For reasons I’ve never quite understood, whenever a Texan meets another Texan for the first time, nothing matters more than establishing who is more Texan. Lloyd Adams and I engaged in just this sort of dominance ritual not 10 minutes after meeting.
"They’re square toes," said Adams, pointing to his black ostrich skin boots. "That’s the in thing." He glanced at my feet. "Do I own a pair of dress shoes? No sir." Adams = more Texan.
The obvious question: who cares? Well, if you’re a barbecue lover, the answer is you. And that’s because the more Texan one is, the better one’s Texas barbecue will be, which is no small thing, as Texas barbecue is the best in the world, as any Texan will tell you.
All of which is to say that Adams, who runs Laura’s BBQ with his wife of the same name, is serving up the finest barbecue I’ve so far had on the Island. Whether you get to try some anytime soon, however, might depend on persistence. Although they opened in August, the Adamses are still, well, working out a few kinks. As of last week, menus hadn’t yet been printed, Lloyd hadn’t stopped answering the eatery’s phone with hello, and Laura’s website pointed patrons to their home address rather than the restaurant’s in Glen Cove marina. (The same guy updating the site is working on the menus.)
So why go to the trouble? For Adams’ absolute mastery of barbecued beef brisket ($24 a pound, combo plates available), a happy consequence of his many years standing sentry over a smoker. The journey of Lloyd’s brisket to your table, a long one, starts with his wife’s top-secret rub (it wasn’t clear whether even he knew the recipe), followed by 14 low-slow hours — not a minute less — spent orbiting a firebox thick with hickory, cherry and mesquite smoke. At journey’s end is simple, tenderized perfection of the sort that makes sauce almost sacrilegious. Equally fine is a pound of his lean yet succulent pork ribs ($16), or a juicy half-pound of chicken ($10) capable of single-handedly erasing memories of incinerated birds past.
Unless you attended Vinny Testaverde’s 50th birthday party or an event at Bethenny Frankel’s Bridgehampton manse, Laura’s is likely unknown to you (although Lloyd did make a cameo appearance in a "Real Housewives" episode a few years back). For several years business was conducted business out of a faux-log cabin trailer that he and Laura hauled hither and yon . Life was good but unpredictable.
"We’ve made a living off the trailer, but it’s feast or famine," he said. "You work your tail off in the summer but you starve in the winter." Opening a brick-and-mortar Laura’s during a pandemic might seem an even riskier proposition, but in addition to its 75 seats indoors, the friendly eatery has a large, heated open patio adjacent to Glen Cove Creek, and business is slowly picking up.
"He just has an art for it," said Laura, whose own experience with the American west begins and ends in Westbury, where she grew up.
"I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy, and she grew up on pasta," Lloyd added while massaging rub into some salmon and lamb chops.
"I’m Italian, I had no clue," his wife laughed.
Yep, I had to know the back story too.
"My love for country music took me out to Matty T’s Roadhouse in Deer Park," explained Lloyd. This was 25 years ago, after an "environmental drilling project" brought him to the Island for an extended period. "Her, her sister and her best friend were there line dancing. That’s how we met. And of course I had my boots and my cowboy hat on then."
Once again, Lloyd gave me a skeptical look. No boots, no hat. A real Texan would at least don a ball cap (his said "Cowboy Church of Erath County"). Real Texans don’t come from the city like me but tiny towns like Stephenville, 70 miles south of Fort Worth. Real Texans grow up on dairy farms like him, work in environmental drilling, drive eighteen-wheelers and go out line dancing on SAT-ur-dee nights.
So who was more Texan? It wasn’t even a contest. But as Adams’ pit churned out cloud after cloud of fragrant smoked meat, I was only too happy to concede defeat.
Laura’s BBQ is at 76 Shore Rd. in Glen Cove, 516-715-1500, laurasbbq.com. Opening hours are Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday.