I have fond memories of my single years—living large on the Upper West Side, my best friends within earshot, planning exciting dates with women way out of my league, daily basketball games in the park, and, for the last time in my life, I had plenty of spending money. Much of that money made its way to Dougies; that venerable Upper West Side institution, founded by Doug Soclof, which revolutionized kosher barbecue. The nightly pit stops on my way back from law school kept my grades, and cholesterol, sky high. It’s where I first took my wife on dates. We made my best friend’s sheva brachot there. There was nothing that a rack of ribs couldn’t cure. I felt like Fred Flintstone.
But, unlike my aging body, Dougies is now a shadow of its former self. Long after Soclof relinquished control, the modern version falls 50 yards short of my nostalgic recollections.
After giving it a few years to settle, we returned to those hallowed halls, this time in Teaneck, for a fresh look at an old friend. There are still some bright spots. The ribs are tasty and well cooked. The Garlic Sausage Ring is exceptional. And, the burgers are still vying for a playoff spot. The Salad bar is among the best in town, with special mention to the Caesar’s Salad with Steak.
After that, mind the gap. Things get a little shaky. The avocado egg rolls are tasteless and boring. All two of them. The poppers might have been good if they weren’t served cold. Speaking of which, the onion rings, my personal weakness, were cold and mushy.
On the bright side, the pretzel, popcorn, and coconut chicken were surprisingly good, as were the wings. Also, the steak sandwich scored well with the teenage crowd.
The mains were challenging. While we liked the ribs and burgers (especially the Pastrami Burger and the Chili Burger), the fire poppers were bland. The chicken was sad and I believe it tried to commit suicide before reluctantly appearing on my plate. The open sandwiches were drowning in a gravy of unknown origin, and had to be rescued.
The service is good. The décor is 1990s Upper West Side. The prices are reasonable. But, for my money, it’s time to renovate. Lose some weight and upgrade the menu. Actually, the menu is fine. The flavor and recipes could use a make-over.
You can still get a good meal at Dougies. There are excellent options. But, unless you come prepared, you may be in for a long night.
Grade (out of 4 stars):
Staying Power: Taste lasts all night
By Ari Weisbrot