Que by the Sea: Under The Boardwalk


Seaside Heights BBQ Championship: The Boardwalk Barbeque, Nails and All

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I am almost Hank Hill from "King of the Hill", except that I am not married to Lady Propane-I sell barbeque accessories. I participated in the first “Que by the Sea” four years ago. I was referred to the show while working the New Jersey Barbeque Championship- I met a guy who sold barbeque sauce, and told me I should try the show. Seaside Heights is a small seaside town(obviously right?!) showing some signs of rust, but seemed to be shedding its old exterior to reemerge to attract that tourist dollar. Seaside has a 1980’s Coney Island vibe to it. The town had already seen recent fame as the backdrop for the infamous MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” with its casts of Rhodes scholars and future Senators. I have personally never watched the show, but I’ve heard things. The central hub is the boardwalk area with all kinds of old school pizza and ice cream eateries, kiddie roller coasters and rides a few feet from the Atlantic.

So this year, I am happily driving from Atlanta to Hackensack-I’ve got 2 shows booked, the Atlantic City Seafood Festival and the Que by The Sea. I’m looking forward to the trip because although I grew up in Long Island, New York, my family now lives in Jersey and Manhattan and I’ll be able to see them and hang out. Do I want to move back to NY? No, but I still miss the little things…egg and cheese sandwiches on fresh Kaiser rolls with ketchup, Joe and Evan WFAN sports radio, etc. I’m staying with family before going doing the Atlantic City show first. I am riding along my wife texts me and says, “Have you seen the news? Big Fire in Seaside!” Now, my wife is prone to flights of fancy, so ‘big fire’ is probably an overstatement in my mind. I left Georgia at 2pm so I literally crawled into Jersey at about 6am the next morning. I wake up around 11am and flip on the tv and it screams “The Seaside Heights boardwalk is on fire and about 30 businesses have been destroyed.” Top story in the metro area; Governor Christie is onsite, reporters running everywhere, store owners and residents being interviewed, the whole bit. I am speechless.

OK, I haven’t pushed any old ladies into traffic recently, or kicked any dogs, so I am in disbelief. After 4 years of waiting, I return to this show that now may be cancelled because of this devastating fire. I knew at the time I was being completely self centered, considering that many of this businesses had not any finished rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy last year, which have completely devastated many Jersey shore towns along the entire coast. Very sobering to listen to business owners who had just rebuilt their stores in July, only to have it burnt down 2 months later. I could not imagine that kind of agony. Anyway, I have no idea whether the show is cancelled, because there had been no show website updates or emails. If you know anything about doing craft and/or barbeque shows in Jersey, lack of communication between show coordinators and vendors is notorious. I think it’s a Jersey thing, baddaboom baddabing youknowwhatimean? Call the show phone number and leave a message? Might a get a call back. Send an inquiry email? Maybe you get an answer. Did you receive my application and check? Who knows. Can I participate in this show or how do I get an application? Ah, you tell us what you are selling and MAYBE we will send you an application. I am dead serious. An example, I go to a certain website to try to participate as a vendor and sent like 5 inquiry emails over a 6 month period(how are you, my name is JoeSmoe and I would like an application, blah,blah blah) It was literally 2 years later that the person finally acknowledged my inquiry, but sent me information for the wrong show-I sat at my computer laughing out loud while my wife gave me the crazy eye. Are you friggin kidding me!? But I digress. You know who had the info on the Seaside Heights BBQ? The barbeque circuit dudes, the teams who were competing- I had to go online to The Smoke Ring, a great online meeting place for BBQ enthusiasts, to find out whether the event was still on, and sure enough, one team had spoken to the promoter who confirmed the event was still happening.


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I had just done a show in Atlantic City the weekend prior, which was disappointing, but that’s a blog for another day. I was hoping the Que by The Sea would be better. I drove down to Seaside from Hackensack, checked in at the Holiday Inn at Toms River, and drove over to Seaside Friday morning. Is the boardwalk still there? Are we going surrounded by smoking embers and soot covered skeletons of small stores? I think the show had about 60 contestants following KCBS doctrine, so no tasting by patrons passing by. For me it wasn’t a great show financially. There was seafood festival going on at the same time in the next town, and the people strolling through the Que were not well to do but looked like me, with their disposable income being represented by the change stuck in between the couch cushions. There were some awesome BBQ teams there, most being from the Tri-State area, but some were from the Midwest also. I know there is this notion that Yankees don’t know anything about good barbeque, but I beg to differ. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, great barbeque is a universal language. People will seek it out and learn the virtues of hickory, brisket and the low and slow flow. Even in South Jersey.