Mercer County Home to a Growing Number of BBQ Restaurants Business


Maurice Hallett outside the 1911 Smokehouse BBQ.

Mercer County has had some difficulty maintaining its barbecue restaurants in recent years. FunniBonz Barbeque Smokehouse opened in Robbinsville in 2014 only to close a few years later, and Brothers BBQ, which replaced it in 2017, closed in 2018.

The Smoke N Grill opened for a spell on White Horse-Hamilton Square Road in Hamilton, only to leave for Wall last year. And pitmaster Dan Moran announced in January that he and his partner Mary Dunn were shutting down the popular Barbecue Devil Jersey food truck.

However, Lambertville’s award-winning barbecue spot More Than Q opens in West Windsor on June 30 will always be in good company when it opens this summer. Two barbecue joints that have stood the test of time are Maurice Hallett 1911 Smoke House Bar-B-Que (11 W. Front St., Trenton NJ 08608; 609-695-1911) and Jeff McKay’s Smoke Chef Jeff’s Hambone Opera (960 Spruce St., Lawrence NJ 08648; 609-357-4234) which opened at Trenton Farmers Market in 2013 and has been there ever since.

Hallett, a native of Trenton who worked overseas for General Motors, opened 1911 Smoke House on Front Street in Trenton in 2015. He described his food as being between North Carolina and Memphis style barbecue.

Smoked wings and fried short ribs are popular menu items, but 1911 has everything from ribs and smoked chicken to turkey thighs and breast. They have 24 varieties of traditional sauces and sides, including cabbage, macaroni and cheese, corn muffins, candied yams, and baked beans.

1911 also has a few less traditional dishes on its menu, including cauliflower pizza, a little stuffed rock (a potato filled with beef brisket or barbecue pork), breaded mushrooms, and even vegan wings.

Hambone Opera’s Jeff McKay says he learned the art of barbecuing at Whiskey Flats outside of Fort Worth, Texas. Its menu offers all the traditional meats, including pulled pork, pulled chicken, breast and ribs.

Accompaniments include baked beans, coleslaw, cornbread and fresh rolls. Although there are a few seats in the farmer’s market grandstand, everything at Opera Hambone is take out.

South Olden barbecue

South Olden BBQ in Hamilton offers barbecue with a Portuguese and Latin twist. (Facebook photo.)

Newer on the scene and putting a Portuguese touch on the barbecue is BBQ of pork chops (1560 N. Olden Ave., Ewing NJ 08638; 609-619-0109). The Pork Chop menu includes barbecue staples like pulled chicken, pulled pork, breast and ribs, but they also serve specialties like picadinho – pork or chicken stir-fry with shrimp or clams and served with rice – and chourica, a spicy Portuguese sausage served with onions and peppers.

Another newer barbecue restaurant in the area with a Portuguese (and Costa Rican) twist is South Olden barbecue (2217 S. Olden Ave., Trenton NJ 08610; 609-245-2322).

South Olden BBQ has grilled chicken, pork ribs and prime rib on the menu. They also serve specialties like chicken rice, lobster paella, Cuban sandwiches, chourica sandwiches, and carne asada. Side dishes available include rice, fries, red or black beans, sweet plantains, and steamed yuca (cassava).

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