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P.J.'s Smoke "N" Grill - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Welcome To Mr. Rogers Smoke "N" Grill  Neighborhood in Medway, Mass.

From melt-in-your-mouth smoked brisket to phenomenal wings, Paul Rogers brings an irresistible taste of smoked foods and grilled favorites to PJ's Smoke "N" Grill in Medway, Mass.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 6/6/2019.

P.J.'s Smoke "n" Grill, Medway, Mass.
PJ's  Smoke 'N' Grill in Medway, Mass.


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PJ's  Smoke "N" Grill owner Paul Rogers always has something cooking when working what seems like endless hours to create out-of-this world smoked and grilled foods

With baseball cap on backwards and tattoos saturating the arms, Rogers has that intense but simultaneously always pleasant roll-up-the-sleeves, let's-get-down-to-work look. He's like a human cup of coffee energized to work the long hours from early morning to late night to please the customers and celebrate the virtues of small business ownership.


The Easton, Mass., native with a degree from Johnson and Wales University, a world-class culinary school in Providence, R.I., somehow has defied his New England roots and Boston accent to come up with southern USA and heartland cuisine looking like dishes that could be showcased on The Food Network.  If Guy Fieri tried PJ's, he would most likely say,"This is so gangster," or "This is lights-out delicious" or "Out of bounds" as the spirit of the food, the innovation of the chef and the overall mouthwatering deliciousness puts, well, the "shama lama in ding dong."

"I love to cook," said Rogers, 49, matter-of-factly. "It's all I know."

Paul and Julie Rogers, owners of P.J.'s Grill in Medway, Mass.
Paul and Julie Rogers, owners of PJ's Smoke 'N'  Grill.

Rogers has worked in corporate, hotel, mom and pop and fine dining settings, but for many years thought about owning his own restaurant. With wife Julie supporting his dreams, Paul opened his first restaurant in 2013 with
PJ's Bar and Grill in Bellingham, Mass. -- a popular dining and drinking spot with a sports bar theme. Riding high on the success of the Bellingham location, Paul opened PJ's Smoke "N" Grill (the initials standing for Paul and Julie) in October 2017. Located only 12 miles from the Rhode Island border, less than an hour to Boston and 35 minutes to Worcester, people from beyond the Medway area are beginning to take notice of P.J.'s with some traveling appreciable distances to try the food.

Credit a plumber with a love for using a BBQ smoker to inspire Paul.

"A friend of mine, a plumber, had a smoker at home," said Paul. "He said, 'You gotta try this, it's amazing.' I loved it and wanted one. The rest is kind of history."

Rogers eventually traveled all the way to Georgia with some buddies to purchase an outdoor Lang wood burning smoker -- an industry gold standard. He also got to meet the company owner and its master creator, Ben Lang.

"Yup, we got to meet him," said Paul. "That was an amazing trip, glad I did it."

Between the Medway and Bellingham locations, Paul works up to 80 hours a week. For a business like PJ's Smoke "N" Grill that specializes in slow cooking, the pace is ironically fast but that's fine with Paul.

"That's what I signed up for," said Paul with a smile. "I love what I do."

Smoked Foods, Other Comfort Cuisine That is, Well, So Gangster!


Sample plate of smoked food from P.J.'s Smoke "N" Grill in Medway, MA.
Sample plate, from clockwise top left, hand cut fries, smoked turkey, smoked brisket, beans, mac and cheese and the Sweet Heat Pork Belly.


Let's start right in...

The Sweet Heat Pork Belly goes beyond mouthwatering with its cubes of house-cured smoked bacon deep fried and tossed in spicy honey sauce with sriracha aioli. Smoked brisket comes out amongst the most tender imaginable through the simple magic of salt and pepper, dry rubbed and then going through a 12-hour smoke process. Root beer braised short ribs are braised for four-and-a-half hours and reconstituted into their own juice, kind of like a demi-glaze. The Pig Pile combines pulled pork, house potato chips, cole slaw and a ranch drizzle. The mac and cheese, full- bodied and flavorful with a three-cheese blend, includes many different options. In addition to plain, there's pulled pork, Buffalo chicken, short ribs, smoked sausage, smoked chicken and brisket. PJ' s also makes its own black pastrami with black, pepper, coriander and garlic.

Smoked wings are brined for two to three days, housed rubbed at a low temperature, then crispy fried and dusted with house rub served with bleu cheese. The house rub includes salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, brown sugar and paprika.

Wings being prepared at P.J's Smoke 'N' Grill in Medway, Mass.
Chicken wings before being served.
Photo courtesy of PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

The chicken wings go into the smoker for a few hours, then deep fried and cooled down. The house rub is placed on again before the customer becomes the lucky recipient.
Sauces include Buffalo, peach bourbon, bacon chipotle, "House of Brownies Ghost," Sweet Heat and garlic parm.

Smoked wings from PJ's Smoke "N" Grill in Medway, Mass.
Chicken wings from P.J.'s Smoke 'N' Grill.

The prime rib (available Friday and Saturday nights) takes a basic salt and pepper seasoning and is slow cooked to a perfection that puts the most famous local places for this dish outside of its prime food attraction.

Slow-cooked prime ruib from P.J.'s Smoke "n" Grill in Medway, MA.
Prime rib. Photo courtesy of PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

Little touches like cornbread croutons bring new life to often lifeless croutons, such as the case to accompany this beautiful salad....

Fresh, crisp salad with conrbread croutons from P.J.'s in Medway, Mass.
Salad with cornbread croutons from PJ's.
Photo courtesy of P.J.'s Smoke "N" Grill.

