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Five Questions with Susan Hoffberg

The Suzy Ques owner spills the beans on what’s exactly in that sauce…almost

While she may be from Long Island, Susan Hoffberg’s heart is pure Dixie. After working in corporate America for 28 years, she decided to call it quits and took over the Quincy’s Restaurant building and transformed it into a barbeque Mecca for West Orange residents last year. 

Hoffberg prides herself not only on the reputation of her barbeque short ribs, but also on the fact that Suzy Ques is as culturally rich as the town of West Orange itself, attracting people to the restaurant and bar as a sort of “Cheers-like” atmosphere where everyone knows your name and what dry rub you prefer.

Why choose to bring barbeque to West Orange?

Well I looked around and thought, ‘If I’m going to open up a restaurant in the worst economy ever and in an industry that has a 90% failure rate, I need to do something that will differentiate us from all the other restaurants around here. The one thing I’d have to go to Manhattan for was good barbeque because we didn’t have it here.

Where is your favorite kind of barbeque from?

In terms of location, I’m probably more of a Texas or Memphis kind of barbeque, not so much North Carolina or South Carolina but that’s just me personally. But that’s pretty much based on the sauces. Here, we slow smoke everything and that’s what it’s about in terms of barbeque; in other restaurants, you’re getting liquid smoke because they don’t have a smoker. So I invested in a 600 pound smoker which is really expensive but that is what is going to be different.

Describe a typical Friday night at Suzy Ques.

Friday we get a lot of families and couples in the dining. On the other side we have the bar area which is a more lively, vibrant crowd with live music and a happy hour from 3 pm to 7 pm which is seven days a week. Most of my bands play in the bar area. I like to mix it up between classic soul, rock, blues. We have a very mixed crowd here just like the neighborhood. I’ve worked really hard to keep it that way. Everybody is welcomed here.

How did the name Suzy Ques come about?

Obviously my name is Susan but all my friends and family called me Suzy. When I decided I was doing a barbeque place, it just made sense. Anyone of a certain generation will know the song, most people know a Suzy who they call Suzy Q. I used a lot of local businesses for the design of the signs. Most people think we’re a franchise because of the sign and the way it looks.

Can you let us in on any secret ingredients?

That’s hard (laughs). The rubs are combination of all different spices. What I could tell you is that any good rub will have 25% salt in it. The other 75% will make up the flavors. That’s about all I can tell you. Everything we do here is made in-house. We don’t bring in any of our sauce. Every day the chefs make all of the sauces. That’s the most I can tell you about the secret sauces.  

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