This came into my in box this morning and I thought I'd share. I haven' t been to Ruthie's Bar-B-Q & Pizza or the Wood Pit, but it looks like I need to check out the barbeque scene in Montclair, New Jersey. And I still need to get back to Front Street Smokehouse in Elizabeth! Can somebody say road trip?
Ruthie's strives to raise the Bar-B-Q
A lunchtime hangout for students from nearby Montclair High School, Ruthie's offers the intriguing combo of pizza and barbecue, with a few other items -- panini, hot dogs, burgers and wraps -- thrown in.
"It's like we have two different restaurants in one place," said owner Eric Kaplan.
Kaplan, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has worked as a chef at Dean & DeLuca, the Bull & Bear at the Waldorf Astoria and other places, opened Ruthie's last July. Ruthie is Ruth Perretti, his girlfriend.
The two went on a barbecue recon mission to check out the competition, although Kaplan, 50, believes he's carving out his own slow-cooked niche. The location is unique, well away from downtown, which means less visibility but much easier parking.
Kaplan mixes and matches his barbecue styles. His ribs are St. Louis or Memphis style, while his pulled pork is Carolina-influenced, with a spicy, slightly vinegary sauce that makes the pulled pork sandwich ($6.75 for sandwich, $9.50 for platter, including fries and slaw) memorable. The pork is sweetish, but not overly so, and immensely juicy.
Same goes for the pulled chicken sandwich ($6.50 for sandwich, $9.25 for platter), loaded with tender, succulent meat. The chopped brisket sandwich ($6.95, $9.75) was the least successful of the three; the meat was too fatty.
The pork ribs ($8.75 ribs alone, $11.50 platter) were nicely done -- plump, tender, chewy. Ask for extra cups of the barbecue sauce; it's that good.
Kaplan does a creditable job with his 16-inch pizzas; they won't put your favorite neighborhood pizzeria out of business, but they'll satisfy your pizza craving. The Neapolitan ($10.99), with marinara, mozzarella, Romano cheese and basil, is a good choice if you're undecided; the marinara sauce is good and tomatoey.
The sauce-less Ruthie's Classic ($14), with tomato, basil, mozzarella and Romano, is okay, nothing more.
Slices range from $1.65 to $2.60.
Sides include chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, baked beans with burnt ends (the end pieces of brisket) and red cabbage slaw with cider vinegar. The mac and cheese ($3.75), barely cheesy, needs work.
The Wood Pit, on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, would win the local barbecue joint showdown, but Ruthie's has the advantage of pizza, and better parking.
Kaplan, who says he's into "rootsy American music and stuff," is a blues guitarist, and his musician friends often drop over, so you never know when you're going to get a jam session with your pulled pork or pepperoni pie.
Where should Pete eat next?Call him at (973) 392-1765 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.