Smoked Bites, a Southern barbecue-style restaurant, has taken over the former Sender’s Smoke Joint at 190 West Englewood Avenue, Teaneck. Owner Stan Kotlyar has renovated the space, menu and recipes. With calming neutral décor, comfortable tables and chairs, and well-trained wait staff, Smoked Bites is now a full-service dine-in restaurant in addition to providing takeout orders and catering.
Chef Kotlyar said that smoked meats are still the stars of the show but he has made many changes. “I changed the techniques and recipes the first day.” As executive chef, he creates all the recipes. When he perfects a recipe to his liking, he gives a taste to the staff first; they have to approve.
Everything is made in-house except ketchup, mustard and pickles. “We make our own pastrami—it takes two weeks—and we make our own corned beef. We’re making an incredible charcuterie board. We’re making all our desserts in-house. We’re going to have a Shabbos menu, and a big meat menu.” Big meat means a whole brisket, whole lamb or chuck round, enough for approximately 20 people. It’s an impressive spread for a shul kiddush or a private party. Smoked Bites is getting a separate smoker for fish.
The Smoked Bites lunch menu includes overstuffed deli sandwiches and delicious combinations like the Ziggy, with fried chicken, pulled beef, crispy fried onions, kosher bacon bits and aioli. The dinner menu has appetizers like pulled brisket nachos and the burrito bowl. The sampler, which I brought home for dinner, is a great mix of house smoked brisket, cluck-cluck fries (juicy ground chicken fingers in a light, crispy crust), house pastrami and house smoked chicken. Empanadas are pastry shells filled with beef, brisket or pastrami, with toppings.
Entrees include smoked brisket, beef, veal, lamb and chicken with two side dishes. I tried the smoked lamb served with Chef Kotlyar’s amazing aioli, a mix of garlic-infused oil, mayo and cilantro. The lamb slices were lean and soft, perfumed with smoke that complemented without overwhelming. It is everything we like about lamb with none of the fattiness or gamey taste that can sometimes intrude. Soviet shish kebab, a nod to Chef Kotlyar’s heritage, is made with flame-grilled chunks of marinated beef with peppers and onions.
For dessert, choose bourbon maple pecan pie with dates, spiced pumpkin pie, Blueberry Crumble or Gluten Free Brownie. Each one comes with a scoop of Italian vanilla gelato and caramel sauce.
Chef Kotlyar was a connoisseur of food, and a sommelier, before becoming a gourmet kosher chef. As a single, secular businessman who owned several wine stores, he enjoyed eating in the finest restaurants throughout the world. He was practically a regular at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. After becoming Torah observant, and eating only kosher food, he was very disappointed in even the best kosher restaurants. He decided to take a cooking class. Right from the start, he showed a talent for cooking. His teacher and fellow students encouraged him to continue, which he did, with the help of videos, books and friends. He has become a true chef in the French tradition. So don’t be surprised if you see other dishes pop up on the Smoked Bites menu. There may be a chef’s choice, based on the best seasonal ingredients on hand. And if you have a request for an amazing custom dinner for a special occasion like an anniversary, Chef Kotlyar will be happy to help you realize your foodie dream.
A move to Kansas brought him in touch with the world of barbecue; it’s a serious sport in that region of the country. In 2013, a Chabad rabbi he knew was looking for someone to run the barbecue pit in a competition. Chef Kotlyar’s girlfriend at the time encouraged him to volunteer. “How hard could it be?” he thought. Famous last words. He persevered through long hours of bonding with the smoker and took third place. In 2017 he won the Dallas Kosher Barbecue competition, and continued his winning streak.
Fast forward to 2022. Chef Kotlyar is now married with one child and living in Fair Lawn. His wife had been encouraging him to use his cooking skills professionally. When the opportunity came up to purchase Sender’s, he realized it was a perfect fit.
Now that the renovations are complete, Chef Kotlyar is looking forward to reintroducing customers to the best in Southern barbecue. Come in Sunday through Thursday, 11:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and up until two hours before z’man on Friday. Celebrate Chanukah with Smoked Bites.