware that you are holding up a table for quite a long time, and that your waiter or waitress depends on quick turnovers, or good tips to make his/her night as good as yours.  If you are like me and can eat shrimp for 2 hours straight, please tip accordingly so the story about you that he or she tells at the bar after work starts with, “this freaking guy ate 150 shrimp” and ends with, “but he tipped well so it was all good, and it was kind of awesome to watch.”

The main thing to remember about this hedonistic affair is that sometimes, even a foodie has to recognize a great deal when he/she sees one and join us common folk at the Red Lobster and dive into some shrimp.  You can even request a plastic food bib if you don’t want to ruin your tweed jacket.  See you all there!

Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie goes South Of the Bergen County Border and visits Tito’s Burritos in Morristown, New Jersey

As a foodie blogger and all around food fanatic, when one of your friends says you need to try, fill in the blank food, at, fill in the blank restaurant, you only have one option.  That option is to plan a date, and make it happen.  If I did not listen to peoples suggestions I would be sitting at the same 15 restaurants all the time, scouring their menus for something that I have not yet tried.  So with that said, while out at a bar one night when my friends told me I had to try Tito’s Burritos located at 26 Washington St., in Morristown, NJ, without hesitation and much like a 1970’s movie star, I replied sure enuff’.

After talking about this establishment for damn near 30 minutes at the bar, making our entire group famished and craving Mexican Food, I could not resist doing some research on the internet when I got home.   The Googles informed me that not only was there a Tito’s in Morristown, NJ but another location just down the street from me in Ridgewood, NJ.  Once I found out this tidbit of information I knew I was going to have to attend Tito’s Burritos as my alter ego The Blue Collar Foodie and not as the mild manner Clark Kent, so I could inform my readers all about my gastronomic adventure.

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After planning a date that fit into both of our calendars, Kat and I met up with Brian and Kristen in downtown Morristown, New Jersey to check out this trendy burrito spot.  Unfortunately, dinner time in Morristown, NJ is as crowded as Times Square on a Saturday afternoon, when it comes to finding a parking spot.  After we completed our search for a parking spot and scored a decent one thanks to the eagle eyes of our friends, we proceeded to walk towards Tito’s Burritos which about a five minute walk from our car.

Upon approaching this establishment I got a vibe that I have not felt since I visited San Diego, California and ate at a local burrito joint that was highly recommended in the downtown area.  From a distance you can tell, that Tito’s Burrito’s is not all about flashy decorations and flair like other restaurants trying to lure you in with bling only to break your heart with sub-par sustenance.

When you enter Tito’s there is a small eating area and a counter that is designed to make ordering quick and easy.   There menu is posted on the wall in giant letters so everyone can read it while the wait on line.  Gracing that menu is a myriad of Mexican dishes that would make Speedy Gonzales’s grandmother drool, and from what I heard that lady can cook.  The menu is broken down into categories for ease of use, and lists Burritos, Tacos, Salads, Nachos, Quesadillas, Kids Dishes, Sides, Wings, Chicken Strips, and Desserts.

                 First and foremost, there is the Burrito list and considering that this spot is named Tito’s Burritos and not Tito’s Tacos I think Tito knows how to rock him some yumminess wrapped in a tortilla.  The highlights include the Mac Daddy described as being filled with grilled grade A steak with black beans, yellow rice, Tito’s cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa & fresh guacamole for $9.50, or for those looking for something slightly different they offer the Hang Five Shrimp Burrito which is chock full of Sautéed garlic shrimp, with shredded cabbage, yellow rice, pico de gallo salsa & cilantro/lime sauce for $9.25.  You can also find out the Special Burrito of the Day by calling, checking the chalkboard, or by checking out Tito’s Facebook & Twitter feed to be informed.  When I visited Tito’s the special of the day was a Jamaican Jerk Burrito with jerk flavored chop meat and all the fixings.

