My wife and I are always on the lookout for good barbecue in the Northern New Jersey/Southern New York area. So, while taking Route 17 through Sloatsburg, the sight of a roadside eatery embellished with a cartoon pig topped by Texan stars immediately got our mouths watering. Once inside Hog Heaven BBQ, the delicious smell of smoke and the beautiful platters of the side dishes hooked us in. We met Bart Gaber, the owner, who, once he found out we were barbecue buffs, struck up a conversation with us while we examined the menu. He's a long-time barbecue enthusiast, whose desire is to make his new restaurant a great experience for those who share his love of superior smoked meats.
The restaurant is run as a family affair. After watching "Daddy" Bart's son dishing up platters behind the counter, we decided to put ourselves in their decidedly capable hands. While sampling our platters of pulled pork, smoked brisket, smoked meat loaf and sides of collard greens, chili, and the home made mac & cheese, Bart dropped by our table to chat. He explained to us that his primary objective was to enable the customer to really taste the flavor of the meat. He favors cherry and maple woods, which gives the meats a light, slightly sweet, smoky flavor. He believes in using only dry rubs in all his barbecue, putting sauce on the side, unlike too many places which smother barbecue with sauces regardless of the customer's preference.
Both the pulled pork and brisket are piled high, with crispy, caramelized ends complementing the lean, juicy pieces. Bart let us in on the secret to his pulled pork: it's marinated in apple cider for 24 hours before smoking. The brisket is the perfect balance of tender beef and smoke, reminding us of why we love barbecue. Comfort food lovers will be happy with the tender, baked-in-the-smoker meatloaf, which brings an old favorite to a new level. The outstanding chili was made in a competition style; if you've never had that, the meat is cubed rather than ground, with intense beef flavor that stands up to the rich tomato and cumin background. The inclusion of beans in the recipe will disturb only the overly fussy and Texans. Ribs, of course, are a favorite here, though Bart tried to tempt us with wonderfully scented meaty slab of Hog Heaven's best, we regretfully decided to hold back and give the St. Louis ribs, as well as their chicken and smoked sausages, our full attention on our next visit.
You will have a hard time choosing from the large, freshly prepared parade of side dishes. Finely chopped collard greens glistened in their 'pot liquor', just crisp enough and not too salty. The mac & cheese was the real thing; southern style, baked in a casserole, certainly not the macaroni with cheese sauce added you find in most restaurants. Bart's attention to detail led him to research area bakeries until he found a ciabatta roll with real heft, texture and flavor for his sandwiches.
And that was just our lunch. We plan to come back for dinner, and write a more complete review; in the meantime, if you want to give him a try, he's located at 110 Route 17 in Sloatsburg, NY, and can be reached at 845-753-5555. Bart tells us a web site is just about ready to go up.
<message edited by bartl on Tue, 07/7/09 9:04 PM>