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Embark Smoked Meats: Boonton’s Hotspot for Authentic North American BBQ

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BOONTON — We all know that within the area of this publication, there are a multitude of diverse international and regional cuisines that would satisfy even the most fastidious tastes. One style of cooking that I have found missing is some good North American BBQ. As you may know, American BBQ is extremely popular in locations such as Texas, Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City, all of which claim their particular style. One thing in common with whichever style you prefer is that BBQ utilizers low temperatures, usually somewhere between 180 and 250 degrees, along with a long, slow cooking process (sometimes involving many hours), where beef, pork, roasts, chicken, wings, and more, is cooked over indirect heat using a variety of wood and/or charcoal, then marinated or rubbed with a mixture of spices and sauces, creating a wonderful mouthwatering, tasty, smokey flavor. It’s amazing how once tough cuts of meat, like a brisket or belly, are transformed into tender, moist, succulent pieces of meat that seem to melt in your mouth.

Attention, food enthusiasts! Your culinary landscape is about to undergo a smoky transformation. Nestled at 811 Main Street, a new star has risen on the gastronomic scene – Embark Smoked Meats, the go-to destination for authentic North American BBQ.

I would rate BBQ as one of my favorite foods, and when the opportunity has presented itself, I have enjoyed some excellent BBQ throughout the United States. I would not call myself a BBQ aficionado, but being a carnivore, a properly done BBQ is like mouth candy for me.

I was excited to see that this past December 6th Embark Smoked Meats opened their doors for business at 811 Main Street in downtown Boonton, formerly the site of Thai Ping. Main Street presents a busy, bustling, old-school American type of setting with a youthful vibe, which seems a perfect fit for this classic American classic cuisine.

As my usual foodie group and I arrived I was fortunate to find a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. There is street parking only at this location. As we stepped inside, we were met by a bright, airy, energetic, vibrant ambiance that was appropriately designed for this type of venue; carefully planned out décor, immaculately clean, attractive, and welcoming.  The initial impression you get is one of a fast-food type of eatery, but a spacious, thoughtfully decorated side room, with multiple tables, provides a comfortable setting where you can relax, meet with friends, and enjoy your meal. I should mention that Embark is also a BYOB, so bring along your favorite brew. I enjoyed a bottle of Modelo beer with my order of burnt ends. Menus featuring a wide array of your standard BBQ fare are posted on the wall, along with printed menus should you want to sit down, as my group did, and ponder your choices.  The counter is manned by a very personable and friendly staff, who go about their work behind a sparkling, glass-fronted counter, where you can watch some of that beautifully barked meat being sliced, pulled, and prepped for outgoing orders.

The full menu, in addition to brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork, St. Louis spare ribs, half chicken, and smoked wings, also offers burgers, (a special blend of meats prepared by owner, Jasmine Gomez), hot dogs, chicken bites, mac & cheese, loaded fries, signature beef chili, Kale sprout salad, baked beans w/rib tips, along with other sides, and even breakfast options. Embark will shortly be offering the owner’s own specialty BBQ sauces for purchase, allowing you to customize your BBQ. Of course, the Chef, despite being asked, wasn’t about to reveal the secret blend in her sauces.

Pitmaster, owner, and Chef, Jasmine Gomez, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, along with a background in the food industry, showcases her personal history and passion for BBQ with several painted murals that adorn the dining area of Embark. This was in addition to the eye-catching painting along the front of the serving counter, as well as the clever and whimsical related art pieces and ornamentations that are placed throughout the interior. One mural, a picture of her first smoker, a huge 8-footer, that peaked her passion for cooking when she as a child would BBQ with her father every Sunday in their backyard in Montville; the second mural, her former BBQ Food Truck, where she practiced her craft for the past three years; and finally a third mural, a painting of Embark, her first and present business, with a clear message announcing, “Now we’re Heating Up”!

An impressive unit, utilizing different selections of woods that create the smoke, which is then filtered into a gas-heating section where the meats are slowly cooked. Different meats require different cooking times in the smoker to achieve the right flavor profile.

