LJ's moved from a cramped location in Providence to a bigger location in Pawtucket, and I checked them out on their first day of operation. The new strip mall location has plenty of parking and is much more of a restaurant than a joint. It's more upscale now, with understated framed art on freshly painted walls and an impressive modern bar with plasma screen TVs, separated from the dining area by a divider. Gone are the T-shirts for sale and pig paraphernalia that decorated the previous location.
Aside from the addition of beer and wine, the menu looks the same. They have burgers and pizza in addition to the usual BBQ items.
I got the BBQ combo #2, my standard combination of ribs and pulled pork, with cole slaw and collard greens. The collards were a "premium side" that costs extra, but I like the fact that you can upgrade. When the platter arrived (way ahead of my drink, but that's another story), it had 6 fairly meaty ribs with a lot of sauce and a small pile of pulled pork. The ribs were slightly pink, slightly smoky, and had a good texture and flavor despite the heavy sauce. The sauce was actually pretty good, mostly tangy with a little sweetness and heat; it might have been Blues Hog. There were two hot sauces and one bottled barbecue on the table. The pulled pork was refried in sweet sauce, making the outsides crispy. A little different, but the meat was dry.
My sides of cole slaw and collard greens were both decent, though the collards were more soggy and less meaty than I like and barely filled the small ramekin. The cornbread was big and fresh and coarse and quite good.
Service was not good, even though the place was only moderately busy. A server acting as host had to ask my name before seating me and had to ask me what time it was so he could record it, as if there was a wait. My server promised my drink, came back several minutes later with silverware and no drink. A different server brought my food and asked if I needed anything, and I said my drink. I ate half my meal before that server brought a tray of drinks by; I thought one was mine, but all were for the adjacent table of people who arrived much later. I finally got a watered down Diet Coke, again from that other server; I never saw my original server again. After waiting a good ten minutes for the check, I simply left the right amount on the table (including a more-than-fair tip) and walked out.
The bottom line: A mixed bag. I can overlook the service, which will obviously improve. Parts of the meal were very good, though it wasn't as authentic or as casual as I prefer. But LJ's BBQ's new ambience might make it more accessible to wives and folks less enamored with grungier BBQ joints. I'd definitely go back. For the moment, I can't name a better place in Rhode Island to eat barbecue.