Arguably the best ribs and BBQ in New Jersey can be found at The Original Big Ed’s BBQ in Old Bridge. The restaurant has won numerous local and regional awards for their BBQ and ribs.
The parking lot of Big Ed’s is decorated with cut-outs of cartoon animals, and exhaust from the smokers fills the lot with the aroma of BBQ. Enter the building, and once you pass the hostess podium and the bar, you’ll be in the main seating area. The atmosphere at Big Ed’s is very casual: there’s no suggestion of fine dining, just a lot of fun. The tables are covered in clear Plexiglass, under which you’ll find advertisements for local businesses. (Read them before your table is covered with plates, bowls, and napkins!) The walls are covered with an eclectic mix of sports memorabilia, baskets, beer-themed signage, televisions tuned to sporting events, and replicas of pigs. Like all restaurants in New Jersey, Big Ed’s is smoke-free.
Our server, Jeanne, quickly brought our beverages–the menu offers a full bar, but we opted for Big Ed’s birch beer–and a basket of bread. These halved, toasted, small dinner rolls are drenched in garlic butter, and the server will bring refills upon request. We ordered from the all-you-can-eat menu: the “pulled combo” (pulled baby back ribs and pulled chicken, $13.99 at lunch) for me and baby back ribs ($12.99 at lunch, $18.99 at dinner) for the rest of my family. The all-you-can-eat portion costs only slightly more than the no-refills rack of ribs, so for most hungry diners, it’s worth ordering.
Big Ed’s menu includes steaks, sandwiches, burgers, and seafood–but go for the ribs and BBQ.
The garden salad that accompanies each meal is fresh and cold, but otherwise unremarkable. Iceberg lettuce is garnished with shreds of carrot and red cabbage, and a slice or two of onion. A variety of standard salad dressings are available. The salad will keep you occupied for the few minutes until your plates of ribs are delivered.
The first serving of baby back ribs is a full rack of ribs, tender and succulent, glazed with a delicious sweet-tangy barbecue sauce. These plates also hold baked potatoes (large, foil-wrapped, perfectly baked, with butter and sour cream on the side); other sides, such as french fries and applesauce, are available, as well.
The first serving of the pulled combo is heaped with a huge portion of pulled chicken and pulled baby back ribs. The meats are tender, broken into large chunks, and generously sauced with barbecue sauce.
We dug in and Jeanne kept bringing more plates of ribs and more glasses of birch beer. She was very attentive and often brought refills before we asked. When we couldn’t eat another bite, she brought the check. We couldn’t possibly have eaten any of the freshly made cakes or pies on the menu.
I recommend the baby back ribs, the pulled baby backs, the pulled chicken, and the birch beer. The Original Big Ed’s BBQ is located at 305 Route 34, Old Bridge, N.J. 07747, Phone: (732) 583-2626.