- Cost: $
- Credit Cards: No
- Alcohol: None
- Parking: Private Lot
- Take Out: Yes
October 16, 2015
Todd Rodgers is serving some seriously good barbecue in Avenel, NJ, where his food truck and outdoor smoker sit across the street from an iconic New Jersey state prison.
It took a few wrong turns before we found Rodgers Real BBQ on Rahway Avenue, between Routes 1/9 and the Jersey Turnpike, right on the border of Rahway and Woodbridge in the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township. The unobtrusive food truck sits on the edge of a U-Haul rental parking lot.
The menu sticks to the basics: mostly pork and chicken, served chopped or whole, as sandwiches or meals. Sides include excellent collard greens, creamy mac and cheese, spanish rice, corn bread and baked beans.
It’s behind the truck where the magic happens. The smoker on a trailer behind the truck is where owner and chef Todd Rodgers slow cooks his chicken, pork shoulders and racks of ribs over wood charcoal, making everything fresh daily. He’s open Wednesday thru Sunday, from 12 noon to 5 pm, or until he sells out. When the BBQ is gone, it’s gone. There are a few picnic tables in a grassy area next to the smoker.
Todd, who grew up in New York and New Jersey, doesn’t subscribe to any particular regional BBQ philosophy, describing his eclectic barbecue influences as “My own style.” He offers three different sauces – mild, Jamaican jerk and hot. The hot sauce is powerfully spicy with red pepper seeds, a slight tang and not too sweet. I recommend the pulled pork sandwich, with Todd’s homemade cole slaw and that hot sauce, served on a substantial Kaiser roll. The true test of barbecue, of course, is how the meat tastes without any sauce. The meat coming off of Todd’s smoker has a nice smoke ring and excellent flavor. At $24 for a hefty, full rack of ribs, with your choice of sauce, this place is a barbecue bargain.
For the sweet tooth, Todd sells desserts like “Down South” Coconut Cake, Chocolate Cake, Cheesecake and Peach Cobbler.
As for scenery, if you eat in the parking lot or at one of the picnic tables, you have a view of East Jersey (formerly Rahway) State Prison. Behind ribbons of razor wire, the facility’s red brick prison wings radiate from a huge, circular slate-grey dome. This iconic prison was setting for the original Scared Straight! documentary and has appeared in films like The Hurricane, Malcolm X and Ocean’s Eleven.
The gritty surroundings, however, do not detract from the quality of Todd’s barbecue, which is now among EthnicNJ’s favorites.
Rodgers Real BBQ
1400 Rahway Avenue