(12/24/06) (03/28/09) (05/29/14)
Bobbique is one of the oldest surviving barbecue joints on Long Island, established in June 2006. It's a slick looking space right on West Main Street (route 27A) in downtown Patchogue. The walls are brick, the ceilings are high and the overall vibe is a modern take on the traditional barbecue aesthetic, with a plethora of corrugated aluminum. A freshly painted steel girder serves as both a long countertop (with stools) and a room divider, separating the long bar on one side from the main dining area on the other. Most of the tables are hightops with stools; butcher paper is used instead of tablecloths. A series of framed black and white barbecue photographs by Smokestack Lightning photographer Frank Stewart (also seen at Blue Smoke) accents the dining area. There's a small stage area for live music. The smoker is a Southern Pride.
Inspired by a trip to Memphis, chef Eric Rifkin created what he calls "an authentic pit barbecue" with "a menu that doesn't stray into quesadillas and nachos," naming it after his daughter Bobbi.
Besides barbecue, Bobbique’s claim to fame is its assortment of 70 beers, plus a good selection of bourbons. They also have entertainment on weekends.
At Bobbique, you no longer order and pay at the front counter; it's full table service now.
Parking can be a challenge, even in the spacious lot behind the building. Just remember that if you do choose that lot, the only way out is to head west.
The barbecue options include St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, chopped
brisket, smoked chicken, pulled chicken, smoked sausage and smoked
wings. Rounding out the entrees are BBQ salmon, BBQ shrimp,
fried chicken strips, fried shrimp and fried chicken and waffles. Any of
the above can be had on its own platter or in combinations of up to
five meats. The boneless items are also available on sandwiches, as are
country fried steak, a barbecue chicken BLT, a crabcake sandwich and both regular and veggie burgers.
In addition to the smoked wings, appetizers include fried pickles, onion rings, chili, loaded fries and four different salads with the option of topping them with meat.
I like that you can include wings on a combo. I don't like that the brisket is now chopped only (emphasized on the menu in defiant boldface). According to a server, the sliced tended to get dried out and the chopped (think cubes slightly larger than Birdseye diced carrots) tends to hold moisture better. Well, yeah, if you sauce the bejesus out of it, but that's only adding moisture that wasn't there already.
Three well spaced visits hit Bobbique solo in 2006 (lunch) and with groups of barbecue aficionados in 2009 (late weekend afternoon) and 2014 (late weeknight afternoon).
Fried pickles: On the first visit, I started with the fried pickle chips ($7.95), served in a basket with a paper liner. They had a lot of batter, but that batter was very crisp and much lighter than you’d think. The fried pickles were tasty on their own or aided by the creamy, tangy dipping sauce that accompanied them. If I had some Tabasco to mix into the sauce, it would be even better, but I was pleased.
Wings: Tried in 2014, the "jumbo" wings were smoked, lightly sauced, grilled and served as five whole wings of merely midrange size ($7.95). The skins were crisp and the saucing lighthanded enough to allow the chicken flavor to poke through. Some pieces showed nice moisture and tenderness while others were dry; in one example the same wing had halves of very different doneness. Smoke was very light throughout. Flavor encompassed a little zestiness and sweetness from the barbecue sauce, some very recognizable char from the grill and just enough chickeniness to be tasted. For me these wings were about as middle-of-the-pack as it gets: pleasant enough, worth getting again, nothing wrong with them, nothing special about them.
Chili: Tried in 2009, the chili (now $9.95) was fascinating, for a number of reasons. We asked for cheese on the side, so on the tray they arranged cheese, sour cream and onions all in separate ramekins, plus a good sized piece of coarse, dense cornbread. The chili itself offered a range of brilliant colors from the variety of different beans and shapes of meat. We thought some of the cubes were bits of ham, but it's all beef. The lubricant was minimal, accentuating the texture of the beef, whose enjoyable flavor actually benefitted from the inclusion of beans. This is another chili with not much chile, but regardless of whether you call it chili or a meaty stew, it's still a winning creation—assuming, of course, that it's the same recipe as when I tried it.
The way to go here is the 3-meat platter ($21.95), served on a metal tray lined with a paper liner, with all of the meats and sides arranged in separate areas, making for a very attractive presentation.
