Burke's Bar-B-Que Barn

2092 Grand Ave., Baldwin,

516-442-0909

Barbecue presents challenges for the takeout operation. Unlike burgers or pizza, cooked on the spot, real barbecue is slow-cooked over wood smoke for anywhere from two hours (chicken) to more than 12 hours (brisket). It has to be in peak condition when the customer orders it.

After five months in business, Kathy and Jim Burke have figured out how to produce a consistently good product.

Their Burke's Bar-B-Que Barn is a fine source of authentic Kansas City-style barbecue. Prices are good, too: Half a rack of ribs is $15; the brisket plate is $14; pulled pork, $14; half a bbq chicken, $11. The Burke style is not too spicy, not too smoky. "We like it when you can still really taste the meat," Kathy said.

The couple were bitten by the barbecue bug after seeing competitions on Food Network. Calling themselves the Baldwin Butt Burners, they entered the 2004 Grill Kings BBQ Cook-Off and walked away with first places in pulled pork and sauce, and second place in ribs.

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The Burkes have become regulars on the local barbecue circuit, but since September, their focus has been on their modest shop and the 100-square-foot Friedrich smoker that is the heart of their business.

Jim places the spice-rubbed briskets and pork butts on the slowly rotating shelves late at night. Early in the morning, Kathy adds the pork ribs and chicken pieces. Then she starts on Burke's various starters and side dishes, among them smoked hot wings, deep fried pulled-pork wontons, baked beans, BBQ spaghetti and buttermilk-garlic-Cheddar biscuits. By 11 a.m. (1 p.m. on weekends), Burke's is ready to serve.