SOUTH PLAINFIELD – The smoky aroma of barbecue wafting through South Plainfield is from the town’s newest restaurant, Boss Hog, located at 13 South Plainfield Avenue. The restaurant that serves authentic southern barbecue opened on August 5 and was well-received. On September 19, the South Plainfield governing body held a ribbon cutting to officially mark the open of Boss Hog.
“We've been catering barbecue as a side job for the last five years,” said Jeff Johnson. “We always wanted to do something more and have our own place full time. We had that conversation for five years and then this place opened up and the opportunity presented itself, so we were ready to move on to something different.”
Co-owners and brothers, Jeff and Mark Johnson, say they discovered their passion for barbecue 15 years ago and opened a catering business five years ago. They made the decision to open their restaurant, Boss Hog, in March 2020. Jeff was a teacher at Saint John Vianney High School and Mark was a swim coach at Drew University.
“I would do virtual learning with my class and then, in the evenings, we would get together and do work on our restaurant,” said Jeff Johnson. “So little by little, it took a couple months, but finally were able to open in what was in August.”
“It’s really very family oriented,” said Mark Johnson. “It’s great to be involved in town and have so many people come in that are excited to have us here. It's kind of cool to be a part of that instead of driving off and going somewhere else every day for work. I work in the town I live in now, which is really fantastic.”
Mayor Matthew Anesh, Council President Christine Faustini, as well as Councilmen Rob Bengivenga, Peter Smith, Derryck White and Joseph Wolak came out for the ribbon cutting.
“Mark and Jeff say they have been overwhelmed by the community support from the time they opened their doors to today when we’re celebrating collectively as a governing body along with the rest of the community, family, and friends,” said White, Chair of the South Plainfield Economic Development Committee.
Serving authentic southern barbecue, the menu consists of pork ribs, chicken quarters, pulled pork, beef brisket, sausage, and more. Classic southern sides include mac and cheese, baked beans, green beans, coleslaw and southern green beans, which are baked with bacon and onion gravy. Fresh cornbread is made daily. They also feature an array of barbecue sauces made from scratch.
The Johnson brothers say one of the keys to serving authentic southern cooking is their wood fired smoker, aka “The General.” The oak hickory and cherry wood used create a unique flavor.
“We use a wood burning reverse flow smoker, which is the technical term,” said Mark Johnson. “The smoke actually travels under the food and then comes back up and around and reverses. It’s results in a more even temperature from front to back so helps the meat cook. It just helps us maintain that temperature more easily.”
“All the meat is smoked on our smoker, low and slow,” said Jeff Johnson. “That’s why everything's really tender, juicy and moist. We get the meat on the smoker, and then we start making the cornbread, and then we put the baked beans together and the southern green beans, and then the mac and cheese. It's a pretty simple menu. There's not a lot to it, but that's just part of the whole southern cuisine concept.”
Currently, Boss Hog is open for take-out Wednesday to Sunday from 11a.m. to 7p.m. Inside seating will be available soon.
“Once things open up, we’ll have about four bench seating, farmhouse-type tables in the restaurant,” Jeff Johnson said. “We’ll have seating for about 25 people and then a dining bar along the front window that you can stand at. We've always envisioned having small dining area with a quick service take-out kind of feel. This was the perfect setup where it's easy to walk around, it allows for a lot of conversation.”
The brothers say they wanted to have a place that’s relaxed and family oriented.
“We want to be able to interact with customers,” said Jeff Johnson. “That's part of the whole design is that we want to have a lot of interaction.”
“It's been a lot of fun,” said Mark Johnson. “Barbecue is that kind of food where the people you meet are just super nice. We’ve done about 150 catering gigs over the course of five years, and we always meet great people. So far, it's been like that at the restaurant too. People will come in and probably one out of every five or so is somebody who smokes in their backyard, so we talk barbecue with them.”
The restaurant has been open for over a month and offers several options for take-out. They also cater.
“We started off doing catering and still do,” said Jeff Johnson. “We show up with a smoker and cook ribs, get everything on that needs to be warmed up. We cook on site, and then it's just this whole big spectacle of having a smoker.”
“It’s a testament to their fortitude to open a business during these challenging times and to our community to being willing to stand up and patronize a business, to make sure they survive and are successful in our town and that’s what all comes together and makes it work for us,” said White. “We’re extremely excited to welcome Boss Hog to South Plainfield.”
“You meet a lot of cool people in this business,” said Mark Johnson. “We’re excited to be here. It’s the best we could ask for, and we’re having fun”.
More details about the Johnson brothers and their restaurant along with a full menu can be found on their website.