One of the area’s best-kept barbecue secrets has existed near my home since 2002, but I only recently discovered Suzy-Q’s Bar-B-Que Shack in the Town of Tonawanda. One taste and I knew that I would no longer roam for authentic smoked Southern cuisine. The tiny eatery lives up to its slogan, “A little PIT of heaven.”
My fiancé, Patrick, and I ventured in on a recent Saturday and were cheerfully greeted, seated and served by Suzy herself, owner Susan Baker. We were the first patrons to arrive, so we had our choice from the nine tables in the two small dining areas. Baker approached us with a smile and listed the meats that were not available – luckily, we would only be missing the chicken. Meats are slow-smoked daily onsite, and once they’re gone, they’re taken off the menu.
Suzy-Q’s one-page menu has barbecue favorites, including smoked pork, turkey, chicken, sausage, brisket and spare ribs. We began with the Piglets (four for $6.25), mini open-faced pork sliders with shredded cheddar cheese. The crunch of the toast perfectly balanced the meat’s tenderness.
I was barely through my last Piglet when lunch arrived. Suzy-Q’s boasts being the “home of the Piggy Pie,” so Patrick gave it a try. He chose the original version ($6.95) layered with french fries, baked barbecue beans, pulled pork, salsa and cheddar. For 75 cents extra, he had it “Memphis style,” or topped with coleslaw. The Irish lad he is, he likened it to an upside-down Southern shepherd’s pie. He was impressed that no part of the food mountain overpowered another.
The name didn’t deter me from ordering Messy Marvin’s BBQ Wrap with sweet potato sticks ($9.35). A wrap or a hoagie, it comes with a choice of meat, Swiss or cheddar cheese, lettuce or coleslaw, beans, salsa, pickles, banana peppers and jalapenos. I opted for the pulled pork wrap done Memphis-style. I was happy to see it neatly tucked into a foil holder, but as I ate, I understood the name. So much meat fills the wrap that there’s no stopping some from dropping to the dish.
Diners are invited to add sauce by using bottles on each table. The homemade condiments include tomato-based barbecues – mild and spicy – and a vinegar-based, Eastern North Carolina sauce. While the wrap was perfectly seasoned, I found myself drizzling on sauce as I exposed uncovered meat – I couldn’t get enough of that savory goodness. By the end, I had poured a pool of sauce into a section of my dish and was dipping the sandwich.
The atmosphere is friendly and casual, down to the plastic forks and dishes, and a glance around the dining room – with framed and plush pigs everywhere – gives diners a true understanding of the passion Suzy-Q’s puts behind its food.
Suzy-Q’s Bar-B-Que Shack
Where: 2829 River Road, Town of Tonawanda (873-0757).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
Extras: Cash only; ATM is available. Beverages include soft drinks, beer (Flying Bison Rusty Chain and Labatt) and wine. Take out and pick-up catering for larger parties is available. Homemade treats available near the cash register.