Edit: : Silver Oak has closed.
BBQ seems to be popping up everywhere. NYC has at least 12 BBQ places. North Jersey has seen at least 2 come and go within a few years. And there are others that have been around for a while (Hot Rod's in Wharton and The Mason Jar in Mahwah for example) , and new places opening up (most notably Front Street Smoke House in Elizabeth). But there's one BBQ restaurant that's flying under the radar, and that's probably because it's not necessarily a BBQ restaurant. That restaurant is The Silver Oak Bistro in Ridgewood, and their BBQ is super.
The Silver Oak Bistro opened in late 2005, in a small space that had previously housed a latin restaurant (Sazon?), and before that, um, another latin restaurant. Each were quite good, actually, and I was saddened to see them go. Silver Oak is an unpretentious neighborhood type of place, with a family-run vibe. It seats about 26 or 30 and it's BYO.
Chef Gary Needham has some obvious strengths. Least of all not being his excellent surname, which manages to encapsulate a desire for pork. That's pretty cool, even if you weren't a chef at a restaurant serving excellent BBQ. Most of the menu consists of southern-inspired dishes that are certainly unique to this area. Cajun and creole flavors and influences are all over the menu.
My experience with some southern food is that it can be somewhat heavy and busy, with lots of assertive flavors. Silver Oak leans in this direction with most of their dishes. However, it's the simple dishes that really shine to my mind: the salad of beets and red onion (served with every entree, by the way), the mac-and-cheese, the transporting gumbo, the slow-and-low smoked pork ribs. All winners.
A recent meal consisted of the following:
I would say this would be a welcome addition to *any* soup.
The ribs had a perfect amount of smoke flavor (real smoke, not that fake crap that comes from a bottle). the "smoke ring" (that redish ring that permeates any meat that is truly smoked) was clearly visible (although this is not the most flatterning picture). Chef Gary dry rubs the ribs and serves sauce on the side. You won't need the sauce. The ribs came with a julienne of vegetables. I have no idea what the chef did to these vegetables, or what kind of vegetables they were, but they were outstanding.
mac and cheese
Chef Gary absolutely rocks mac and cheese. he serves it not much unlike an omelet, with a crusty exterior and creamy interior.
really delicious, and a very generous serving. and it comes with the ribs.
I think they've added the BBQ ribs to the dinner menu permanently. But I'd call ahead to make sure. If you find yourself at Silver Oak and there's no BBQ, order the shrimp cocktail (quite excellent), "rags and fungus" (pasta with mushrooms with a light cream sauce), or the mahogany duck (crispy skin with an asian-influenced glaze).
Give Silver Oak a try. Hopefully soon you'll be able to compare it to the local competition, which is opening right around the block: Broad Street Smokehouse & Grill is threatening to open sometime this spring. More BBQ can simply not be a bad thing.
Silver Oak Bistro - 26 Wilsey Square - Ridgewood, NJ - 201.444.4744 - BYOB - Free delivery available - www.silveroakbistro.com
the pulled pork (pictured at the top) is super as well.
Another update: Silver Oak Bistro made my Best Dishes of 2006 list.