Mercer County has had some difficulty sustaining its BBQ restaurants in recent years. FunniBonz Barbeque Smokehouse opened in Robbinsville in 2014 only to close a few years later, and Brothers BBQ, which replaced it in 2017, closed in 2018.
The Smoke N Grill opened up for a spell on White Horse-Hamilton Square Road in Hamilton, only to depart for Wall last year. And pitmaster Dan Moran announced in January that he and partner Mary Dunn were shutting down the popular Jersey Devil Barbeque food truck.
However, More Than Q, the award-winning Lambertville BBQ spot opening up in West Windsor on June 30 will still be in some good company when it opens this summer. Two BBQ joints that have stood the test of time are Maurice Hallett’s 1911 Smoke House Bar-B-Que (11 W. Front St., Trenton NJ 08608; 609-695-1911) and Jeff McKay’s Smoke Chef Jeff’s Hambone Opera (960 Spruce St., Lawrence NJ 08648; 609-357-4234)which opened in the Trenton Farmers Market in 2013 and has been there ever since.
Hallett, a Trenton native who spent some time working overseas for General Motors, opened the 1911 Smoke House on Front Street in Trenton in 2015. He has described his food as being between North Carolina and Memphis-style BBQ.
Smoked wings and fried rib tips are popular menu items, but 1911 has everything from smoked ribs and chicken to turkey legs and brisket. They have 24 varieties of sauce and traditional sides including collards, macaroni and cheese, corn muffins, candied yams and baked beans.
1911 also has a few less traditional items on its menu, including cauliflower pizza, stuffed little rock (a potato filled with BBQ brisket or pork), breaded mushrooms and even vegan wings.
Jeff McKay of Hambone Opera says he learned the art of barbecue in Whiskey Flats, outside Fort Worth, Texas. His menu features all the traditional meats, including pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket and baby back ribs.
Sides include baked beans, coleslaw, corn bread and fresh-baked rolls. While there are a few seats in the stand at the farmers market, everything at the Hambone Opera is served to go.
Newer to the scene and putting a Portuguese twist on barbecue is Pork Chop’s BBQ (1560 N. Olden Ave., Ewing NJ 08638; 609-619-0109). The Pork Chop’s menu includes BBQ staples like pulled chicken, pulled pork, brisket and ribs, but they also serve specialties like picadinho — pork or chicken sauteed with shrimp or clams and served with rice — and chourica, a spicy Portuguese sausage served with onions and peppers.
Another newer BBQ restaurant in the area with a Portuguese (and Costa Rican) twist is South Olden BBQ (2217 S. Olden Ave., Trenton NJ 08610; 609-245-2322).
South Olden BBQ has barbecued chicken, pork ribs and beef ribs on the menu. They also serve specialties like chicken rice, lobster paella, Cuban sandwiches, chourica sandwiches and carne asada. Available sides include rice, fries, red or black beans, sweet plantains and steamed yuca (cassava).