Fried whiting with cornbread at Bobby Q's...Jus Like Mama's in...

Fried whiting with cornbread at Bobby Q's...Jus Like Mama's in Freeport. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

The fried whiting, says Bobby Ford, is indeed just like mama’s. These crisp, golden shards of briny goodness are a highlight of the menu at his new Freeport restaurant, Bobby Q’s … Jus Like Mama’s, and, like Elizabeth “Betty” Ford, his South Carolina-born mother before him, he coats the fillets in corn flour and fries them to a delicate golden brown.

In and around Freeport, Ford became known as Bobby Q back in 2017 when he opened Bobby Q’s less than two miles north. With only a dozen seats, it became a local takeout barbecue-soul food staple. The new venue, with a bi-level dining room and a much larger kitchen, opened in December. Ford sees it as “the next phase in our evolution” that “offers more of a dining experience.”

Bobby Q’s crammed a lot of soul food onto its menu; moving forward, Ford said, it will concentrate on smoked meats while Jus Like Mama’s will incorporate barbecue into a more extensive lineup. There are the classics, all expertly rendered here: fried, barbecued and jerk chicken; smothered pork chops; shrimp po-boys, mac-and-cheese made with nine (!) cheeses: collard greens, candied yams, fried okra, sauteed cabbage and many more vegetables as Ford has noticed an uptick in vegans among his patrons.

Barbecue still has pride of place. Tender brisket is rubbed with whole mustard seeds, juniper berries and peppercorns; ribs are meaty and tender (but not so tender that you don’t need teeth to eat them) and glazed with a sweet-tangy sauce; rib-eyes, prime rib and short ribs are also smoked as are a new item: “big ol' turkey legs.”

The menu also features some items that Mrs. Ford probably wouldn’t recognize, like the Wagyu burger topped with lobster or the charcuterie platter. Actually, “charcuterie platter” is her son’s cheeky way of describing his sampler “for barbecue-curious people.”

Bobby Ford is the chef-owner of Bobby Q's...Jus Like Mama's...

Bobby Ford is the chef-owner of Bobby Q's...Jus Like Mama's in Freeport. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Ford has taken a circuitous route to the hospitality industry. Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn and raised in Queens, his first jobs were at Burger King and Red Lobster, but his first career was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan where he started as a security guard and rose to the position of working with the art departments to hang, pack and transport masterpieces all over the world. Wearing gloves, he handled paintings by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, bronzes by Gaston Lachaise.

But he didn’t fancy spending his life at the Whitney, so he enrolled in the NYPD Academy. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great to go back to the old neighborhood with a sense of purpose?” He did just that, first as an officer in Brownsville and then joining the department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau and, at 29, making detective. After 11 years on the force, he left to join the Freeport Police Department which afforded him a more family-friendly schedule, and the flexibility to become a barbecue magnate.

Ford brings all this experience to bear at Bobby Q’s. “One thing that I’ve learned in all my jobs is that work takes patience,” he said. “Of course barbecue is all about patience — letting time and temperature do their work — but also patience managing people and handling customers.”

He concedes that running a restaurant doesn’t require quite as much patience as being an officer of the law. Police officers "broker in the business of misery,” he explained. “You see people at their worst. But when you are serving them soul food … it’s an ‘ice cream’ moment.”

Bobby Q's … Jus Like Mama's, 365 West Sunrise Hwy., Freeport; open Wednesday through Saturday from 12:15 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12:15 to 8:45 p.m.; 516-460-8056, bbqjuslikemamas.com

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