South Shore BBQ Company has taken over the space previously occupied by breastaurant Canz, under the same ownership. But while Canz made only token forays into barbecue in their wide ranging menu, its successor is barbecue all the way, with a full barbecue menu, a J&R smoker and popular Long Island pitmaster Will Breakstone (previously of Willie B's in Bay Shore) at the helm.
It's a large space with a centrally located 3-sided bar flanked by deuces and four tops on two sides. The look is rustic modern with barbecue photos and signage that blend into the background rather than trying too hard to be cute. That's left to the servers—including several Canz holdovers.
In its earliest days, South Shore BBQ went with a counter service approach that was arguably confusing and inarguably not well received, so that's been abandoned in favor of table service.
Barbecue meats feature pork ribs (babybacks and St Louis cut spares),
pulled pork, brisket (sliced on platters, chopped on sandwiches),
chicken and Texas hot links. The ribs can be had as quarter, half of
whole racks, as a mixed rack (half of each type), and as combos (with
two sides and cornbread) with one or two other meats. Other combos are
available without ribs at a lower price. All of the meats are also sold
by the pound, rack, link or bird without sides.
Appetizers are barbecuecentric, with smoked wings, rib tips, chili, a pulled pork stuffed baked potato and tacos or nachos with pulled pork or brisket. A single salad is offered with or without meat.
Sandwiches include the boneless barbecue meats as well as a 3/4-lb burger.
A group of four well seasoned barbecue aficionados hit South Shore Barbecue Company for a Thursday night dinner.
Wings: The first visit's foursome split two orders of wings ($7.50) to sample both sauced and unsauced versions. Out came good sized wings with crisp skins, even on the sauced, indicating smoked-then-fried. Uncharacteristically, I went for the sauced first, finding good depth of flavor from the many sources: the rub (possibly before and after smoking), the sauce (sweet and complex), the smoke and the tender chicken itself, which isn't always a given. Everything seemed bold and balanced, with the smoke and sauce both very much there but neither overstepping its bounds. I actually declared how nice it was to have a sauced wing that didn't rely on the sauce.
Then I tried an unsauced wing. Not as much flavor as I guessed, but crispness, inner tenderness and light smoke carried the day, at least enough to make them enjoyable. But the sauced wings were clearly the better choice for more enjoyment. Enough joy to join my wings list? Maybe the back end; the second visit will be telling.
Rib tips: Wow. Usually with rib tips you get the very tip of the spare rib, that fat piece that's the difference between where a trimmed St. Louis rib ends and a spare rib continues. But here? Each tip was practically a half rib, with most over two inches long. And that knuckly gristle you often get with an inferior rib tip? Not in this bowl. The rib tips ($7.95) came sauced by default and additionally carried some extra rub applied on top of the sauce. A lot going on, but it never felt or tasted as if the porkiness was overshadowed by any of the other components. It all worked—and by "worked" I mean triumphed—in unison, making the rib tips one of the highlights of the meal and one of the best examples I've ever had.
They were the rib equivalent of Elaine's "top of the muffin" concept from Seinfeld: keep the more desirable extra meaty part, discard the skimpy part.
Sausage: Ordered as a single link ($6.00) for sharing, this arrived in its
uncut state, preserving the moisture that proved only moderate. Flavor
was surprisingly mild for a hot link, but still pleasant. Smoke was
light, as was the snap in the casing. Overall, decent.
Baybyback Ribs: On visit 1 we ordered a split rack combo ($32.95) with the babybacks sauced and the St Louis ribs unsauced. Those who remember Breakstone's babybacks from his namesake joint will notice that the cut is less gargantuan here (longer; not as thick), but the preparation is similar. Though generous, the saucing (sweet, faint heat) still let the meat shine through, and wood and smoke had their say as well. Texture left some bite in there, unlike your typical chain restaurant babybacks. Merely moderate moistness beyond the sauce might be my only quibble, but these babybacks were solid.
St Louis Ribs: The St Louis ribs were more than solid. Ordered unsauced for the first take, they weren't served entirely dry: while no sauce had been added, a sweet and sticky glaze defined the perimeter. Even with the glaze, the meat beneath still did most of the talking. And like the rib tips, this was an ensemble piece in which every element had its say. Here, the meat proved more tender and much more moist thanks to the fully rendered added fat. Well above average and very similar to competition style ribs.
Our hungry squad on the first visit wasn't going to settle for just one or two bones apiece, so we ordered another half rack. This one was better than the first, accentuating even further the contrast between crisp crust and tender interior that this time had a melt-in-mouth quality without veering into overcooked. So thankfully no steamy canoe-shaped meat hunks falling off the bone. Flavor again impressed with that balance of sweet and spicy enhancing the woody, porky foundation. I'd put this batch among the top 10% of ribs I've had, and certainly among the best in Long Island. (Or as Long Islanders say, on Long Island.)
Brisket: Expectations weren't exactly low, but not exactly high either, as the brisket at Willie B's was probably the least impressive of the barbecue offerings. His ribs have always been good, but based on this brisket, Breakstone has come a long way. Ordered on a 2-meat combo ($17.95) and served in a wooden salad bowl (presumably used for wings in the old Canz days), it arrived in thick, gentle slices with a profusion of bark at the edges, a pink smoke ring around the inner perimeter and a fat-fueled sheen across all of the cross sections. That bark dealt an unexpectedly potent black pepper jolt reminiscent of Texas style barbecue joints. Long Islanders like themselves some sweet, but this was savory all the way. Tenderness was just right, coming in neither too rigid nor too soft. Although there was no puddle of juices below it, all of the slices were very moist. If they can duplicate this quality, South Shore BBQ Company's brisket would make a list of the top 10 briskets in the PigTrip directory.
Pulled pork: There had to be at least one misfire, and this was it. We could certainly see the potential, as another wooden salad bowl brought long, soft strings, a decent amount bark and the right doneness. Though light, smoke lingered in there. Unfortunately, the texture was dry, even with a gentle infiltration of vinegar barbecue sauce. Overall flavor was bland and neither saucy nor porky.
Three different sauces are available on the table in squeeze bottles. There's a molassesy sweet, a spicier sweet that seems to have a different base, and a mustardy number. All were well conceived and all had a texture that clung well to the meat without being too thick.
Cole slaw: A very basic treatment had crisp cabbage With a mostly typical preparation that had just a hint (not even detectable, other than knowing something was in there) of atypical horseradish.
Collard greens: Leafy, slightly wilting, slightly vinegary, nicely done. This might have been even better without the inclusion of pork, which was dry.
Beans: Didn't look so good but tasted fine. Sweet and meaty.
Mac and cheese: A loose and creamy adult version with rich, sharp cheese(es) and cracker crumbs on top for textural contrast.
Cornbread: Another highlight, this moist cornbread had honey butter cooked into it.
On the first visit we sat fairly close to the open view of the kitchen and saw pitmaster Will Breakstone toiling away. I purposely sat facing away from him and waiting until two of the three rounds were completed before saying hello to an old friend. So the wings, rib tips, babybacks and first round of St Louis ribs were all random and representative servings for sure. There's the possibility that the brisket and pork may have been less than representative, but according to one tablemate who'd been there before, that wasn't the case.
The Bottom Line
Some hits and misses, but the hits—and some big hits at that in the ribs, rib tips and brisket—greatly outnumbered the misses. An impressive start for what may be the best barbecue joint in, on or around Long Island.
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