Review: March 2013 Archives

What do you call a Southern inspired, Filipino fusion former coffeeshop now BBQ joint?

Just call it by its old name - Legal Beans.

Chris Escudero, a former lawyer, and his wife Mimi first started in 2004 by buying former candy store on Grand Street in Jersey City and turned it into a coffee shop known as Legal Grounds. Then, in 2005, opening Legal Beans Cafe at 86 Garden St, which began as a local neighborhood coffeeshop, selling their home roasted beans (from Legal Grounds), pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches in a glass walled eclectic store. In 2010 they founded "BBQ At Legal Beans" in 2010 on Division Street in Jersey City. Chris & Mimi not only had the stores, but also a thriving catering business, too.

Then 2011 happened with a great deal of flooding on Garden Street which did a lot of damage to the store. Up next, Hurricane Katrina. A year later, Hurricane Sandy. It wore on Chris - and, as he told me, he couldn't give the Hoboken location the attention he wanted. He shut down the business after Sandy, and decided to re-launch the Cafe as a BBQ joint for two reasons - One, the popularity of his already established BBQ At Legal Beans in Jersey City and Two - he saw a lack of BBQ options in Hoboken.

He wanted to corner that BBQ market now.

After trying it myself last night, I think we have a new King Of BBQ for Hoboken. There are other restaurants that sell BBQ in town, but since Joey's BBQ closed we haven't had a restaurant that just focused on BBQ. Plus, they are doing a buffet-style serving option, which you don't see very often in town. You can get a plate, load up what you want to nosh on - sit down and enjoy yourself or load up a to-go plate, too. Everything has flat-pricing, depending on the side of the plate.

Legal Beans Cafe isn't going to be the next Dinosaur BBQ, Blue Smoke or Hill Country. Lets get that out of the way first. But, for Hoboken in which most restaurants are mediocre at best, this is poised to be one of the best in town.

After filling a medium sized plate of food for $10, on my way out, their credit card machines were not working yet - and were taking cash only. I didn't have cash on me and the Chase ATM was about 5 blocks away. Chris who was there, just shrugged - "Just pay us next time..." That's something you don't get in NYC. The neighborhood of Hoboken can't be beat. I went home with my plate of food with Rocco, who was very interested in helping with leftovers.

I tried the espresso-rubbed ribs last night. Fall-off-the-bone fantastic, with a dark chocolate, smoky undercurrent flavor. I was in love. Then I tried the pull pork. Sweet, but smoky with a dense thickness of pork that I haven't enjoyed since Hoboken Eddie was doing pulled pork sandwiches from the kitchen under Sullivan's Bar. Also tried Brined, Rubbed, and Smoked Chicken breast - I thought the briny flavor was great, but it clearly was sitting too long and was dry. Finally had the spicy sweet potato, which is mashed sweet potato with pepperjack cheese. Wow. Silky, creamy with a hint of 'jack - worth getting this every time. The best part about the buffet is you get to try different things or just load up your plate with ribs. It's really your choice. I'm a big fan of noshing on this & that - and i'm looking forward to my next visit to try the brisket & the BBQ chicken.

I called Chris after eating to give him my review of what I liked and what I didn't like. I told him that there was something 'different' about his southern style BBQ. He laughed and said, "Yeah, my wife - she's Filipino and we get spices that they don't sell in America and use that in our dishes. Peppers and other spices that you can only buy in Asian specific markets."

After talking with him a bit more and trying to convince him to add a Paleo mashed garlic cauliflower to the buffet for people like me, I told him that if the food quality stays high (for example I told him that the chicken was dry) - he would have a customer like me there every week. He told me that the Cafe was still a work in progress. They are using the buffet but also letting people know that you still can call in specific orders if you don't want a buffet. Or, if something that dries out quickly, like the brisket isn't on the buffet, you simply can ask for it in addition to other things from the buffet - they will make it on the spot for you. Also, the plate sizes will be changing. He plans for a medium, large and "super size" plates which will be something like (still to be determined) $7, $10, $15 depending on your appetite.

Only time will tell if Legal Beans Cafe will be able to thrive in a very fickle town like Hoboken. It's not on Washington Street and will really have to hope for a solid delivery business.There are not a lot of seats in the Cafe, I counted about 12 tables with 2 seats each (when the weather improves the outdoor seating will return), and many tables have been displaced by the large buffet counter in the middle of the cafe. Also they have changed their hours opening at 7am to 8pm weekdays (closed on Tuesdays) & will include a late night option for weekends - open until 1am on Fridays & Saturdays. I'm sure the kids at Stevens will love this. You can check out the

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This page is a archive of entries in the Review category from March 2013.

Review: June 2012 is the previous archive.

Review: October 2013 is the next archive.

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