The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.
With his new Latin-inflected eatery, Mike Diaz is making the leap from backyard barbecuer to restaurateur.
Diaz isn’t just any backyard barbecuer. Since he got bitten by the BBQ bug 2½ years ago, he and his team Buenos Diaz BBQ (motto: Living la Vida BBQ) have been finalists in a number of local barbecue competitions, including a first place for ribs at the 2013 Smokin’ at the Maples New York State championship.
In Woodbury, he has teamed up with Jose Luis Sotero, who was the owner of Bagel Chef, the location’s former incarnation. (Bagel Chef succeeded longtime tenant Wrap It Up Grill.) The restaurant has a large, sunny dining room with tables and sofas. Service is order-at-the-counter, or, rather, at-two-counters. One is a holdover from the restaurant’s past, with bagels, spreads and deli meats. The other displays slow-smoked rotisserie chickens ($12.95), ribs (both baby back, $14.99, and spare, $12.99) and pork shoulder ($9.95) as well as sides.
Both men have Latin-American roots — Sotero is from Peru; Diaz’s father is Puerto Rican, his mother is Colombian — and the barbecue menu has a strong Latin flair. “Latins and pork have a strong affinity,” Diaz said, noting that his pulled pork had a lot in common with the great braised Puerto Rican pork shoulder called pernil.
Diaz is aware of how tricky it is to serve barbecue in a restaurant setting. “There’s a moment when your ribs are perfect,” he said, “but it doesn’t last forever.” Over the next few weeks, he’ll be adjusting his quantities to meet demand, but he and Sotero have also come up with some clever mitigation strategies: Argentine skirt steak (served with Diaz’s unorthodox chimichurri sauce) is grilled to order. And leftover chicken and pork find their way into baked or fried empanadas.
Buenos Diaz Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and also does catering. It’s at 108 Woodbury Rd., Woodbury, 516-224-4830.