Got a last minute invite to accompany a few guys on a tour of some of the new BBQ places that have opened up in the area recently. It was decided to try Pom Pom BBQ in MillStone, Mo Greens in Manalapan and Local Smoke in Cookstown.
Started at Pom Pom in the early afternoon. Babyback ribs had a good bite to them (none of that falling off the bone nonsense). Nicely, but not overly sauced with good pork flavor. Chicken wings were good. Sides were tasty. Baked beans were on the sweet side; The greens were excellent! Tasty and not overcooked.
Next was Mo Greens in Manalapan. The rich smell of smoke greeted us as we entered. Indeed, the smoke flavor of the meats here was more noticeable than at the other places we hit. That being said, there seemed somewhat less pork flavor in the St. Louis ribs than at the other establishments. They were cooked to perfection though. We tried the brisket here and found it on the dry side, though a touch of the mustard BBQ sauce helped. We found the brisket could not be cut with a plastic fork alone, as it should be. Buffalo wings had a nice zing to them but the consensus was the dry rubbed wings were the best. I'll have to take the others word on that as I was starting to slow down already and they disappeared before I got a try. The sides at Mo Greens were a world apart! Excellent. Fried pickles were crispy and salty and tangy. Fried Mac & Cheese was wonderful (Be sure to get it fresh out of the fryer). Baked beans were good, not runny, mushy or pasty, they were the best beans 'o the day. Braised red cabbage was tangy, sweet and not overcooked.
Finally we headed southwest to Local Smoke. This establishment is located where Adams Rib formerly operated (And plans to open a branch at the former Adams Rib Neptune location). Only open like a month they topped the list when it came to protein. Ribs were Meaty, smokey and had a nice smoke ring. Brisket was also smoky. fresh and tender (yes it passed the plastic fork test). Wings were good. A nice addition was a house treat of Atomic armadillo turds. Cream cheese & pulled pork stuffed jalapenos wrapped with bacon and hot smoked. Baked beans & mac & cheese were good but not exceptional.
All in all we had to reflect that in the past year this area has gone from a BBQ wasteland, to having a reasonable choice of places to compete with each other for business. These knowledgeable pitmasters are a welcome addition to the boiled & grilled ribs that have been a mainstay of many other local establishments offering "BBQ" ribs as part of their menu. We were not able to include Jersey Shore BBQ in our little crawl simply because of time and logistics, but if you include them there is a reasonable diversity of BBQ offerings that have developed recently. They must be supported!