RG’s BBQ Café

With summer fast approaching, the anticipation for certain seasonal events seems to grow day by day along with the temperature as it inches its way up the thermometer: a trip to the beach, wearing shorts and sandals, indulging in heaps of ice-cream, and finally eating outdoor cooked food especially the American summer classic, barbeque.  With this fore-mentioned cooking style missing from my blog site, I have been quite lost in finding a suitable place to write about, given the large number of places that serve such offerings.

_6000991.jpgWell,  Social Media to the rescue.  I was checking in on one of the food review sites when I noticed a short write-up on a barbeque place in my neck of the neighborhood.  In the quick posting, the reviewer mentioned that an old barbeque house had been taken over by a culinary chef whose CV (link) reads like pedigree background.  He was raving about the different offerings, some traditional and some definitely out of the proverbial box.   Having read this, I knew there was no room for hesitation, doubt, or vacillation to step into this establishment located only a few miles down the road from my front door.

Located on the southbound side of the busy Route 1 (it’s tricky crossing the wide road with dashing traffic) in Laurel, MD, just across PG into Howard county, RG’s Barbeque Café is a small shack dwarfed by some larger business sandwiching this establishment.  I must admit that I had passed by this barbeque house many a times, but not much about its exterior was appealing enough to draw me through its doors.  But it now has a new owner who knows something about the restaurant business (including having competed on Iron Chef), and it has gone through a renovation with a new large sign, bright walls, and flowers beautifying its front.  Well, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, so here we go.


Stepping into the place, you notice a few tables encircled by large windows on three sides, with the order counter on the other end.  The menu is the old style push letter board with all the offerings advertised, while the specials are posted on a board in the dining area.  The first set of listings are Sandwiches which comes with the various barbequed meats: Pit Beef, BBQ Beef, Pulled Pork, Pit Ham, Pit Turkey, and Grilled Chicken – I decided to get the perennial favorite, Pulled Pork.  The sandwich arrived with toasted buns filled with a heaping of shredded pork topped by the house-made sauce.  This version does not disappoint those who are fond of this popular sandwich: the meat was tender and moist with a faint hint of smoke, while the vinegar-based sauce added the bold balance of acid, sweet, salt and quite a hit of spice heat to each bite, delectable enough for me to finish off the mound of meat in one siting.  A side of Baked Beans was the perfect strong partner in this combo – sweet, smoky, soft beans, and spicy from the use of chili heat. Definitely, the sandwich measures up to the high expectations of this classic.

_6001621.jpgThe other sandwich which is not typically a barbeque offering is the New Orleans classic, Fried Fish Po’boy.  The long sandwiched arrived packed with all its goodness – fried whiting, lettuce, tomato, house-made pickle, all slathered with the equally freshly-made remoulade sauce.  The fish had a mild clean flavor, moist yet crispy from its light outer white cornmeal batter.  The lettuce was a combination of mixed greens and the  ripe-red tomato exuding its sweet moisture. The pickles added some of its sweet and sour touch along with a slight crunch.  But what ties all the elements together are the quality bun that is light and soft yet strong enough to hold this heap together, and the “fantabulous” sauce that is rich, tangy, sweet, and packed with bits of pickles that takes each bite to its heavenly stratosphere.  This is Nawlin’s foodgasm!



_6001077.jpgThe house offers more than just the usual smoked offerings – Hamburgers and Hot Dogs.  A dining companion decided to order the Snoop Dog consisting of a half-smoked hot dog, crispy lettuce, ripe tomato, collard greens, pickles, onions and mustard ketchup.  According to the diner, it was quite a tasty bite but it was a bit too much for him to wrap his brain around.  It is definitely a supped up version of your regular hotdog, with its smoked sausage, slightly tangy collard greens, and a topping of the sweet tangy sauce, alongside the usual accouterments.  For my friend, this order had a bit of soul and funk(y) at the same time.  Maybe it is the perfect order for the more adventurous or those with a case of the munchies (Snoop Dog?).





