Southbound BBQ lies just East of the Hudson River, a short drive from I-287's exit 7. It looks like a roadhouse from the outside, with lots of neon signs in the windows, including a pink pig. Inside, you walk up a half flight of stairs to enter the main dining area. All of the booths are made of well-worn wood, and the tables are covered with red checkered tablecloths. Open since 2003, Southbound BBQ feels very comfortable in a lived-in sort of way, almost the antithesis of nearby Q Restaurant. There is a large bar area with a single TV. The place has outdoor seating in the warmer months.
As soon as I grabbed a seat, my friendly waitress brought out a basket of thick-sliced, well-seasoned homemade potato chips. If these were hot, they'd be even better, but I thought they were good. They were nice as is or with the addition of some of the house-made hot sauces (habañero, Louisiana, Caribbean).
The menu is pretty varied for a BBQ joint, with 5 different salads plus popcorn shrimp, catfish filet, and salmon wraps. They have burgers and fried chicken too.
For my late Saturday lunch visit, I tried the “half rack and 2 meats” combo to get the holy trinity of ribs, pulled pork and brisket. It comes with 2 sides, but I ordered a third for variety. The ribs arrived sauced, with a light and not-very-spicy crust. They had a nice flavor and a chicken-like texture. The meat tore apart easily and the bones pulled clean from the meat. On the whole, I'd say the ribs were pretty good. The pulled pork was chopped finer than I like and was a little on the dry side. A little red pepper vinegar sauce came to the rescue. The brisket was also chopped. This had a nice tenderness, very good flavor and just a hint of sauce to add some extra flavor without drowning it. Overall, I'd say the meats were good, not great.
For sides I tried collard greens, cole slaw and baked beans. The collard greens were fairly simple and meatless. The cole slaw was decent. The beans had a little sausage along with onions, peppers and vinegar, combining for a nice flavor. The cornbread was just OK.
There were two barbecue sauces on the table, original and chipotle. Both were pretty good, with the chipotle a spicier offshoot of the original. I got the Carolina red pepper vinegar on request and this was the best of the three, with the heat from the peppers matching the nice tart kick from the vinegar and just enough sweetness to round it out. They also have South Carolina mustard sauce on request.
Although I'm not a dessert guy (my wife may disagree), I noticed four tempting pies on the dessert menu: Key lime, Mississippi mud, bourbon pecan and apple crumb.
Service was exceptional. When I wandered in alone, my waitress asked if I was meeting a friend. When I said I didn't have any friends that day, she said "We'll be your friends." Two servers went above the call of duty getting napkins and BBQ sauces for me and scouring the restaurant to bring me one of every hot sauce.
After I finished my meal, owner Brad McAlister introduced himself and invited me out back to see the 2500-lb J&R smoker, where a fresh batch of ribs for later that evening was smoking. Brad explained that the brisket is served chopped rather than sliced as a way to meet the demand during busier periods. I also learned that their pulled pork is made from hams (see photo).
Southbound BBQ has a number of drink specials. It offers a lunch buffet Tuesday through Friday and a dinner buffet Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The bottom line: everything was good, though there wasn't anything that really stood out as being stupendous. The barbecue is legit, the place is fun and the service aims to please, so I'd definitely come back and try them again at night.