The fire has gone out for good at Smokey Joe’s on Teaneck’s Cedar Lane, the world’s first authentic, kosher, pit-smoked barbecue according to owner Joseph Godin. In an interview, Godin said the landlord refused to extend or renew his 10-year lease despite intervention by town officials who pleaded on his behalf.
On the night before closing, customers who usually have smiles on their faces had downcast expressions and incredulity in their eyes, as they enjoyed their last brisket, ribs and chicken at Smokey Joe’s. “I’m very upset,” said Gilda Winters of Bergenfield, who came with a friend. “I like coming here and I will miss it. I hope it opens in a new location.”
Jay Rosenfeld, a businessman from Brooklyn, said he and a friend pick up a meal for each other at Smokey Joe’s whenever one of them is in the area. In New Jersey for a business meeting, he made sure to come for one last takeout order after hearing from his friend that Smokey Joe’s was closing. “We’re all devastated,” he said, showing me a text he received that said simply, “heartbroken.” Rosenfeld said he was part of a chevra of seven or eight guys who would stop by on weekends in the summer on their way to or from their bungalow colonies in the Catskills. He said his son called the burger he gets here “the best I ever had.” Rosenfeld said, “He’s a very disappointed 7-year-old.”
Rosenfeld was picking up an order of his favorite food—Ari’s Wings. Godin said they are a mash-up of buffalo and barbecue wings, the brainchild of Ari Silverstein, his first mashgiach. “Everyone liked them so we named them after him.” Silverstein, who was dining there with his family, wouldn’t divulge the recipe. “It’s a secret,” he said. “Maybe Joe can use it in a new place.”
Customers aren’t the only ones hurt by the restaurant’s closing. Godin is distressed that many of his employees haven’t yet found new jobs. “My employees mean a lot to me,” he said sadly. “They work hard to pay tuition, insurance and other expenses.”
Godin said he has a commissary under kosher supervision where he will continue his catering business, including Thanksgiving dinners. October and November will be very busy, he noted. He’s starting to look for a new location for the restaurant and already has one possibility. “Someone called me and said he’s buying a building and would like me to be a tenant.”
Godin asked Smokey Joe’s fans to keep updated by checking the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SmokeyJoesKosher/?fref=ts.
By Bracha Schwartz