Well, now to the main smoked meats.  On another visit, another dining companion ordered the Half Rack Ribs.  I couldn’t help but take a few bites from his plate.  The meat’s exterior was slightly crispy and well caramelized from the long stay on the oven rack, fragrant from the use of wood smoke, moist in the inside and literally possessing a fall-off-the-bone tenderness.  I enjoyed this classic barbeque prepared the correct way with all the various elements coming together to give you the perfect barbeque.  The topping is the North Carolina-styled vinegar based sauce with its molasses sweet, assertive acidity, and hot pepper piquancy that wakes up the diner an insatiable appetite for this scrumptious perfectly-cooked ribs. Some usual sides of Potato Salad and Coleslaw proved to be adequately good but nothing out of the ordinary.


For those not into red meat, there is the Barbeque Chicken.  The half chicken came smoked and slightly grilled judging from the burn marks on the skin. The flesh was flavorful from being cooked in the smoker, faintly aromatic from the use of fresh rosemary (aha, I found a tiny piece), and tender yet moist (including the breast meat) from the proper treatment.  The sauce topping was a redder and lighter color than the above version with its sweetness, less-assertive vinegar-base, and some chili heat zinging through it.  A couple of sides completed the meal.  The Dirty Rice is not your usual Southern version; this was flavored from mirepoix (fine dices of celery, onion, and peppers) and colored from probably burned sugar (a common Caribbean practice, which the chef’s parents hail from) and a good pinch of cumin that added the initial je-nais-sais-qoui moment which turned into a gentle smile on this reviewer’s face.  The Texas Street Corn is a mélange of slightly crunchy sweet fresh corn, mixed with some vegetal tasting crunchy bell peppers, freshly-cooked black beans, biting jalapeño peppers, fragrant cilantro, a hit of tangy feta cheese, all tied together by a touch of cream.  I enjoyed this bowl full of its fresh quality and the various textural and taste elements that each bite had.  It was more like Texas Chef Corn rather than a street version for me, which is a good thing here.

Bacon Wrapped Barbeque Quail, Collard Greens & Mac & Cheese

From the menu of specials, I chose the Bacon Wrapped BBQ Quail  for lunch.  Pieces of the poultry are filled with a bread stuffing, wrapped with a piece of bacon and slathered with the similar sauce as the chicken.  Wow! The quail was fairly firm but still quite moist, complemented by a bold stuffing packed with flavor from some sausage (the cook didn’t want to divulge the type) and mirepoix.  The outer layer of bacon was slightly crispy adding its porcine smoky flavor to each bite.  The sauce was the perfect complement being the lighter version than the one served with the beef ribs.  A side of collard greens was a good pairing with the meal with its tender leaves made tasty from the use of flavored stock (a minute sliver of smoked meat was the giveaway) and tangy from a good hit of spicy vinegar which is a North Carolinian and Mid-Southern tradition. But what stole the show here was the Mac & Cheese.  The bowl of creamed pasta was not your typical Momma’s.  This came with spiral pasta, white from the sauce that packed a tangy punch with the use of either Gorgonzola or Bleu Cheese which took this pedestrian side dish to another direction with gastronomic interest.  If weren’t for its caloric health warning, another bowl of this rich noodle would have made its way to my table.


_6001087.jpgSitting on the order counter is a display of desserts tempting the diner to save space for these sweet treats. A friend’s order of the Sweet Potato Pie was a homerun for him.  This miniature pie had a firm yet buttery and flaky crust, filled with a not-too-sweet and moist filling spiced up by the usual cinnamon-clove-nutmeg combo that was distinctive but not overpowering.  This sweet bite reminded my friend of a good home-made sweet concoction served on celebrations and holidays.  On another visit, Bread Pudding was my choice for the finale.  The sweet square was denser that what I expected, not too sweet, fragrant from baking spices, and sweetened with soaked raisins.  The topping sauce was literally the icing on the cake.  It was rich from the use of cream, sweet and dark from caramelized sugar, and heady from some vanilla and probably a touch of booze, reminding me of butter scotch sauce.  This dessert was worth following my personal motto that desserts should only be eaten when the calories are worthwhile, and indeed this was the case.  An order of the Glazed Lemon Pound Cake was quite good with the noticeable lemon essence and the rich buttery cake.  However, it was a tad dry for me and its butteriness was too much of a good thing for this reviewer who is trying to shed a few pounds for the summer.


