Off the Fork: Biscuits & Barbecue is a hidden gem in an unlikely place

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Not very much catches the eye when driving down East Second Street in Mineola, an industrial neighborhood lined with antiquated buildings and little else.

But if you’re traveling slow enough, you just might spot the quaint 1947 railroad car that is home to Biscuits & Barbeque, a Southern restaurant specializing in Cajun-style cooking and barbecue.

If you do take notice, your stomach is will thank your eyeballs for finding this gem of a place.

Owner Joan Gallo said she would pass the car every day on her way to the train station – back when she was general manager of a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called The Delta Grill. To her, the car looked like a diner.

“It always caught my fancy and one day I passed it by and it was for rent,” she said. “So I thought, let’s bring some Louisiana food to Mineola.”

One of her closest friends, she said, grew up in New Jersey and upon turning 18, went down to work on an oil rig in the Gulf. There, he fell in love with Louisiana cuisine and ended up starting The Delta Grill, an authentic Cajun/Creole spot that has since closed. Gallo said her friend’s love for Louisiana comfort food turned her on to it, and in 2012, Biscuits & Barbeque was born.

The area surrounding the car was farmland up until WWII, at which point factories were built for war production. Gallo, a Mineola resident whose mother was from Southold, said she suspects the car was installed for factory workers and likely used as a diner until she and her staff arrived.

“Because we’re in an industrial neighborhood, in the beginning, nobody knew we were here. And if they did and they passed us by, they just thought we were a diner,” Gallo said.

She and her staff pride themselves on being as traditional and authentic as possible, while keeping prices reasonable.

“We fly a lot of crawfish up during crawfish season for crawfish boils, we do étouffées, gumbos, jambalaya,” she said. “From March until about the end of June, we fly it up live every Friday.”

Gallo credits executive chef Ignacio Castillo, whom she calls “Nacho,” for the fresh and delicious food.

“Chef Ignacio – he was also from The Delta Grill and we’ve been working together for 21 years,” she said. “He’s just a master. He makes everything from scratch, all his desserts are from scratch, whips his own whipped cream, makes his own ice cream.”

Castillo has been a chef for 25 years and came to America from Mexico in search of opportunity. He said he very easily could have stayed in his native country and fallen into gangs, drugs or violence.

“I didn’t want that for myself,” he said. “I wanted better.”

He has trained his kitchen staff to make their own seasoning and seek consistency, but not shy away from infusing new flavors and styles into their cooking.

“We develop new recipes every week and we change the specials two times a week,” he said. “It’s endless.”

The restaurant’s top-seller is brisket, according to the chef, who said it takes 11 hours for the meat to cook at the low heat of 275 degrees. He puts the restaurant’s ribs and chicken and waffles at a close second and third.

“What makes us special is the way we deliver the food,” Castillo said. “The taste of the food. The love that we put into the food. My philosophy is, do better than yesterday.”

Biscuits and Barbeque is located at 106 East Second St. in Mineola, and open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. The restaurant offers catering services, as well as a BYOB option restricted to beer or wine.