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Smokin' Al's Famous BBQ Joint review: Food commands attention at Massapequa Park restaurant

Sliced smoked brisket is served with sides of

Sliced smoked brisket is served with sides of baked beans and collard greens at Smokin' Al's Famous BBQ Joint in Massapequa Park. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Call him the "Comeback Kid." Two years after closing his original Bay Shore house of 'cue, pitmaster Al Horwitz is smokin' at a whole new level in Massapequa Park. The 7-year-old Nassau offshoot of Smokin' Al's may be bigger than the original, but it has the same vibe: swing music on the sound system and whimsical pigs-on-the-town adorning the brick walls. Yet, it's the food coming out of both the smokers and the kitchen that commands attention.

The best way to evaluate BBQ, a genre that can be highly variable, is to order it without sauce, wearing only its dry rub spices. At lunch one day, brisket, a cut that all too often comes out dry, declares itself at first bite a juicy, smoky triumph. The same holds true of tender, succulent baby back ribs. On the side: al dente macaroni and cheese, the kind that's impossible to stop eating, and smoky-sweet baked beans.

A subsequent dinner gets going with pork belly "ends," cubes of lightly sauced smoked meat crisped on the grill and plated over "haystack" fried onion wisps. Wings -- no sauce -- have a lovely smokiness. So, too, do St. Louis-style ribs. But "monster" beef rib bones, while smoky, are a bit underseasoned and actually benefit from a few dabs of house-made BBQ sauce. On the other hand, pit-smoked chicken, burnished and savory, needs nothing at all. Nor does the fine, fat smoked sausage.

Here, outsize creations, like the Al's Famous Bow Wow, loom large. The bulging half-pound hot dog is piled with chili, baked beans, coleslaw and melted cheese, topped with a thatch of fried onions. Not only does this excess work, but it's beautifully plated, with the wiener nestled into a bed of hand-cut fries. These are long and squared at the edges, deliciously toasty. Things get a bit too baroque, though, with a 12-ounce mile-high burger, piled with cheese, mushrooms, onion and bacon. Truth is, such a burger -- smoky, mineral-rich -- doesn't need any accoutrements.

And you probably won't need any dessert. A wedge of Key lime pie, brought in from an outside baker, beats out the house-made bread pudding. Still, you don't go to Smokin' Al's for sweets but, rather, to eat so well that the thought of one bite more simply isn't an option.

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