View Full Version : BBQ in Keyport, New Jersey

04-18-2006, 10:23 AM
Bad Bob's brings great Southern barbecue to Keyport
Posted by the Asbury Park Press (http://www.app.com/) on 04/14/06

CORRESPONDENT go to www.badbobs.net (http://www.badbobs.net/)

You can talk all you want about the regional nuances of Carolina, Texas and Kansas City barbecue, but when it comes right down to it, we in the Garden State could hardly care less. We know when we go out for "real American barbecue," we pretty much mean we want smoked pork products preferably ribs but, hey, who are we kidding? We'll take anything! Bad Bob's, an 8-month-old barbecue restaurant in downtown Keyport, can swing it. Located on charming West Front Street, this local installation of a small Tennessee chain sprinkles and slathers anything that oinks (or clucks) with its own rubs and sauces, then smokes its meats for nine hours or more.

The restaurant has all the ambience a barbecue place needs. Its tin-ceilinged, long-and-narrow, sky-blue-washed dining room gives the place a subtle old-timey Southern feel. Just a partition away from the tables is the kitchen, though we never heard much of a din or clatter coming from it. Pigs in one form or another make up much of the decor (and, of course, menu), and the staff of this masculine eatery, at least during my visit, was pretty much a couple of guys who really know barbecue. Ordering and service at Bad Bob's are no-frills experiences. Walk in, grab a table, get some menus, decide what you want, walk up to the counter and order and pay for it.

The menu here offers everything from dinners to sandwiches, depending on the section of menu you order from. There are seven sandwiches available, one more impressive than the first, from the BBQ Bologna (more on that later) to the Lil' Hawg (four ounces of pulled pork for $5.49) to the Big Hawg (five ounces, $6.49) to Hawgzilla (eight ounces, $7.49). That's the one I ordered, a tall stack of shredded barbecue pork piled onto a soft roll. Though just the slightest bit dry (fix: hit it with one of the Bad Bob's sauces on the table), the flavors of this luscious, all-day-smoked meat were perfectly gamey, smoky and tender.

The "Plates" at Bad Bob's are barbecue offerings served with your choice of two sides, from a list of beans (sweet and deliciously ribboned with pulled pork), cole slaw, potato salad or curly fries. The plates are your first chance on the menu to sample the restaurant's spectacular ribs, available in three sizes: a third rack, a half rack or a whole. Even if you're not starving, go for the Whole Rack Rib Plate ($19.95). For twice the price of the one-third rack you get the whole thing. That's key because, at that size, you can sample half a rack dry and half a rack wet. (Half racks are available with the same split.) The restaurant's dry and wet racks refer to what's covering them. All smoked ribs are rubbed with a dry spice rub before smoking, but the dry rack is pressed with a different rub just before serving. The rub is awesome, not at all spicy and not too salty, just a little sweet with some herbs and spices mingling in the background to make things interesting. The wet rack, meanwhile, is slathered with Bob's own barbecue sauce, another wonderful go-for-broke performance that's not too hot, not too sweet, but just too good. And while all this flavor is going on, the meat is just slipping right off the bone like it should.

While scanning the menu, I stopped dead at one item and wondered just what the Bologna Plate ($6.99) could be. One of the guys from the kitchen explained: it's a 1/2-thick slice of bologna that they smoke here and serve on a soft roll with your choice of mild or spicy barbecue sauce. It's like eating a big bologna burger. I mean that in a good way. Half a barbecued chicken napped with some barbecue sauce makes up the Chicken Plate ($8.49), which, like the other plates is served with a choice of two sides. I tried three sides: the Tater Salad, which was lightly sweet, very creamy and really good; the Slaw, a vinegary Southern-style cabbage side with a good balance of flavors; and the curly fries, which were perfect to start with and then dusted with spices.

We also tried three "Special Fixin's," which were more or less appetizers. The BBQ Nachos ($6.99) was a nacho platter topped with melted cheese, pulled pork, jalapeno slices and barbecue sauce. It was big enough to feed three of us generously. Fried Dill Pickles ($4.99) are batter-dipped dill spears that are dropped into oil and deep fried. They come out smoking hot, but when they cool down enough, the pickles remain crisp, their flavors vibrant and their crusts stay nice and crispy. Big, fat, batter-fried slices of onions comprise the Onion Petals ($4.99) starter.

There's not much else on the menu besides what I've mentioned here, but that's right in line with Bad Bob's no frills approach to great barbecue. It's a place that sticks to the basics and focuses on just a few products. The result is an inexpensive assortment of some of the best barbecue I've had in years.