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The rest of the menu did seem intriguing and almost tempted away from the Burrito list with offerings such as the Steak Taco, the Classic Quesadilla, and a boastful statement next to the wings that reads “THE BEST IN NEW JERSEY.”  I was tempted to stray from my first instinct, but as in life decisions like that almost always end in heartbreak and despair.  So instead of wishing I stuck with my gut, when I reached the counter I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Burrito which set me back $9.50, while Kat went with the Mac Daddy, which as stated above was also $9.50.  As for Brian and Kristen, they ordered another Mac Daddy and two steak tacos respectively.

After we ordered, I wandered around the establishment to get a feel for the restaurant.  It was obvious by the décor that Tito is into long boarding, surfing, and hanging out hippie style.  All the Tito’s swag that is for sale has a retro southern California feel to it.  Even their slogan, which is, “It’s all good,” can’t be uttered without conjuring an image of a surfer giving you the hang ten sign.  Furthermore, in the back of the restaurant there is a wall of pictures submitted by loyal customers and famous people that have all, “Shown Them Their Tito’s,” which includes flicks of Tito’s favorite customers, exotic and interesting locations where Tito’s stickers have been sighted, special events, Tito’s staff and more!  The Tito’s stickers are free with any purchase by the way.

As our order came up, I ventured to the condiment cart to dress my burrito in style.  This cart is jam-packed with all of the necessities to make your burrito ready for the gala.  Fresh made Pico De Gallo, Pickled Jalapenos, Salsa Verde, and over a dozen different hot sauces are at your fingertips to garnish your selection however you please.

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At first glance I was slightly disappointed in the overall size of my Burrito which was defined as HUMONGOUS burritos.  Now if you follow my blog, you know I have already reviewed a spot  called Blue Moon which offers burritos the size of my forearm, so I was sad to see that Tito’s did not measure up to Blue Moon’s gargantuan fare.  But as many ladies have told many men, many many times size sometimes is not all that matters.  After the first bite of this large, but slightly not HUMONGOUS, burrito, size did not matter.  The flavor that was contained in this 12 inch tortilla was all that I cared about, and it was tremendous, especially when topped off with their fantastic Guacamole.  As Kat stated by the end of the meal, I just want it to last forever because it tastes so damn good.

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The Burritos seemed to have the right balance of ingredients swimming in the proper quantity of sauce and cheese, which is a hard thing to find in a world of mass produced burritos that are put together with caulk guns and ice cream scoops with about as much care as a third rate doctor at a clinic is Botswana. These Burritos seemed to be judiciously constructed by some sort of Zen burrito master with a fifth degree black belt in yummy.  My only complaint was that according to the menu, we were supposed to offered free homemade tortilla chips with the purchase of our burritos but we never received them, nor did we ask for them because I did not realize this menu side note until as we were about to leave.

While we were finishing up our meals Brian decided to order a classic Chicken Quesadilla for  all of us to share, which of course I did not complain about because then I would get to try one more item on the menu.  The Quesadilla came with Tito’s Guacamole and Sour cream and tasted so good that even though we were all filled almost to capacity, we did not waste one bite of it.  The chicken inside was plentiful and grilled just right and when combined with the sauce and cheese made for a gooey masterpiece.
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Thanks to Brian and Kristen, Tito’s Burritos has earned a coveted spot in my regular rotation of pseudo fast food joints, and I can’t wait to try the one located on East Ridgewood Ave, in Ridgewood, NJ.  From the relaxed bohemian atmosphere to the serious eats that are served, Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 9pm and Sunday: noon to 8pm, Tito has made this Blue Collar Foodie very pleased.  As an added bonus, if you work in the area of Ridgewood or Morristown, both Tito’s Burritos locations offer to-go orders and delivery which can save you some valuable time on your lunch hour.

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Judgment:

Overall:                  3.5 out of 5

Taste:                    4.5 out of 5

Presentation:         3 out of 5

Value:                   3 out of 5

Tito's Burritos on Urbanspoon