Burgers get a brisket and short rib combination makeover and cooked on the flat top.

"I prefer the flat top," said Rogers, of the best way to cook a burger. "It seers both sides and keeps the juices intact."

Delicious burger from PJ's Smoke "n" Grill in Medway, Mass.
Burger from PJ's. Photo courtesy of PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

Daughter Zoe, also a Johnson and Wales University graduate, contributes greatly at P.J.'s creating the desserts, including this strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream....

Yummy strawberry shortcake dessert from P.J.'s Smoke 'N' Grill in Medway, Mass.
Strawberry shortcake from PJ's.
Photo courtesy of PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

PJ's also defies the confines of a strip mall restaurant location by creating a non-generic, much larger than expected family-friendly restaurant that shouts out local instead of formulaic. The look conveys a neighborhood joint with its retro-style booths, dining tables with old news headlines, long front-to-back 17-seat bar with leather bar stools, ceiling fans, KENO and 12 flat screen televisions on with news and sports. The restaurant might be relatively new but feels as comfortable and established as a dining spot in business for a long time.

Dining room at P.J.s Smoke 'N' Grill in Medway, MA.
Dining room at PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

Bar at P.J.'s Smoke 'N' Grill in Medway, Mass.
Bar area at PJ's Smoke "N" Grill.

To add further personality to the restaurant, there's a giant pig statue (his name is Cletus), Boston Bruins jersey and numerous retro, rural and humorous wall signs that seem like part of the original building.

Pig Statue at P.J.'s Smoke 'N' Grill, Medway, Mass.
Pig statue at PJ's Smoke 'N' Grill.

The drinks menu complements quite well the down-home cooking menu with a robust beer, wine and cocktail menu. Some local brews are available from Revival Brewing Company, Lord Hobo Brewing Company, Be Hoppy Brewing Company and StarteLine Brewing. And of course, there is always the $1.99 Budweiser 16 oz. draft.

Friday and Saturday nights bring live rock and country entertainment, Monday and Tuesdays musical bingo and Wednesday "Kids Eat Free" night for 12 and under with a face painter to provide additional fun.
 

PJ's challenge that almost shut the restaurant down


Rogers almost saw his business go up in smoke not too long ago.

After running a wildly successful BBQ-style restaurant since May 2017, Rogers found himself in Oct. 2018 being grilled about the use of an outdoor smoker that reportedly received a few complaints from local neighbors bothered by the burning wood smell. The Town of Medway then required Rogers to enclose that smoker or find another solution to remedy the issue.

Rogers initially stressed about what to do next give the high expense of fixing the issue. After all, he went through a lengthy process to arrive where he did at PJ's including traveling to Georgia to buy the cooker, opening the restaurant and the painstaking hours that ensued to perfect the process of creating these wonderful smoked foods. Now, Rogers faced the prospects of shutting down everything he built at this location or move somewhere else. While Rogers operated several months without the smoker, things just weren't the same.

"We almost closed," said Rogers. "The community and the town supported us. Closing wasn't an option for me. We had to get creative. Julie and (general manager) Jenna got creative with payroll and staffing to bide some time for the next move. I have a great wife, staff and management and couldn't have done this myself. They really kept things afloat."

Fortunately, Rogers found alternative innovations by first purchasing a Southern Pride Smoker (a gas assisted inside cooker). He kept many of the smoked favorites but altered the menu to include many grilled comfort food options.

The good news: Lines continue to form out the door during peak hours.

And some further consolation, too: Rogers still gets to use an outside smoker when on the road by catering to family, work and special events!

Conclusion

Comfortable hometown surroundings at PJ's Smoke
Fun surroundings at PJ's Smoke "N" Grill, Medway, Mass.


Paul works tirelessly behind the scenes to raise the smoked foods and other comfort foods to an art form. Julie, with her connection to the area and the people that live there, works the front of the restaurant. She acts as the "social person," as Paul puts it, at PJ's keeping everyone happy. Zoe keeps the next generation involved with her skill in pastry creation. Together, they are a family but one that seems geographically out of place as the restaurant often has "southern" written all over it.

The local population has become more demanding when dining out as many have traveled across the country and know the taste of authentic BBQ cuisine. Others might not know the true taste of southern BBQ cuisine, but sense that what's served here has no relation to the pretenders serving dishes that bounce and splash around in slow motion on their corporate, slick TV commercials. PJ's is the exact opposite by being part of the community and showing a genuine commitment to the art and science of smoked foods cooking.

Very few restaurants in Massachusetts get smoked foods right. PJ's is one of those places that excels, even rivaling BT's Smokehouse, the local gold standard in creating this type of cuisine. While there's no glory in this profession, few days off and in Paul and Julie's case, a major bump that happened along the way, PJ's made it through the rain with the smoke still intact.

"I've been a dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, pretty much everything" said Paul with a wise, smiling, reflective look in his eyes. "But I like where I am now owning a restaurant(s) and making all this food for the customers to enjoy."

PJ's Smoke "N" Grill is located at 112 Main St. in Medway, MA. Tel. 508-321-1193. Web site: http://www.rosettasrestaurant.com. Also check out PJ's Facebook fan page as well as on Instagram.

Also near Medway: If it's the weekend and you're looking to do a little antiques and shabby chic shopping, head on over to Winsmith Mill Market in Norwood, Mass. Hundreds of vendors on a 27-acre former tannery site!



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A visit to PJ's Smoke N Grill in Medway, Mass. This restaurant specializes in amazing, authentic smoked foods and comfort cuisine


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