Chef Gomez, a very affable individual who is very enthusiastic about her new endeavor, told me everything at Embark is made fresh every day using only the freshest, highest quality meats and produce, and that most ingredients are locally sourced. Embarks meats are also free of steroids and hormones. She also creates a variety of special seasonings, rubs, sauces, and cooking techniques, including which high-quality wood she chooses to use in her smoker, which as I stated earlier, are secrets that she wasn’t about to share with this writer. Chef Gomez was kind enough to allow me into her spotless kitchen to show me Embarks smoker. An impressive unit, utilizing different selections of woods that create the smoke, which is then filtered into a gas-heating section where the meats are slowly cooked. Different meats require different cooking times in the smoker to achieve the right flavor profile. Brisket usually takes 12 hours, pulled pork requires 14 to 16 hours, while spare ribs and chicken take 3 to 4 hours. 

Indulge in a savory delight: succulent burnt ends generously heaped atop a bed of Embark’s signature Mac and Cheese. Our three-cheese macaroni, lovingly prepared, is smothered in a creamy blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, creating the perfect canvas for a rich and flavorful experience

When asked what the origin of the restaurant’s name is, the Chef replied, “It is a combination of embarking on a new culinary adventure and a recognition of the trademark, visually appealing, flavorful bark crust that develops on the surface of smoked meat during barbecue.”

I ordered my favorite BBQ dish, burnt ends. Burnt ends are cut from the point of the smoked brisket.  They have a rich, smokey bark and crunchy texture. Cut into cubes (like little candies), mopped in BBQ sauce, and caramelized. Don’t be distracted by the name, burnt ends, originating out of Kansas City, are not burnt. They are just cooked to the point of the bark being predominant.  Super flavorful!  My dish came with the burnt ends served over Embarks Mac and Cheese; 3 cheese mac, covered with panko breadcrumbs.  For a side I tried the Signature Beef Chili; it was very tasty.

The attention-grabbing artwork adorning the front of the serving counter, coupled with the imaginative and playful art installations and embellishments thoughtfully scattered throughout the interior space.

Others in the group went with the Pulled Pork Sandwich; which Embarks 14-hour smoked pulled pork, with their house pork rub and served between two sweet buns, along with a choice of BBQ sauce and coleslaw. Bob A. went with a half rack of the St. Louis Spare Ribs, which he enjoyed and called a generous portion. While the rest, like me, went with the burnt ends.  Not surprisingly, no one in this group opted for the Kale Sprout Salad!

Smoked brisket isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience. It’s a testament to the art of patience, the mastery of flavor, and the joy of savoring every delicious bite. Whether you’re at a barbecue joint, a backyard cookout, or a festive gathering, smoked brisket is a centerpiece that never fails to delight the senses and bring people together.

It was a fun dining experience with this “new kid on the block.” Next time around I’ll have to give either their pulled pork or signature burger a try. When you’re in the area stop in and give them a try, and maybe pick up a bottle or two of one of their carefully crafted BBQ sauces. I think your taste buds will appreciate it. Let’s all help support local businesses.

The magic of St. Louis spare ribs lies in their preparation and slow smoking. They are generously coated with a dry rub, which is a blend of various spices, herbs, and seasonings. This rub forms a flavorful crust on the surface of the ribs and infuses them with a delicious blend of sweet, savory, and smoky flavors.

Embark Smoked Meats, 811 Main Street, Boonton. (973) 934-9263.

Open Wednesday – Friday: 1030 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Take Out – Indoor Dining – Catering – Private Events – BYOB. Woman-Owned, Local Operated Business

Visit them online at: www.embarksmokedmeats.com

Pulled Pork Sandwich; which Embarks 14-hour smoked pulled pork, with their house pork rub and served between two sweet buns, along with a choice of BBQ sauce and coleslaw

Reprinted from Parsippany Focus Magazine, January 2024. Click here to view.

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