Heading to the Jersey Shore this summer? Or maybe you’re like us, escaping from all the traffic created by those Bennies/ Shoobies (with all due respect, of course). Or maybe you’re off to your family vacation in Canada or Disney World. Either way, we strongly recommend taking local Route 40 through Richland to get there. Make sure you plan to stop for a spell and eat. A lot. Barbecue, that is.
General Barbecue is a little sit-down joint amongst the parade of other barbecue joints along Route 40. And, as we discovered last weekend, this place is doing God’s work in the world of sauce and smoke. In other words, we don’t care how you go (Marvin K. Mooney), just GET. You’ll be cheerfully greeted by the sole chef and owner, Glenn “Duke” Bowens. Walk right up to the giant steam table, and he’ll show you what he’s offering that day. We asked and went on his advice of the “combo platter for two”: pork ribs, beef ribs, and chicken with two sides and cornbread. We chose the collards and yams, grabbed a few sodas from the cooler, and sat down while Glenn put our dinner together for us.
I immediately grabbed a pork rib, and was rewarded with a mouthful of sheer joy. These things are like no other I’ve had- marinated first (so the meat itself is even more rich, flavorful, and juicy), smoked tender-perfect, then slathered in a sauce that is somewhat vinegary, a touch sweet, tomatoey, and all around amazing; it’s just something you have to experience in this lifetime. The beef ribs were almost as good, but…well, they are beef, after all, not pork. They’re still damn good, though. The chicken, for me, was a huge surprise: I don’t usually care for barbecued chicken, as no matter if its dark or white meat, it always dries out. Not here. Smoky, juicy, and the skin was still crisp, even in the sauce (how’d he do that?). With all this love lavished on the meat, you’d think the sides would suffer. Not so. The yams were soft, but not mushy, dressed up with what I detected as cinnamon and nutmeg; they had a light syrupy sauce that just coated them, but was not all that sweet- you could really taste the yam itself. The collards were perfect, tender but not too soft. They were cooked with only a touch of bacon, so that “smoky pork” wasn’t all one tasted (that’s taken care of with those heavenly ribs). The cornbread was a far cry from those microwave “cakes” served up by the local BBQ chains: crumbly, yet moist, and not too sweet. This was real cornbread, fresh and homemade.
Make sure you get a chance to chat with Glenn, if you get a chance, as he’s an interesting and friendly guy. He’ll tell you all about how he learned to cook from his mom (who is originally from Georgia), and who in his family used to make the “Ellie May” biscuits they used to both eat and use as street hockey pucks. We also noticed that he wouldn’t even let you clean up your own table after you were done, taking care of all of that himself. Not just great food, but great service, too.
Yes, the best barbecue is generally found down South. But we think General Barbecue shows that some of it has defected and taken up residence right here in the Garden State.
General Barbecue – 1333 Route 40, Richland (856-697-8200).