SF Tony Avatar

Restaurant:  Rochester’s Barbecue and Grill

Address:  Lawnside, NJ

Food:  Barbecue

Price:  A little high

Portions:  Very Large

Taste:  Really Good

Service:  Earnest, but see below

Atmosphere:  Bar

Rochester’s is in that big plaza next to the Shop Rite in Lawnside.  Behind the Church’s Chicken and to the left of the Pet Smart and Home Depot on Route 30.  I mention this, because it’s the sort of place you can pass like a million times and not really notice.  Or you notice it, but you’re headed into the Shop Rite not really thinking about barbecue dinner.

The interior is nice and has a bar, but it’s BYOB, so I’m not sure why the bar is there.  Maybe they intend to get a liquor license?  Me and the Missus got a booth, got situated and looked at the menu.  It’s a little confusing, because parts of the menu was only for catering.  I understand you want to advertise catering to the customers that come in, but why not put that on a separate menu, I say.  Anyhow, no biggie.  We started looking.  At first I thought, “Man, these prices are high.”  Then I realize, well, yeah, a rib platter is normally a little under or above $20.  This was a rib place and the portions sounded pretty big.  Plus all the food was made to order fresh.

So we order and the waitress is very nice.  I get the brisket platter and the Missus gets the pork ribs platter, plus salads.  Unfortunately, they were out of unsweetened iced tea.  This was weird to me because, how hard is it to make if you’re already making the food to order?  She brings us water, which actually tastes good.  I mean, really good.  Like, did they pour Fuji in this?  So I’m fine without my usual beverage.

Then this guy, apparently blind, comes up to us and introduces himself.  He’s doing the live music and wants us to request a song.  I’ve had a long weekend, so I pass.  The Missus, seeing that I just want a quiet dinner, does the same.  A few minutes later, he starts playing, but he’s a little too loud.  Now I can’t talk to the Missus and I’m shouting at the waitress.  Then we wait far too long for our salads and no dressing comes with it, so the waitress has to go back into the kitchen to get it.

We’re starving, so we eat the salads.  A minute later, the food comes out and it looks great, but I’m like, why didn’t the salad come out ten minutes ago?  Anyhow, the brisket is tender, the ribs are delicious, the hush puppies and cornbread are absolutely the best, the French fries are fresh cut, the potato salad tasty as Hell with a hint of brininess.  It was all great stuff.  I had to ask the waitress for extra napkins and barbecue sauce.  She was nice, but what kind of rib joint doesn’t automatically bring out extra napkins?

The food was so good, we decided to get dessert as we asked for a box for our leftover food.  The waitress, assuming we were leaving with the desserts (banana pudding and peach cobbler, both amazing), brought them already in a box to go.  Total bill, $54 and change.  A tad high, although the portions were pretty big.

My conclusion is this: Rochester’s is a family joint with family members working the place.  Although the waitress was well-meaning and even gave us some extra hush puppies to take home, she needed better training.  The food is great.  Certainly some of the best barbecue I’ve had in New Jersey, but the place sends a bit of a mixed message.  I could’ve done without the live music, the bar seems superfluous and the website doesn’t work (I linked to the Facebook page, which does work).  Seems to me they should spend more time getting a working website and ditching the extras they can’t sustain.  Concentrate on the basics and people will be lining up around the block.

Definitely a place you should do take out or catering.  I give Rochester’s Barbecue and Grill 7.5 Keggers out of 10.  (9 for take out.)