“Bring Some Real Pig Home Tonight“
NOTICE: Beer & Big does not know any borders (aside from those of the US of A). We travel. Proper nomads. You can’t have all the BBQ by keeping your feet planted in one spot. So let it be written!
With that being established lets get at it: Long Beach, Long Island is a small beachfront community that sports a very classy and laid back vintage charm. This is Old Town USA through and through. Dead smack in the middle lies Swingbellys.
You’re not going to miss this place strolling through town. A giant open front of house that spills right on to the street is quite the eye catcher. I personally love open air fronts and outdoor seating, ESPECIALLY for a BBQ joint. Q is meant to be consumed outside. I’m about to start on that whole USA jaunt again.
The inside is a solid mix between current day pub and BBQ shack. Very open and spacious seating, flat screen TV’s ev-ry-where, a great full wrap around bar. This is the kind of place that at first glance we would want to spend a lot of time in. It is surrounded by locals bars, eateries, and other stores that really bring the neighborhood to life with a very classic small town (and vacation town) charm.
The staff was incredibly gracious and greets you immediately. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the lovely young ladies who were working in front. I promise I wasn’t gawking or staring. I just have a special place in my heart for women that work in BBQ and promised to bring a nice girl home to Mom. Call me?
Eating BBQ in Northern territories can be a risky venture. Texas, Carolina, Kansas City, St Louis… these are specific regions that are directly associated with the etymology of BBQ. New York, and more specifically Long Island, is unfortunately not in that company. Barbecue is more commonly linked simply to light fare as hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks on a grill. Whereas in southern regions it has taken on the identity that we are so proud to
obsess over write about on this site.
The menu at Swingbellys is an exercise in BBQ prose. I’m not saying Billy Joel wrote and produced it, nor am I saying he didn’t. Before I get to the traditional BBQ content special attention must be paid to their crafted sandwich selection. Providing depth on top of this style of food can be difficult as it stands alone so well. The appetizer section is the equivalent of Leonidas and his 300 staring into the face of 1 million pissed off Persians. And without mixing words, the Overloaded Pork-tato is Gerard Butler. Take that as you will.
I opted to sit outside with my accompanying pals. Since this was a surprise review done while traveling, they simply were not prepared to be apart of the experience of what a B&P restaurant review is. Say it with me now: we had ALL the BBQ.
First came a stiff round of booze (we’re Beer & Pig, remember?). When looking over the menu my eye was immediately trained on the Combo Platters. All BBQ joints should sport a feature such as this. There is the Chicken & Rib combo for two, and the Swing Sampler for three (ate by one) that was the days take (chosen as the dry rub option). I tear up just reminiscing about it. The other selections looked amazing, but when you’re the best in the world at what you do, you have to life your life by a certain code: All the BBQ.
We followed the booze with fried pickles and “Swingz;” their chosen vernacular for full sized smoked chicken wings. We went with a medium buffalo style, as the incoming sampler platter has a 1/2 smoked chicken. The smoked flavor on top of the surprisingly spicy wings is a dream come true for wing enthusiasts.
Let me also establish something for all to know: there is no such thing as a bad fried pickle. It doesn’t exist. Cannot be found. You’ll find Nessy playing Poker with Saquatch before you find a bad fried pickle. The pickles came in chips style, and I am convinced are homemade. At least battered in house. They were good. Didn’t change lives, set right from wrong, protect the innocent or defend the weak. While I could eat 1000 of them, I would still have liked to see a higher ratio of batter to pickle chip.
Then the pretty girl entered into the school dance. Time seemed to slow down, the music stopped, jaws were held ajar. The massive Combo Platter made an entrance that would have made Hulk Hogan jealous. It came out, blew the table away, and posed down in the center hyping up the crowd.
The Combo Platter sports a half slab of Ribs, sliced Brisket, Pulled Pork, Andouille Sausage, and a 1/2 chicken. All smoked. We opted to go with the dry rub, as that really allows a smoker to show off their skills. However, it came with a bevy of sauces. In fact, ALL of their sauces were represented at the table. This is where personal preference comes into play very heavily. I do not require any sauce with good dry rub Q. It just isn’t necessary. The food can stand alone and dry rub in no way equates to a dried meat.
The Pulled Pork and Brisket came over Texas Toast. While delightful, they were not the strongest of the plates offerings. The smoked chicken was impressive. The meat was very juicy when pulled and maintained a strong smokey flavor.
I don’t want to do a disservice to the other meats, but I need to fawn sufficiently over the sausage and ribs. The andouille sausage was perfect. A strong consistency with an incredibly full smoke flavor mixed with a surprisingly perfect amount of spice and heat made these a huge hit on the table. They were an absolute underdog when sharing a plate with brisket and pork, and persevered to make this a cannot skip item for any future visits.
The ribs stole the whole damn show. Smoking pork ribs like these is an absolute art form, and these are mastery in level. Perfect levels of rub and char all over the outside, while being incredibly juicy with a perfect grip of meat on the bone made these some of the best ribs that can be found in any region. With weekly rib specials for $1 a rib, these are Swingbellys’ biggest gun and they’re giving the little bastards away. I’m getting all misty eyed again.
Simply put, this is some of the best Mac & Cheese you’ll ever have. The cheese mixture was thick beyond any adjectives ability to encapsulate. The pasta had a perfect al dente (“still kind of firm” in American) consistency. Add in the crumb topping and this dish easily is elevated from “side” to stand alone heavy hitter. Remember: Ribs and Mac & Cheese. Do it. Do it.
The Sweet Potato fries were strong, and the cornbread is what can be expected. It’s cornbread. The ingredients are Freedom, Liberty, Equality, Butter, and Cornbread. I asked the kitchen; this is verified and in no way an exaggeration.
Swingbellys has an incredible mixture of Southern charm cuisine mixed with Northern wit and all around sharp execution. When vacationing in the area this joint is under a cannot miss doctrine. They even sport their own variation of the Old 96’er challenge (just without John Candy[RIP]). Manifest Destiny no longer is concerned with expanding this great nation from Ocean to Ocean. Been there, done that, bought the postcard. It is now that you must eat all the BBQ in the land… and you should start at Swingbellys.