Ribs: The ribs are St Louis cut spares, and consistently diminutive ones at that. They're smoked, then grilled with sauce to crisp up the surface. Sometimes the char is a little more noticeable than I'd like, but never out of control. The prettily glazed ribs have been cooked to the point where they had more give to them than I like, but not so much that they risked becoming mush. I'll take it. I'll also take that the flavor has improved from what I called "nondescript" after the first visit to "mild and pleasant" after the second to quite bold on the most recent visit. Yes, they're well sauced, but there's flavor well below the sauce. Smoke is light but noticeable; rub isn't felt on the surface but its contributions were impactful deeper down. None of the examples gushed or even trickled juices, but all were plenty moist (without feeling steamy) even beyond the sauce, which effectively combined sweet and spicy. Though a mainstream approach, it's one that works well. I'd order these ribs again.
Sliced brisket: The first visit's sliced brisket came with an excessive amount of ketchupy sauce. The meat was sliced very thin, deli style, but tasted better than deli. There was a little char on the edges, a faint hint of a smoke ring and a pleasing, light smoky taste. The brisket was far and away the best of the three meats on that visit. At the time, I said that if I could get a sandwich of it without sauce, I’d be happy. The follow-up was more pot roasty and now it's discontinued, replaced by chopped brisket.
Chopped brisket: A more than generous pile of quarter- to half-inch cubes came with the most recent visit's 3-meat combo. As expected, the saucing was equally generous, rendering whatever crispness might have been on said cubes (likely very little) to a limp and soggy mess without any resistance. One tablemate called it "dogfood brisket." But beyond soggy, the brisket looked, felt and tasted old and pot roasty. All of the flavor came from the sauce, which might have done less damage than the probable long holding time. As I often say, this might have worked better in a sandwich.
Pulled pork: The third visit's pulled pork was a repeat of the second, which was a repeat of first: another generous pile with a little bark, many large chunks and more long, ropy strands, all of it lightly but thoroughly sauced. The meat was cooked or held to the brink of past-optimal tenderness that lost only some of the resistance I like in pulled pork. Flavor was decent, with a sweet approach that didn't overdo it. But beyond the sauce, this pork underdid it: understated smoke, understated rub, mild and neutral. Granted, it's another mainstream approach but one that's a workable compromise for both the mavens and the masses: not great, not bad, not necessary to hide it in a sandwich. The abundant bark was a plus.
Sausage: Tried only on the second visit's 5-meat combo ($29.95), this was a healthy portion of pink, moist, boldly flavored kielbasa whose casing became lightly crisped in the smoker. Among a group of barbecue aficionados with competition experience, this was by far the hit of that meal.
Chicken: Another item from the second visit, the well sauced poultry was melt-in-your-mouth tender and incredibly sweet.
I didn't try any of the table sauces, as all of the meats had enough sauce not to need more. The sauce coating the ribs seemed bolder thaj the rest, with some bite and sweetness that worked well with each other, like the much lauded Blues Hog sauce.
I'll just focus on the sides from the most recent visit.
Cole slaw: More of a coolant than flavor agent, but simultaneously very crisp and very creamy.
Macaroni and cheese: A breathtakingly generous portion towered over the rim of the bowl. This was an old-school style with mild, creamy cheese nicely coating the well cooked pasta that was neither stiff nor soggy. Highbrow types may disapprove, but this should satisfy most others.
Cornbread: The standard cakey kind. Reasonably fresh and reasonably well done.
In my first Bobbique review back in 2006, trying them on the day before Christmas probably didn’t give them their best chance to shine, but they still did a fairly nice job.
Service has been excellent all three times.
The Bottom Line
For those who've had "the good stuff," whether dozens of miles to the west or hundreds of miles to the southwest, Bobbique might be an eyeroll-inducing joint that's tolerable at best. But for a suburban barbecue joint I think they're acceptable, even if the ribs and sausage were the only memorable meats.
Think of Bobbique as that 9-7 team that has no Super Bowl aspirations but stands a very good chance of making the NFL playoffs in a weak division. Divide Long Island barbecue joints into three groups, with a top third, middle third and lower third, and Bobbique probably makes it into that first group. If you like your 'cue soft, saucy and sweet, it's more of a sure thing.
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