Getting saucy at Sossy's
Streamlined barbecue in Newbury Park
By Ron Russ 08/15/2013
2140 Newbury Road, Suite D
I have been eagerly anticipating the grand opening of Sossy’s BBQ Sandwiches in Newbury Park for months. Fortunately, I was given the privilege of attending the grand opening, but for fairness and unbiased writing, I returned in secret for lunch yesterday. The concept for this high-potential franchise is similar to that of the runaway success that is Chipotle. Instead of Mexican(ish) fare, however, Sossy’s is serving up tender, smoky barbecue sandwiches with signature sides and a plethora of made-in-house sauces. Similar to Chipotle, you walk the assembly line where your food is customized to your liking, with your choice of meat (brisket, tri-tip, pulled pork, chicken or a blend of beef and brisket called the “Sossy Joe”). Both times I ate at Sossy’s, I found myself enjoying the process of customizing my meal, and from the looks of other people’s plates, I think everyone did too. I saw one woman who had a sandwich slathered in what I thought was honey-mustard, but turned out to be melted cheese sauce. I felt totally one-upped as I stuck with my personal favorite — a pulled pork sandwich with spicy barbecue sauce and caramelized onions. That’s just how I roll.
Walking into Sossy’s, you immediately get the feeling that they’re on to something special. The interior, which was designed by local interior designer Yvonne Randolph, walks the fine line between rustic and modern. The tables and chairs caught my attention and I later found out that they’re all handcrafted using reclaimed wood from an old racetrack! How cool is that? The backlit “SOSSBAR” sign hanging on a stylish floor to ceiling wooden wall brings a contemporary look to what I’m used to seeing with traditional barbecue joints. Also, the open-air patio with strung lights offers a very inviting and hip way to enjoy some brisket and a few cold beers at night. Did I just say hip? Do people still say that?
As for the barbecue, I have pretty strict standards, having lived in Texas for about three years. I didn’t see any barbecue smokers out back, but one bite into my pulled pork sandwich and I was very surprised that they were able to impart so much smoky flavor into the meat. I asked co-owner and Manager Greg Smith about the cooking process and he explained that “We dry-rub and slow-cook our barbecue for anywhere between 10-12 hours in special ovens that allow us to heat and burn pre-soaked natural wood chips, which gives us the flavor and smoke from burning wood, but it’s a special process we’re able to do indoors.” He went on to explain how everything from the dry rub to all of the varieties of “Soss” to the signature sides like the barbecue baked beans is made in-house. I could tell this was a major point of pride for ownership, which I definitely appreciate.
Design, preparation and assembly line comparisons aside, how’s the food? Since Sossy’s main attraction is the barbecue sandwich, let’s start there. From experience, I know that the holy trinity in barbecue sandwiches is the bun, the meat, and the sauce. If any components miss, you’ve failed. Sossy’s is hitting on all three points very well. The bun was perfectly squishy, slightly rich but not too doughy. The meat was rich, tender and smoky and there were about 8-10 different sauces you can choose from. My favorites were the Memphis Sweet, Mexipotle and the Sizzlin’ Hot. All in all, my sandwich was packed with flavor and had all of the right textures I was looking for. My only constructive criticism would be that the sandwich could have been a little bit bigger.
I may lose a little “street cred,” but the highlight of my meal was actually the chopped barbecue salad. When I ordered the salad, the server turned around and removed it from the refrigerator and popped the top off the pre-prepared salad. I would have preferred to see my salad made in front of me and be able to fully customize it, but when I actually dove into the salad, it tasted phenomenal. It was packed with an Arcadian lettuce blend, roasted veggies, “bacon lardon” (thick chunks of salty bacon), blue cheese crumbles, and I had it topped with brisket and an Angus Ranch dressing. This salad was legit. The combination of ingredients resulted in a rich, salty, umami, fresh balance of leafy goodness.
As for the sides, I went with the warm and crispy sweet potato fries, the beans, and I washed it down with a glass of beer. The fries were hot, crispy and sweet, and when I dipped them into the Mexipotle sauce, that took them to the next level. The homemade beans (cooked with bacon, of course) had the right ratio of sweet-to-savory, but there wasn’t a distinguishable factor that put them into the “great” category just yet.
From what I understand, management is taking all feedback very seriously; so if you go in, don’t be afraid to share your opinion. I was thoroughly satisfied with my meal and the concept of this restaurant. Who knows; if they prove the concept in Newbury Park, we might see locations popping up all over. Just like the barbecue process itself, you can’t rush it. It takes time to do things right…