Daddy Matty's BBQ, a Relatively Unknown New Jersey BBQ Joint, Floored Me
This is the NYC BBQ Weekly newsletter. If you would like to receive this in your inbox weekly, you can easily subscribe here!
Two weekends ago, I was in the middle of New Jersey for wedding and had a lot of time to kill. Naturally, as one does when he runs two newsletters about barbecue, he goes on a mission to seek out the best 'cue he can find.
Since I was in a part of Jersey I'd never been, I consulted the most recent list of top NJ barbecue joints compiled by NJ.com writer (and one of my favorite food reporters period) Pete Genovese. The last joint on the list was Daddy Matty's BBQ in Madison, which is about an hour east of NYC. It was one of the closest options for me and I was intrigued by Genovese's two paragraph write-up, so that's where I headed for Saturday lunch.
What I found at Daddy Matty's BBQ absolutely charmed me. It's rare that I'm able to take a gamble on a barbecue joint I know little to nothing about and have it pay off.
Daddy Matty's BBQ opened in May 2018 by Matt "Matty" James in a large house that had been converted into a restaurant. James had been a part-time barbecue caterer since 2014, but then decided to take the business to the next level in 2018 to see if a community-focused barbecue joint could make it. So far, the results are promising.
"We've been very well received locally and even throughout the state," James said. "We have a very active catering business and the restaurant has really started to pick up as well.”
The menu is a mix of traditional barbecue staples mixed with "Colorado-Style Mexican" and other items not normally found on barbecue menus. Typical barbecue items include well-made brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, and smoked sausage. Unique items include a Montreal beef sandwich made with brisket that's been cured for five days, New Mexico pork green chili, a brisket burrito, and smoked salmon.
"I'm not from the South, and I didn't feel when I was building the menu that I needed to be dyed-in-the-wool Southern barbecue," James said. "My style is a combination of foods that I've eaten around the world and around the country."
In the backyard, James has five Weber Smokey Mountains, a large Old Hickory gas-and-wood-fired smoker, and a huge custom smoker that a friend built for James seven years ago. He typically smokes with apple wood for most of his meats, because it's much more common in the Northeast and he likes the mellow flavor of it.
James works full-time as a partner at a financial services firm on top of managing the restaurant. He said it's a challenge since he is also the pitmaster and needs to spend a lot of time at the restaurant, but he's learned to manage it all. (When we spoke last, he was planning to smoke several briskets until 2 a.m. on a weeknight, for the record.)
"I have a very competent staff at the restaurant so I don't have to be here from dawn till dusk every day," James said. "There are some things I do, but I've tried to not be my own worst enemy."
One of the biggest things that stood out (besides the Colorado-Style Mexican items) was the strong emphasis on helping out the community. Barbecue joints are no stranger to being central to community gatherings and playing a role in feeding large groups, but Daddy Matty's BBQ has a more active role. It donates a portion of its revenue to the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry, sponsors a team for the Madison Little League, sponsors the local mountain biking league, is sponsoring a walk soon with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, hosts fundraisers for the Maji Safi Group, and more.
"When I started this, the business piece of this was not to become the best barbecue place that ever was," James said. "I'm not trying to be Aaron Franklin. The goal was to create a business model where we could have a synergistic relationship with our community. It's not just about the food or coming up with the next location or the infinite growth cycle that people seem to be in love with. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if this business model actually works and make this sustainable."
The next community event Daddy Matty's BBQ is hosting will be an all-day music festival and BBQ buffet on Saturday, September 7. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry and the Madison Music Association to support young musicians in Madison schools.
While I was at the restaurant, I tried the 14-hour-smoked brisket, baby back ribs, baked beans, brisket chili, house-made potato chips, cornbread, baked beans, and mac 'n' cheese. The highlights were the exceptionally meaty brisket chili, tasty ribs, and delicious baked beans. The bland mac 'n' cheese was the only item that was lacking. Sadly I didn't get to try the Colorado-Style Mexican items, but I will make that a priority if I can visit again.
All in all, Daddy Matty's BBQ was exactly the type of barbecue joint I am always seeking out in the Northeast. It has good food that doesn't mind breaking the "rules" of barbecue, great people with fun stories to tell, and a focus on serving the community. All of these factors give the restaurant a chance to become a true Central New Jersey barbecue staple. The question will be if the business can last given its community-over-profits mentality.
"It's about trying to create this community notion that instead of getting bogged down in the nonsense of the day to day, there is a way for all of us to be part of each other's lives in a positive way," James said. "We don't have to preach and we don't have to agree about anything. Except that people could use a hand sometimes."
