A new BBQ-themed restaurant is making waves in the Long Branch dining scene. After celebrating a grand opening in May, Lava Pit is attracting customers with a unique BBQ experience; they offer eat-in, take out, delivery and catering service. Kelly Ryan, owner of Lava Pit, believes the restaurant’s success is due in part to the people of Long Branch.
“The community is really supportive of local business because of a rebuilding of this area,” Ryan tells Best of NJ. “They’ve been though a lot with the economy, storms and rebuilding,” she adds. Staff are friendly and customers love the fun vibe with a Caribbean flare and reggae music in the background. In fact, Ryan tells us “The everyday response is wonderful. We see some customers twice a week.”
Ryan says she loves being able to show that women can barbecue. Growing up, her father and uncles were always smoking meat. Then, while taking culinary arts classes at Brookdale Community College in Middletown, she had an idea; Ryan asked classmates what they thought of her opening a barbecue spot—her first restaurant—in Long Branch. “I have a background in barbecue more so than anything,” says Ryan, a longtime resident of the area. “And I hadn’t seen anything like it.” People said she was crazy. But she wanted to give real barbecue a chance.
The Lava Pit, a BYOB venue, is quickly becoming known for its most popular dishes; in particular, the ribs and pulled pork are fan favorites. A standout feature of the restaurant is the four signature, gluten-free barbecue sauces that are made on-site. They vary in intensity from mild or medium to hot or very hot. Sauces can be served on the side or made into each meal. “Most barbecue places have one sauce,” says Ryan. “I knew early on I wanted different sauces. It’s our own twist.”
Other menu items include BBQ grilled chicken sandwiches, pulled pork sliders, a BBQ bacon burger and a baked cod sandwich; you can also find alternate options like a grilled veggie sandwich or mac and cheese. You can even order BBQ a la carte, from baby back ribs and pulled pork to salmon or wings. “All the food is homemade on premise,” says Ryan.
Homemade sides include sweet potato mash, collard greens, fresh homemade fries, baked beans, sweet corn and slaw. (Ryan says the fries are the only thing at Lava Pit that’s fried.) Afterward, for dessert, they offer sticky bread pudding or peach cobbler crisp. No matter what you’re in the mood for, they can prepare most menu items gluten-free, says Ryan. All you have to do is ask your server.
A perfect choice for families, Kids’ meals at Lava Pit come with the choice of one small side and juice. For example, tykes can munch on pulled pork sliders, grilled cheese or grilled chicken tenders. “You’ll see kids eating collard greens,” says Ryan. “We have healthier options for kids.”
You can find Lava Pit at 75A Brighton Avenue in Long Branch. It’s open Tuesday through Thursday from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 11:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm. The restaurant is closed on Monday. For more information, call 732-759-8855or visit http://www.lavapitnj.com/.