Sunday, March 8, 2015

Don't expect much when dining at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack

Limited parking and haphazard service are only two of the problems we faced when we tried to have dinner late Saturday afternoon at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack after enjoying three deliveries of its Portuguese specialties to our home.

The bare-bones decor includes wooden tables, stained ceiling tiles and a leak in the small dining room. Fire Pit Barbecue will remind you more of a pizzeria than a restaurant.


If you decide to have dinner at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack, the problems begin before you sit down.

How did city officials approve an L-shaped parking lot with only eight spaces (two for handicapped drivers) to serve four storefronts, including two restaurants, Fire Pit and Bocconi?

I doubt a large SUV or even a minivan could negotiate the tight right-angle turn in the narrow lot. A third restaurant near Bocconi has no off-street parking. 

On my first pass late Saturday afternoon, there were no vacant spaces, and I dropped off my two passengers near the front door of the Portuguese barbecue restaurant.

Then, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw three people climbing into a car. I drove around the corner to once again enter the lot and take the vacant space.

Chilly dining room

Inside, I took off my coat and sat down at a table in the small dining room, facing a counter and an open kitchen, where two workers and two cooks were filling take-out and delivery orders.

One of them came over, gave us menus and took our order for bottled water and juice, and canned soda, which were served with straws, not cups ($1.50 each).

There were only a few other customers eating at tables, but others were standing around, waiting for takeout, and eventually, we saw delivery men with large padded cases to keep food warm coming and going.

At least on Saturday afternoon after 4, the employees worked frantically to keep up with takeout and delivery orders, and to fill the large grill with natural wood charcoal.

We placed our order for a large Fire Pit Salad ($10), Chicken Soup ($3); Grilled Codfish with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions ($19), an entree I enjoyed three times as delivery; Pork Cubes with Shrimp ($16), a dish that was new to us; and a side order of Yellow rice and Black Beans ($4).

The Fire Pit Salad includes tomato slices with little color and no flavor, and the Balsamic Dijon dressing we ordered on the side had no hint of mustard. The "large" salad is on the small side, and isn't worth $10. Nor was the Chicken Soup my mother-in-law ordered anything special.

Bags of natural wood charcoal in the dining room.

We decide to take rest home

After trying the disappointing salad and soup, we decided to ask for the rest of the food to go, adding a side of Sweet Potato Fries ($3). 

Still, we had to wait 20 minutes or more before our order was ready. 

At home, I plated the Grilled Codfish with the steamed broccoli and carrots that come on the side. The flaky, salted cod was as delicious as I remember from three deliveries, but the cook burned the skin, making it inedible.

Picadinho con Camarao or Pork Cubes with Shrimp is a tasty entree, but my wife and mother-in-law said the dish was too salty.

A side order of rice and beans was leaking badly when we got it home.

I tried a few of the delicious Sweet Potato Fries, which were grease-less.
The edges of the aluminum cover (not shown) for the grilled cod's takeout tray, above, are so sharp I cut my fingers in three places, drawing blood.

Fire Pit Barbecue, 357 Essex St., Hackensack; 1-201-489-3473. Open 7 days starting at 11 a.m. Free delivery. Web site:

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