After only a few months under new management, the dining room of RG’s BBQ Café has been filled without a lick of advertisement, relying solely on the word of mouth and online reviews, and deservingly so.  While respecting traditions and injecting some culinary experience and acumen, the offerings in this smoke house cater to those who want the expected (and receiving an excellent product) and those who are willing to go beyond the traditional. With food this good and exciting, I could see myself sitting in their new outdoor patio during the warm months, and with such delectable temptations offered here, such visits will definitely extend beyond the short lazy summer months.

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Bridgeville, DE

DSC_9031.jpgTradition, Tradition, Tradition!!!! Remember that famous song from the Broadway musical, Fiddler on The Roof? We can’t seem to escape from these customs that mark the passing of time with habitually repeated events laden with a sense of meaning associated with them. This is the case when the warm weather comes around between my close-set of friends and me. It usually spells time to head to the beach, specifically Rehoboth Beach, DE. Having already gone there as a group for nearly 15 years, we have developed certain traditions: hearty breakfasts consisting of bacon, sausage, tarragon omelet, and toast with local fruit jams; grilled steaks and local sweet corn for dinner; a day (ok, a couple) at the Outlet Malls (tax-free); hanging out at Poodle Beach (end of the boardwalk) in the afternoons until the rented umbrellas are removed; and stopping by Jimmy’s Grill on the way back to DC/MD on a Sunday afternoon.

Jimmy’s Grill is located within the limits of the quiet and quaint town of Bridgeville, DE, on the Business Route 404 corridor that used to serve as the main thoroughfare to Rehoboth from DC Metro – there is now a bypass around the town known for its 25 mph speed traps. I remember stopping there for the first time years ago. It had a homey feel to the place, but unfortunately, they closed by 6 p.m. on a Sunday and they did not take credit cards then – I had to time my departure from the beach to make it there on time.  But 6 years ago they were bought over by the employees (from what I heard), and the place went through some redecorating while maintaining its charm, along with longer hours and the acceptance of credit cards. One thing that has not suffered any change has been the quality of the food and the prices.

DSC_9036.jpgWalking into the establishment, you immediately get a sense of home comfort and of local community. Plastered in the vestibule are photos of local folks posing with the owners. Passing through it you are immediately assaulted by a huge cake display tower that would make your eyes bug out from the equally towering home-made cakes that scream “leave some room for me too.” The place is usually filled with a combination of local folks and visiting beach travellers, usually repeat customers. There is nothing fancy about the decor with a few vintage movie posters above the simple banquets or cafeteria-like tables and chairs. But this is not why we, as well as the other diners, are here for.  Can I have the menu, please?


Tradition! Fried Chicken! This place is known for this quintessential comfort food that is so straight forward and not fussy at all. That is the only dish I order here because it is that good and I don’t have it anywhere else – where else would serve lots of chicken but in this area renown for the chicken farms that dot the highway. I usually get a piece of moist breast that is well-seasoned throughout the meat (not just the topping) with a crispy, equally seasoned and not overly thick batter. Diet out of the window, I would dig into this extremely irresistible morsel with no guilt, shame or remorse, but with a few dashes of hot sauce. Need I say more? The proof is the in the greasy fingers and meat-strippen bones left on the plate.


