Clifton’s best barbecue gets fired up with all-natural meat and pure wood smoke
by Marisa Procopio
Tell most folks you know of a “fast casual” barbecue restaurant, and they’ll shrug impassively. After all, isn’t that what a basic fast food joint is anyway— a place where you can wear jeans while unwrapping your melancholic, heat lamped burger?
But what if you could still wear jeans, but someone came up a vast improvement on the food part? Like…vast.
“It’s a more authentic experience [here],” said Micha Magid, co-owner with Christos Gourmos and pit master Hugh Mangum of Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque. “There are no waiters and waitresses; you go right to the cutting board, grab a beer, and go sit down. If you go to Texas, this is how it’s done.”
Named after Mangum’s eldest son, the first Mighty opened in New York City’s East Village in 2012, prompting lines down the block. Others followed, along with the Clifton location in March 2014.
The menu is deliberately limited, which allows the kitchen to focus on getting the best out of the Carolina-Texas blend of barbecue on offer.
“Its different styles, with [dishes like] smoked brisket. It’s not overly saucy,” explained Magid. “Brisket’s the star of the show.”
That brisket, and just about everything cooked at Mighty’s, goes over hardwood-fired smoke, not gas. This helps to impart the unique flavor of the wood to the meat, which is all natural (raised without additives, and minimally processed). Moreover, “we try to source locally whenever possible,” Magid added. And “everything’s from scratch. We work really hard to make sure the food is consistently great.”
Inside, pendant lighting dots the room and diners assemble family style at reclaimed wood tables. Then it’s down to the eating.
Aside from favorites like brisket and pulled pork are some standouts. One is the customer- and aptly-named Brontosaurus Rib, strictly for those who have skipped the most recent four meals in anticipation. And it’s glorious. (Google it and look for the photo in which Pit master Mangum holds the rib high, and it blocks his entire head.) But what exactly is it?
“It’s a rib on the bone, a short rib,” said Magid. “Almost a pound of meat. Really tender…smoked on the bone.”
Accompanying Dirty Frites are skin on fries nearly buried in meaty burnt ends, chile-lime sauce, red onions, and scallions.
Mighty’s also steps away from traditional collards and cornbread sides. It makes sense; on their own, they’re wonderful, but paired with such hearty main courses, they can be overwhelming.
Lighter fare,” as Magid puts it, includes sides like roasted beet salad with fennel, mint, and orange vinaigrette, and a buttermilk broccoli salad, which lend crunch and color and balance well with the meats.
Offering sodas like fresh ginger ale is a welcome departure from the norm as well: “When you hold up the bottle you can actually see pieces of ginger,” smiled Magid. “And it’s made with cane sugar [instead of corn syrup].”
Still hungry? Seriously? Take home a bottle of Mighty’s own barbecue sauce, and start dreaming of what you can make with it.
Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
850 Route 3 West, Clifton
973.777.8340 / mightyquinnsbbq.com