Located on beautiful Lake Lackawanna in Stanhope, NJ, Down to the Bone Barbecue is the brainchild of Owner/Chief Smoker Jeff Feldstein. Feldstein comes to barbecuing via Corporate America where he was the General Manager of a large New York-based court reporting company. After his Wall Street career lost some of its luster, Feldstein decided to pursue his passion for cooking and enrolled in some recreational barbecue classes and a few more serious courses at the French Culinary Institute. With that newly-acquired knowledge and a diploma from the French Culinary Institute’s Restaurant Management and Culinary Techniques program, Feldstein, took his smoker and barbecue sauces to street fairs and markets where he built a cult following. At the delight of his customers, Jeff recently opened Down to the Bone Barbecue & Co., a Texas-style barbecue restaurant.
At Down to the Bone, Jeff presents “Barbecue Fusion” cuisine, where even the most unlikely menu items get a dose of the barbecue treatment. During our visit, we enjoyed some fun and tasty starters – Pulled Pork Egg Rolls ($6.95) and Captain Crunch Chicken ($7.95). For the egg rolls, wonton wrappers are stuffed with slow-smoked pulled pork, coleslaw and Mild Madness barbecue sauce then deep-fried and served with spicy remoulade dipping sauce. There’s a funny story behind how the Captain Crunch Chicken made its way to the menu. “We had a pre-opening reception for friends and family and knew we needed something the kids would enjoy so we did chicken fingers coated in Captain Crunch. Come to find out that most of the chicken was eaten by adults who asked for the item to be on the regular menu, so we agreed”, said Feldstein during a recent interview. The chicken tenders are dipped in crushed Captain Crunch and deep-fried until golden and served with house-made honey mustard dipping sauce.
There are also several delicious salads – kidding, the salads might be great but it’s not what we came to Down to the Bone for. Meat is, so on to the entrées!
A great way to sample a few barbecue favorites is to order one of the two combination platters available. There’s the Memphis Combo $23) which allows diners to select two meats and two sides. The Kansas City Combo ($28) is what we opted for with its three meats and three sides.
We picked the Beef Brisket, the Smoked Chicken and the Smoked Sausage. The brisket is thinly-sliced and a bit dry to us. The ribs were likely the meatiest ribs I’ve even encountered and are hand rubbed with a dry rub and smoked for over 6 hours. They are not sauced, which I love, with sauces on the table for guests who want to indulge. The chicken is a half chicken, yes, a full half chicken that’s rubbed with a blend of house spices and smoked for several hours. The meat is very moist and it might be some of the best barbecue chicken I’ve had. A whole smoked chicken can also be ordered off the regular menu for $22. The smoked sausage was a winner and is presented sliced for ease of sharing.
We also ordered a half rack of Baby Back Ribs ($12 – full rack $24). The ribs were likely the meatiest ribs I’ve ever encountered and are covered in a dry rub and smoked for over six hours. They are not sauced, which I love, with sauces on the table for guests who want to indulge.
We couldn’t pass up ordering an item that was a bit unusual but actually sounded interesting – the Brisket-Wrapped Smoked Scallops ($24). Described as “Surf & Turf”, this dish showcased giant scallops that are smoked then wrapped in beef brisket and topped with flavorful spicy aioli. Brisket and scallops? Yes, it works.
An entrée we’ll be ordering on our next visit is the 20-Ounce Bone-In Ribeye ($25). Something we won’t be trying is the “Down to the Bone Challenge” – if a guest finishes all the food from a “challenge” dish, he/she receives a free Down to the Bone t-shirt and some major bragging rights. There are two “challenges” offered:
- THE BONE ($24) – Two one-pound burgers topped with five pieces of Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses and five pieces of thick-cut bacon. The whole thing is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and fried onion straws and served with an oversized bowl of chili cheese fries and coleslaw.
- THE BEAST ($20) – A two-foot hot dog served on a bun, topped with chili, Cheddar-Jack, Pepper-Jack cheeses, red onions, bacon, fried onion straws, jalapeno peppers and pickles and served with an oversized bowl of fries topped with brown gravy and mozzarella cheese.
Down to the Bone Barbecue’s sauces, Mild Madness and Sweet Heat, are available for purchase throughout the tri-state area and at the restaurant. Here’s a list of places where the sauces can be found.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this barbecue place is that, unlike most cue joints, it uses applewood in its smoker. “We don’t want to mask the flavor of the meat with heavy mesquite or hickory. We want to let the meat’s flavors speak for themselves and why we use applewood. It provides smokiness, but you get the real flavor of the meat”, boasts Feldstein, dubbed New Jersey’s “Sauce Boss” for BBQ.
Down to the Bone Barbecue & Co. offers not only gorgeous lakeside views from its two decks but also barbecue worthy of a trip to Sussex County in northwestern New Jersey.
172 Lackawanna Drive, Stanhope, NJ
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page. – See more at: http://www.jerseybites.com/the-team/#sthash.CntAWFxq.dpuf