Tradition! The side dishes! These small dishes are the equal stars in this eatery that sometimes attempt to steal the limelight from the mains. My favorites are usually the Corn Pudding, Collard Greens, and Lima Beans. The corn pudding is studded with fresh kernel of local corns (corn country here also), slightly sweet, slightly eggy, and quite light for this bowl of rich deliciousness – a must-order for me, always! The collard greens are de rigueur for me as well for its long cooking, delicate seasoning, and the lack of any meat fat in the stock, which I appreciate – a couple of dashes of hot sauce on it and it’s gone. An order of Lima Beans were smooth, silky, not grainy, with bits of tomato that provided some sweet acidity to the starch. I nearly forgot the Scalloped Potatoes that are thinly sliced potatoes covered by a cheesy sauce that make them irresistible and calorie-amnesia producing. Other sides ordered by my buddies included cucumber salad and macaroni and cheese, which seem equally tasty judging by the empty bowls. At times, they offer the local corn-on-the-cob as their special – if you are not corned out by now, you should try it. I could eat just order an array of their sides as my meal and I would be in heaven.


The eatery has daily specials that cater to the traveller as well as the locals. Usually on Sundays, there is Prime Rib or Chicken with Slip Dumplings. On this given day, Rockfish stuffed with Crabmeat was on the menu, which was ordered by my bestie’s bf. A large fillet of the local fish had a mound of lump crabmeat stuffing perched on top. This man tore into his meal like he had never eaten before, and judging by his closed eyes and slow side shaking of his head, I knew it was good – pity I didn’t get to savor a single morsel. Another buddy was so taken by this man’s foodgasm that he had to place an order to go (“Can I have what s/he is having.”). He later reported that is was very good but a little dry, perhaps due to the travelling. Next time, I will place on order especially all that seafood for $14.  Another friend’s order of Chicken with Stuffing was tasty and very homey, with chicken breast stuffed with bread stuffing, coated with a thick gravy – it tasted like what a good home cook would serve to her hungry loved ones.


DSC_9052.jpgOK, let’s cut to the chase and Let’s Eat Cake! The Rockfish Devourer’s order of Pecan Pie arrived first. But before he could take his first bite, I had to take a picture of it. And did I get a good stare from this famished man until I finished taking the singular shot, even though he had already polished the fish in no time. Again, he had foodgasm, and he even picked it up with a mound of whip cream and ate it like a cookie – it must have been that good! My bestie took out an order of Banana Cake. I tried a forkful and I was amazed by the lightness and moistness of the cake that was filled with banana flavor, small pieces of walnut, and hint of vanilla, all not being too sweet. I could have eaten the whole huge slice even though if I were full, but I would get evil-eyes from him. Another take-out order of Coconut Cake for another friend proved to be equally delectable and successful as the above concoction with a light moist vanilla cake coated with sweet frosting and sweet coconut. Let them eat cake, as well as us!


DSC_9112.jpgA new tradition: Last year I stopped by a roadside stand, Evan’s Farm Produce, on the same highway not too far from Jimmy’s Grill, and I bought some local corn as well as a jar of their home-made orange marmalade. Tasting the marmalade at home, I was delighted by the not overly sweet jam, the soft bits of orange rind that exuded a slight bitterness, and the slight acidity from the use of orange juice as the jam. I literally fell in love with this sweet bitter preserve, and I was sad when I ran out of it a couple of months later. So, on my way back to the beach last week, I stopped by the stand and bought 3 bottles in addition to a recommendation, Triple Crown Preserves, consisting of Strawberries, Red Raspberries, and Cherries. Wow! My friends loved this berry-packed jam so much that they finished off half a bottle in a single weekend, and I bought another bottle on my way home, just before stuffing my face at Jimmy’s. Lookout for this fantastic stand just when the Bridgeville bypass merges with Route 404 heading eastward to the beach.

So, on your way to Rehoboth Beach, make sure to look out for Jimmy’s Grill for its wonderful home-style cooking, especially the fried chicken and the wonderful side dishes. Oh, also don’t forget to take home a huge slice of cake and pie. Also, make it a point to stop by Evan’s Farm Produce stand just a mile down the road to stock up on some local corn, orange marmalade, and Triple Crown jam. After sampling the food and goods from these two establishments, they may become new traditions for you and on your beach travels. Happy Summer and Safe Travels!

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