Mouths Water for Big Barlow’s BBQ & Catering

Mar 20, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

New Jersey may not be much of a barbecue state, but Christopher Barlow Sr., a native of Hillside, has long been in a barbecue state of mind. Last year, he opened Big Barlow’s BBQ & Catering, and local residents can now often find his orange food truck parked outside area establishments and on site for annual community events.

This coming weekend, the truck will be at Backward Flag Brewing, located in Forked River, and will return to ManaFirkin Brewing Company, in Manahawkin, on March 30.

“Every weekend is already booked until September,” said Barlow, who now resides in Manahawkin with wife Danielle Barlow and sons Christopher Jr., 10, Angelo, 5, and Gavin, 4. “Some of those events are BBQ Brew Fest in Farmingdale, N.J., Waretown Founders Day, Stafford Founders Day, Manahopkin, and the Stafford Fall Festival. I will also be at ManaFirkin and Backward Flag a bunch and I am booked a couple times with Pinelands Brewing.”

Big Barlow’s BBQ is clearly in demand – which makes sense, because Barlow is, clearly, all about barbecue.

“I always had a love for cooking ever since I cooked my first scrambled eggs at my grandmother’s house,” said Barlow, 35. “I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was just able to see over the top of the stove and needed a chair to cook the eggs.

“I started cooking barbecue when I was 15 years old, with a lot of trial and error, because at that time we didn’t have the internet and we are from New Jersey — not a big barbecue state.”

He continued, “After I started getting better everyone told me that I should consider it as my career, and that’s when the planning started. No matter where I worked I always just wanted to do southern barbecue because it was my niche.”

Barlow is mostly self-taught, but along the way he did earn a food science degree from Johnson & Wales University. That, he explained, “does help me with some of the sauces I come up with, like my new Peanut Butter BBQ sauce that everyone can’t seem to get enough of.” (The business’ other sauces include Original Recipe BBQ, South Carolina Tang and North Carolina Kick.)

After earning his degree, Barlow worked in various restaurants throughout NYC and New Jersey, “from small short orders to four-star restaurants,” he noted. “Working at Blue Smoke in NYC was a lot of fun for me because it is barbecue and one of the partners is Danny Meyer,” a well-known restaurateur and chief executive officer of the Union Square Hospitality Group.

“I have helped people open restaurants with creating menus and training staff also.”

In October 2018, Barlow decided it was time to strike out on his own. “It wasn't any easy thing to do, telling my wife, ‘Hey, I'm tired and want to take our savings and do what I love on my own,’ but I did, and she fully supported that decision,” he recounted. “I wanted to put out a good quality food with decent portions without breaking people’s pockets. I’m very big on family so this was a way for me to make my own schedule so I could make sure I spend time with my wife and kids.”

Last weekend, in fact, Christopher Jr. was by his dad’s side as he cooked for the line of patrons that gathered at the Big Barlow food truck. “He didn’t do any cooking but he watched the whole operation and said it was one of the best days he’s ever had,” said the proud father. “Customers also came out to the trailer and told me that Christopher Jr. was walking around and asking everyone if they liked the food. That is something that he just went and did on his own, which made me feel really good.

“My other two sons are still a bit young to get into the mix, but they really like being inside the trailer. At the end of the day I am building a brand so that one day, hopefully, they will be able to take over, but it will be earned and not given.”

The trailer, said Barlow, “is very state-of-the-art. When I am open you can order food online at bigbarlowsbbq.net and the system will send a text message when the food is ready. I am also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @bigbarlowsbbq. I post all upcoming times and places that I will be open.”

And when he is open, food goes fast: “Whenever the truck is open the food flies out.”

The biggest seller, Barlow pointed out, is the brisket, dry rubbed and cooked for 13 to 15 hours. “We usually sell out of it in a couple of hours and go through 80 to 90 pounds on a Saturday,” he noted.

Also very popular are the Barlow Burger, on a pub bun topped with bacon, pulled pork, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, frizzled onions, lettuce and tomato; the Pulled Pork; and the Barlow Fries, the shoestring variety, with cheese sauce, pulled pork, BBQ sauce and crumbled “pig candy” – thick-cut applewood smoked bacons slow-cooked with sugars, maple syrup and a touch of cayenne.

“I don’t purchase frozen meats or pre-made sauces,” Barlow explained. “I buy the best meats that I can get. I have four barbecue sauces that are all gluten free, and I make all my own dry rubs. I also grind my own meat for the burgers and hand press them.”

He added, “One thing people really like is the customer service that they get and the fact that I am a owner/operator.” The freshness and quality of the menu items, he added, is top notch, and that’s what customers love, and that’s why they come back.

As Barlow emphasized, “I put a lot of love into my food.”

For more information on Big Barlow’s BBQ, including catering options, call 609-709-6547 or visit bigbarlowsbbq.net.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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