Lumpy’s BBQ Restaurant – Clementon, NJ
Do you love watching competition BBQ? Well the Destination America channel is airing an episode of BBQ Pitmasters featuring Glenn Gross of Fat Jack’s BBQ and Ed Willis of Lumpy’s BBQ in Clementon, NJ. Glenn and Ed used to work together and are said to be as close as brothers, but with the love/hate relationship variety of family drama. BBQ Pitmaster show is centered around celebrity BBQ judge Myron Mixon who is a three time barbecue World Champion, 200 grand championships resulting in over 1900 total trophies, over 40 state championships, has won hundreds of thousands of dollars in competition, owns a very successful BBQ restaurant and school Jack’s Old South, and as such is nicknamed of the “winningest man in barbecue”. Also at the judging table is George “Tuffy” Stone who runs the BBQ team “Cool Smoke”, owns a barbecue restaurant chain called “Q Barbeque”, and runs A Sharper Palate catering in Richmond, Virginia. I have the show many times, and have been thoroughly entertained watching it. I do not know the outcome of the show, but I hope our local teams makes a good showing and good television.
With such acclaim being bestowed upon this local team, and being a certified BBQ judge myself, I decided to make a trip to Clementon, New Jersey to visit Ed Willis’s operation Lumpy’s BBQ Restaurant. Lumpy’s sits far back in a unassuming strip mall in South Jersey. If you are not familiar with the area, you have to keep an eye out for their location as it was not easy to pick them out while driving on a four lane stretch of Blackwood-Clementon Road with their curbside sign not all that visible traveling southbound. The strip mall seems to have had better days, but I didn’t come to go shopping, I came to have some BBQ. The interior of Lumpy’s is nothing to write home about with a mishmash of trinkets and signs adorning the walls making it seem more cluttered than eye appeasing. With so little time spent on the interior aesthetics, I assume by the looks of things Lumpy’s does not have a large eat-in crowd, but that is no excuse for one of the oddest things I have seen in quite some time. I just did not understand the concept at all of having fake flowers that just look terrible fill up a dessert fridge in the middle of the restaurant. It not only looks tacky, but could be filled with something useful or removed completely.
Looking past the fridge incident, the service was down-home friendly and made me feel like a lifelong customer of Lumpy’s. The cashier was bubbly, friendly, and confident in what they were serving is good. BBQ is an art-form, and thankfully Lumpy’s masterpiece arrived in all of its glory. I had the $9.99 lunch special which was a half-rack of dry rubbed ribs with mild sauce on the side and fries. At that price point, Lumpy’s is far more affordable than the majority of places serving what they call BBQ, but are really giving BBQ a bad name by just grilling or searing meats and stealing your money. The ribs were fantastic, but not a competition winner. Now I am not excepting Ed to be serving the same quality of ribs he makes for competitions, but I would love to try some. To the average consumer, I will say the Lumpy’s served me some of the best ribs I have had in quite sometime around the South Jersey area. Competition wise, the ribs were slightly overdone having the meat fall off the bone too easily instead of having a nice bite consistency, the rub was applied too heavily, and the sauce was a tad sweet. Now to everyone reading this, please do not take my criticism as saying that the ribs were bad in any manner. I am just a BBQ snob, and when you judge BBQ you have some of the best ribs you could ever imagine, but the ribs you were served were cooked specifically just for you with only the best of the best being sent to be judged. This is an impossibility in the real world, and as such Lumpy’s is by above the pack in quality in what is available to the general public. The fries were cooked nicely as well, being a crinkle cut is a welcome touch as the majority of restaurants these days skimp on the fries and serve those cheap terrible double breaded french fries.
So in summary, Lumpy’s shined where it counts in the food and could desperately use the help of an interior decorator. I enjoyed my meal and time there, and will be back to try more of Lumpy’s BBQ options. I hope with its hidden location and not a look of foot traffic to drive business that Ed’s showcase on BBQ Pitmasters will have others find this little gem of BBQ goodness in South Jersey. With the amount of free parking spaces in the strip mall, maybe Ed could convince the township to create an annual BBQ contest there to help drum up some press of what he has going on there and for South Jersey to get some BBQ events going since this area is pretty barren of BBQ competitions. If he does, my only hope is that Ed remembers he has a BBQ judge he can always call to judge the event, and I would be honored to taste a rack of his competition ribs.