LOWVILLE TJs BBQ has been part of the Lowville dining scene for a year or so. Owner Tricia Streeter was excited to bring another choice to the area.
Its just off the main drag on Shady Avenue. Previous to TJs, the storefront housed Shady Maple Bakery. Seating is a bit limited, with booths and tables that might accommodate a couple dozen guests, at best. Theres a large takeout/ordering counter toward the back of the restaurant.
Knowing that seating was a bit limited, my guests called ahead to make reservations. When we arrived at 6 p.m. on a Friday night, two hand-written RESERVATION signs were on a table next to the well-stocked beverage cooler.
The menu covers a lot of territory way more than just barbecue. There are deep-fried appetizers like mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and mac and cheese bites.
Chicken wings and boneless wings (I wonder how they get the bones out of those things.), burgers and dogs, pizza and sandwiches. Even a kids menu.
Colton the counter guy doubled as our server. He was prompt, polite and knowledgeable about the products on the menu. Even his knit Carhartt hat seemed appropriate for this type of dining.
We learned that TJs does its own smoking and slow cooking of the various meats it serves, and it does this quite well. It also make most of its own barbecue sauces and rubs.
We started our dining excursion by ordering TJs riblet basket ($7.49) from the appetizer portion of the menu. It consisted of three meaty pork ribs served with french fries, the same ribs youd get if you ordered a full rack as a dinner.
Our first taste of TJs barbecue was impressive. The meat was flavorful, enhanced with a not-overly-spicy vinegar-based sauce applied in the kitchen. The meat required little gnawing, falling off the bone with just a little coaxing.
French fries were standard, but they allowed us to sample TJs spicy barbecue sauce, provided on each table along with ketchup and other condiments. It really wasnt very hot, just a flavorful tomato-based sauce that offered an alternative to the sauce that came on the riblets.
Soup of the day ($1.99) was vegetable beef spot on, to use the words of one of my eating associates large chunks of tender beef, properly cooked onion, carrots and celery in a hearty beef broth. A touch of grease was evidence of its homemade authenticity.
Homemade chili ($1.99) was available the day we were there, a Styrofoam cupful of mild-tasting, more-meat-than-beans creation. Chili will be offered throughout the winter.
Like the Carhartt cap, the Syrofoam cup seemed to go with the place. So did the paper napkins and plastic utensils.
Pizza at a barbecue joint? Yeah, why not. Seemed like the all-American thing to do.
You can get a basic pizza with the usual choice of toppings, or try something different, like TJs Philly cheesesteak pizza ($14.49). Its thinly sliced steak, onions and green peppers and mozzarella cheese. A-1 steak sauce takes the place of the pizza sauce.
This was a well-presented (it kind of looked like a gigantic spider web) 16-inch pie with a basic restaurant-supply crust. The meat was adequate but not overly abundant.
Too bad the pizzas come in only one size. The three of us had one slice each, then had to squeeze the other five into black Styrofoam to-go containers.
To further sample barbecue, we ordered two sandwiches, smoked pulled pork ($7.99) and Southern barbecue beef ($7.99). Both came on a large hamburger-type bun; both came with homemade cole slaw that we thought was first-rate.
Both meats were shredded. The pulled pork seemed to have the same vinegary sauce that came on the ribs earlier. The beef was mighty tasty, too, tossed in that tangy tomato-based barbecue sauce.
Had we not been so full at this point, we might have ordered the pulled pork platter ($12.99) or the Southern chicken platter ($13.99). Platters are served with cornbread and two sides. Choose from homemade chips, french fries, macaroni salad, cole slaw, baked beans or applesauce. For an additional $1 you can have a tossed salad or sweet potato fries as your side.
TJs is not a restaurant that exudes thoughtful décor and ambience. Your dining utensils are plastic, bundled in a paper napkin. The bowls and dishes are plastic, paper or Styrofoam. The beverage menu is determined by what is in the large cooler in the dining room. No desserts were available.
But that all serves to keep the food prices reasonable. An evening meal for three cost $44.80 before tip, and some of it even went home for a warmer-upper the next day.
TJs BBQ has a definite place on the restaurant scene in Lowville. It can stand proudly next to well-established restaurants like Jebs right next door and Garys diner directly across the street.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5421 Shady Ave.
Barbecue and more on a side street in Lowville
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
12 noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
OUR PICKS: TJs riblets, vegetable beef soup (when available), smoked pulled pork sandwich, Southern barbecue beef sandwich, homemade coleslaw