By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MIZPAH â€“ Rick Gray quietly worked his magic in the cooking area a recent Friday at Rickâ€™s Backyard Barbecue and Grill, 6931 Route 40, preparing the rib and chicken dinners at the popular outdoor restaurant, but his plans for this year are bigger than ever before.
The location has long been a favorite for barbecue lovers for more than 20 years and for Gray, he is in his second year as owner. The first was done during the coronavirus pandemic, but because he was located outdoors, he was one of the few restaurants fully open.
The barbecue aroma still can stop motorists on their tracks on Route 40, forcing them to turn around to check out what is cooking at Rick’s Backyard. While some find it that way, many are regular customers, eagerly awaiting the spring return of their favorite barbecue establishment.
Rickâ€™s Backyard Barbecue and Grill, 6931 Route 40, Mizpah
Phone Number: 609-476-4040
Now as COVID-19 restrictions are easing, Gray said it is time for him to take Rick’s Backyard to the next level. That next level includes a robust catering business handling parities at his restaurant and even some outdoor locations.
The Mays Landing native showed off a large lot next to his parking on the west side of the establishment which will be open for private parties and events. He said he will be able to put a tent on the lot as well
Gray said there is also space in the back of the establish where he can even accommodate two private functions as once.
“I want to really push our catering business this year,” Gray told Front Runner New Jersey. “We now have the room to do big events on site and we can even do things off site. Whatever you need done, we can do it for you. If you need to go off-site, I’ve got a vineyard in the area where we can cater. So if you want a wine venue, we can handle those kind of request.”
Customers will find all the barbecue favorites that made Rick’s Backyard a popular stop last year, from ribs, chicken, fish, etc. His menu, displayed at the front of restaurant, highlights the true diversity of what’s in store for customers upon their arrival.
“A lot of people were loving what we were doing last year,” Gray said. “I want to make sure that we’re serving people right and giving them what they want for now.”
Gray said this year he will be establishing his Friday hours from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The location was only open on Saturdays and Sundays before Gray took over. While he was open on Fridays last year, Gray said he is fully committed to Fridays this year. He will be open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Customers will enjoy the big screen television in the main dining area and Gray said he added two new speakers to enhance the experience.
What Grays said he would like to do more than anything is beef up his staff for the coming season. People have not returned to work like before the pandemic but Gray said he is hiring for those who want to make money.
While Rick’s Backyard opened for business this year in early April, Gray said don’t plan on him closing in October the way he did last year.
“I closed too early last year,” Gray said about his big Oct. 5 pig roast, one of the traditions of the summer season. “I’ll be playing the weather this not and I’m not closing until I have to. We’re going to have heaters in the dining area so people can eat in comfort and I’ll be trying to stay open into late November and December if I can.”
In the meantime, Gray said he is open and ready for summertime business, regardless of when he decides to call it a year.
Rickâ€™s Backyard Barbecue and Grill is located at 6931 U.S. 40 in Mizpah. Phone number is (609) 476-4040.
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