RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — When cooking barbecue, Robert Feuerstein of Upper Saddle River respects the meat.
That’s foremost for the owner of the 1-year-old SMOKED on Godwin Avenue in Ridgewood.
“We try to offer clean, healthy food without extra sauces and goops and sugars and salts,” said Feuerstein. “We keep that to a minimum.”
His wife and business partner, Deidra, puts it this way: the meat goes from the smoker to the warmer to the customer.
“That’s it,” she said. “Very little fiddling is involved.”
Yes, the pulled pork and brisket is seasoned.
Yes, SMOKED makes its own barbecue sauce, too. But it’s only for people who absolutely must have it.
For years, the couple entertained family and friends. Then some friends prodded Feuerstein to open a restaurant.
“Big shot. So I went ahead and did it,” he said.
Truth is, it’s his third career. For years, Feuerstein was a builder. Indeed he renovated what was formerly a doctor’s office into the funky, warm-toned SMOKED restaurant with its open kitchen.
Then he wrote a book, “Our Road to Hatred: How We Raise Our Bullies,” published in 2013 .
Deidra started her professional life as a nurse. For the past 15 years, she owned a jewelry company.
Now, she works the front end of SMOKED, getting to know the customers and making her specialty: the banana pudding.
It (and other desserts) are a perfect complement to a menu that includes chicken, ribs, sausage, and pork.
And lots of sides. Examples: mac and cheese, corn pudding, potato salad, baked beans, and grilled veggies.
Unbeknownst to the couple when they started, they also serve up generous servings of inspiration to those who eat at SMOKED.
“People are very curious as to why we’re doing this at our age and stage,” Deidra said.
“They get a lot of positive feedback seeing us embarking on something new that’s a real turn-on.”
In Ridgewood, they find a large demographic in their age group. Maybe that accounts for the personal interest, Deidra speculated.
But it’s no secret that the fare attracts baby boomers.
“We’re offering the food we know we’re supposed to be eating now,” Feuerstein said. “It’s not laden with the sugars and salts and goops.
“Yes, there’s fat in our food,” he added, “but it’s not overladen with it.”
The offerings expand at SMOKED, too, when Feuerstein is inspired.
A recent trip to the Caribbean, for instance, gave him an idea for a new way to prepare potatoes: grilled, with garlic.
“It’s our answer to fries,” he said. “We don’t have a fryer here. Or a microwave.”
Soon it will start Mail-A-Meal, too. It will prepare, freeze pack, and mail any meal to a customer.
“People can send special meals to their friends, their families, someone in Iowa or wherever,” Feuerstein said.
“We’ll get it there in a couple of days,” he added. “It’s a treat.”