SUFFERN, N.Y. — It was some time in 1999 when River Edge native Dave Finkelstein was working at Mexicali Blues Cafe in Teaneck, N.J.
He was experimenting with smoking ribs and wings on the stove top when it dawned on him.
“I looked around and realized no one was actually doing that, running a full-on smoked barbecue restaurant,” Finkelstain said, seated at a table inside the restaurant in Suffern that bears his nickname, Fink's BBQ and Cheesesteak Roadhouse.
The restaurant opened back in January and inherited the longtime location of Irelands 32, which closed a few years back. Since Ireland's, the location has changed over a couple times: first it was Bobby Q's, then Split Rock Station, and now Fink's.
Post-Ireland's, the place was gutted from front to back, and received some layout changes that weren't well-received initially, Finkelstein said.
“To a degree, I think a couple places had to fail after Ireland’s just to get it fresh, to refresh the spot.”
Finkelstein, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, served as a consultant for both preceding restaurants and has heard from some that the previous spots lacked an identity.
After seeing what did and didn't work at Bobby Q's and Split Rock Station, he and partner Robert Gant decided to bring the brand and identity that was built down in Dumont, the recipes, and Chef Danny Connell, up to Orange Avenue.
There are some slight variations on the menus-the meatloaf in Dumont didn't make it's way to Suffern-but the recipes are consistent, and specific to the New York metropolitan area.
While Fink's prides itself on barbecue, the sauce isn't specific to the Carolina's, Memphis, Texas, or Kansas City.
“I didn’t want to really try and tackle that because none of them really spoke to me individually as standing out amongst the others,” the owner said.
Around here, people like extremes and balance, sour and sweet together, Finkelstein said. The pulled pork sauce has vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup in it.
Finkelstein recommends the clams with cream of pork belly, the ribs and the pork chops — which are smoked in Suffern. As the restaurant name suggests, it also has cheesesteaks, inspired by the Midway cheesesteak from Seaside Heights that the owner grew up on.
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