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in New York area this week:
The Baseball and BBQ podcast recently interviewed NYC BBQ’s Sean Ludwig about BBQ and a tiny bit of baseball. Hosts Leonard Aberman and Jeff Cohen sat down to eat barbecue with Sean at John Brown Smokehouse in Queens, then spoke about local barbecue trends, the process of creating both NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet each week, and many other topics. Listen to the podcast here.
Top Brooklyn joint Hometown Bar-B-Que will open its first location outside of NYC this September in Miami, Eater Miami reports. Owner Billy Durney said he will make the new restaurant feel much more “modern” and “cutting-edge” than his Brooklyn location. Another contrast will be that the Miami location will feature full dinner service complete with waiters.
Randall’s Barbecue on the Lower East Side celebrated its one-year anniversary on Wednesday night with a special one-night-only “Clam Shack” that featured smoked oysters, clam cakes, clam chowder, fried shrimp, and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. Getting over the first year is a huge hurdle, and it’s taken an emotional toll on me this year,” Owner and Chef Jared Male told me. “I’m so happy to get to this point and I’m happy to be here to celebrate with my entire staff.”
The Associated Press’ Melissa Rayworth recently took a journey along the new “Buffalo Wing Trail” in Buffalo, New York recently. “This list of 12 bars and restaurants was created by the Visit Buffalo Niagara tourism office when they realized their local dish was so beloved nationwide that it might just draw visitors in the same way that bourbon and craft-beer ‘trails’ have done elsewhere,” Rayworth reports.
South Philadelphia BBQ joint Smökhaus has closed after less than a year, Philly Mag reports. “It’s with a heavy heart that we’ve decided to close the doors of South Philly Smokhaus permanently,” owner Eric Daelhousen wrote on Instagram. “A huge thank you to the family, friends and everybody that came and shared a meal at the Smokhaus.”
Two of NYC’s top pitmasters, Franco V of Holy Ground NYC and Ash Fulk of Hill Country Barbecue Market, spoke to InsideHook on where they like to buy great meat in NYC when they aren’t working. The answers might surprise you.
Connecticut Magazine has named Hoodoo Brown BBQ in Ridgefield as its Best Barbecue Restaurant for 2019 as part of its Food and Drink awards.
Next weekend’s Pig Island 2019 (see below for more) is coming up fast. If you want to know more about one of the top chefs judging there, Food Karma Projects has released an interview with Roxanne Spruance of the History Channel show The Butcher.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro and the Tri-state area:
September 7: For those that love all things pork and barbecue, the 10th annual Pig Island NYC will be a can’t-miss affair. Held outdoors at beautiful Erie Basin Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this all-inclusive event will feature a ton of great food from all-star chefs, beer, cider, and liquor. I’m already hungry for it all. Read the full preview of the event and then buy tickets here.
September 7: The USA TODAY Wine & Food Experience will be taking place on September 7 at LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park. Attendees will be able to taste, savor, and explore the Brooklyn culinary scene, from local trends to regional traditions. Chefs and speakers include Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye), Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped), and Dom De Marco (Di Fara Pizza). Buy tickets here.
September 14-15: The 2019 Country Rocks The Park Music and BBQ Fest will soon take place at Mill River Park in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. Over two days, Country Rocks The Park will feature the area’s top food trucks & vendors. Live performers include Granger Smith featuring Earl Dibbles Jr., RAELYNN, Willie Jones, Alisan Porter, and more. More info here.
September 15: If you love burgers, don’t miss the 9th Annual Philadelphia Burger Brawl. Taking place in Philly on Sunday, Sept. 15, the event will feature 60 Philadelphia region restaurants battling for burger bragging rights. Tickets start at $45. Proceeds go to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to support hardware needs to implement math and reading literacy programs in underserved elementary schools. More info here.
September 20-21: The Greenwich Wine and Food Festival 2019 will take place September 20 and 21 in Greenwich, Connecticut, offering a grand tasting with more than 150 restaurants; a bartender showdown, lawn games, and live music from acts like Little Big Town. More info here.
September 20-22: The Oinktoberfest 2019 event in Clarence, New York (outside of Buffalo) is the longest continuously running barbecue competition and festival in New York State. It attracts many competition teams and also features music and food for families who want to hang out. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is $8/person. More info here.
September 21: The 15th Annual (And Final) Vendy Awards, a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, will take place on Governors Island. This will be the final Vendy Awards ever. During the event, 25 of NYC's best street vendors will go head-to-head and compete for the ultimate prize — The Vendy Cup. More info here.
If you're not already subscribed to the newsletter, sign up here. You can also follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want to be included in NYC BBQ Weekly or sponsor it, send me an email and let’s talk!