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Dining with Draz: Big Ed’s Barbeque

By Lori Draz

I love America, I love barbecue, and I loved Big Ed’s Barbeque in Old Bridge. Here in this patriotic month of July, we wanted to go with an old-fashioned American favorite, and so we took off to a classic. Big Ed’s Barbeque’s grills and smokers have been cranking tender delicious barbecue seven days a week for the last 30 years.

This place looks right off of Route 66 or somewhere on Maryland’s Eastern shore. The bright red building’s color matches the real red tractor in front, and the life-sized cow and pig are a favorite photo stop. The parking lot is lined with images of cowboys and cattle – so much fun – and inside there’s a big bar and plenty of comfortable booths. The lighting is just right, and the speakers cranked out one great song of the 60s and 70s after the next.

Big Ed’s is not a white tablecloth fine dining spot, but they are the masters of their genre. I have had the rare pleasure of meeting and eating with Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone from the popular TV show, “BBQ Pitmasters.” Mixon, the winningest barbecue chef in America, and Stone both revealed that the secret to prizewinning barbecue comes down to seasonings and technique and that to master both, you need time and practice. Big Ed’s has been at it for 30 years, and they have got it down.

We started off with the complimentary basket of tasty garlic bread rounds and ordered up some mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. We also tried the apple fritters which are deep-fried, doughnut-like balls with juicy chunks of apple inside. Dusted with powdered sugar, these crispy treats would easily make a great dessert, especially if they had a caramel dipping sauce. The apps come served in a basket lined with parchment paper, which creates a boardwalk fish house vibe. They are like a perfect evening at the fair.

Now for the entrees. The portions are huge, and the meats are rich and filling. Most entrees come with your choice of baked potato, fries, cole slaw, baked beans, apple sauce, corn off the cob or mac and cheese. Diner one selected a baby back ribs and pulled chicken combo. The house blend barbecue sauce was perfect – rich, well-flavored and just sticky enough to give a shiny coat to the tender ribs. She liked the juicy pulled chicken, despite finding a few bones, so be on the lookout if you order. The baked beans, in a little crock, were also wonderful and worth selecting.

Diner two went with a seafood combo. He took the fried extravaganza up another notch with French fries as the side to the big platter of 10 fried shrimp and a hefty serving of fried clams. He loves fried clams, which are not on many menus because they can turn into jerky if they’re not cooked right. He loved the soft and sweet clams. We all snuck a few of his and agreed. Fried clams and shrimp is such a summer-at-the-shore dish that young and old will crunch right through.

I tried the St. Louie ribs with beef brisket, pulled pork and a baked potato side. The St. Louie style is all about the rub, and it was delicious with a hint of sweetness. Try your ribs that style, especially if you don’t like a lot of sauce. The big heaps of pulled meats were decadently rich and so tasty. I really enjoyed every bite.

We all agreed that the cole slaw was a winner. Another thing is the fragrance. You know this is real barbecue from the parking lot. The woodsy smoke fills the air inside too, and the intense aroma permeates each bite.

They have a selection of favorite desserts like chocolate peanut butter pie, lava cake, Jr.’s cheesecake and carrot cake, which we ordered. It’s a tall, tasty slice dotted with whipped cream. Though the cake was quite good, dessert may be hard to handle as you will be quite full from your entrees.

Big Ed’s website has several coupons and specials, including an all-you-can-eat ribs special (good luck with that one). They have a big selection of beers, and there is so much on the menu – like chili and fried chicken – that I will definitely be returning. There’s plenty of parking, and it’s handicap accessible.

Cost – moderate

What we liked- The campy, well-worn roadside look and vibe, the huge portions of the skillfully prepared and well-seasoned dishes, the big parking lot, TVs everywhere, the relaxed and unhurried vibe. We give it 5 Js.

Big Ed’s Barbeque is located at 305 Route 34 in Old Bridge. 732-583-2626. It is open 7 days a week from 11:30 am with the last seating at 9 pm. Reservations are not required, but it’s good to call ahead.

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