Canz is a roadhouse on Old Country Road that combines the allures of a full service sports bar (16 televisions, high volume), a decent array of pub food (including a few barbecue options) and—most notoriously—a Hooters style ambience. Like Hooters, the name of the joint is a double entendre, describing the part of the female anatomy featured here as well as the beer focus (100 different brews salute the lost art of beer in cans). The servers' outfits also borrow liberally from Hooters, with tight fitting tank tops (disappointingly replaced by football jerseys on game day), extra-short Daisy Duke style denim shorts, knee socks and construction boots. There's an L-shaped bar with about a dozen stools plus two tiers of tables in the dining area. The televisions are close but high.
The Canz menu only has two "barbecue" items: babyback ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. The rest of the menu is a tour through the predictable pub food classics: burgers, wings, chicken tenders, fried mozzarella (in patty form), chicken fingers, fried calamari, fried mac and
cheese dumplings, quesadillas (sadly not barbecue-related), mini corn dogs and three
salads. Sandwiches include chicken (grilled, Buffalo or fried), BBQ salmon,
fried flounder, seven fifferent burgers (including beef, turkey and lamb), plus
"Old School Specialz" like a Sloppy Joe, a BLT and a PB&J. Entrees run the gamut from fish and chips to sausage with broccoli rabe to filet mignon. You can tell that there's more going on in the kitchen than at similar joints. I do wish the menu were laid out in a less confusing manner ( as an example, the pulled pork sandwich is listed under "Classicz" when it could just as easily be listed under "Sandwichez" or "Old School Specialz").
I visited Canz as the first leg of a Long Island BBQ crawl on a Sunday afternoon, joined by a quartet of barbecue competition cooks from the region.
Wings were plump, mostly crisp and perfectly sauced (not so little that it's lacking, not so much that the wings get overwhelmed and soggy). Interestingly, the barbecue variety had the same sauce that we disliked on the ribs (see below), but it worked well with the wings. The Buffalo variety was a faithful and competent rendition. Overall, I'd say the wings were clearly above average, though clearly not smoked and lacking in wow factor.
A half rack of pork ribs featured some of the largest babybacks I've ever seen, with long, meaty bones similar to spare ribs. These were sauced as liberally as you can get without being oversauced, though that sauce didn't escape being oversaturated with an intense molasses flavor bordering on petroleum. In the far end of the rack, a nice crust peeked through the sauce. Some of the ribs were a little firm, others were downright tough, but the meat was juicy. Aside from the possible inclusion of liquid smoke in the sauce, our group detected no real barbecue flavor and no evidence that the meat was smoked.
A pulled pork sandwich was a dark brown saucy mess that offered gummy, overcooked meat with a generic, oversalted sauce. Tenderness was certainly there, but it had too much give and not enough bark for my liking. Like the ribs, the pork offered no evidence that it was smoked, but at least there was no such claim on the menu. Unlike the ribs, the pork couldn't rely on a pure bodaciousness to bail it out.
No sauces were available on the table, but the ribs and pulled pork were both sufficiently (quantity, that is) sauced.
Cole slaw tasted like it was just made a few minutes earlier, not allowing the pleasantly tangy flavors of the condiment to work their way into the cabbage. Sweet potato fries were excellent, offering a homemade flavor and a nice contrast in texture between the crispy exterior and tender interior.
I like the free bowls of popcorn, I like that the volume is set high for optimal sports viewing and I like the friendly service (side substitutions were no problem, and our server steered our wing sauce choice away from a spicy sauce we'd never be able to handle but brought a sample for us to add to the other sauces).
I didn't like that when I asked one of the bartenders about the ribs she didn't even know that ribs were on the menu. "We don't serve ribs," she said. When I pointed to the listing on the menu, she shrugged, "Oh, I guess we do. Well nobody orders them."
No review of Canz would be complete without a comparison to Hooters. While hardly great barbecue or gourmet fare, the food at Canz seems to have a lot more love and creativity put into it than the sterile, prefab offerings at Hooters. And though both the demographic of the servers and the outfits they wear are basically the same, there's a certain level of sincerity at Canz that you won't find at the place that inspired it.
The bottom line: If you ask me whether I can recommend Canz, I'd have to ask you what you're looking for. If you're looking for a fun place to watch sports where you can hear the volume, catch plenty of Hooters-caliber eye candy during the commercials and get better-than-Hooters-caliber food (which admittedly isn't saying much), I'll give you an instant thumbs up. But if you're looking for a barbecue joint first and foremost with the other perks secondary, I'd have to send you elsewhere. Considering that Canz bills itself as a roadhouse and not a barbecue joint, I'll let them off the hook for the less than stellar ribs and pulled pork. Based on the wings, sides and what I spotted on other tables, Canz may well be worth a return trip, just not for the barbecue. As for me, I'd return in a heartbeat, but don't expect an update on the ribs or pulled pork. I'd be more interested in the wings, a burger and some well selected cans.
Newsday's Joan Reminick on Canz
Yelp reviews of Canz