Barbecue Comes to Rockaway This Weekend


You’ve been waiting for it and it’s finally here. Rockaway Beach Barbecue, brought to you by the folks from Swingbelly’s in Long Beach and the local Moroney family, is swinging open its doors this weekend.

Craving some barbecue favorites like smoked brisket, pulled pork or chicken, or some out-of-this-world mac’ and cheese? The wait is over, Rockaway. Rockaway Beach Barbecue, or RBQ’s, located at 97-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the site of the old Playland Grill, is gearing up to open in time for the July 4 holiday, by having a soft opening starting Saturday, June 30.

RBQ’s is the brainchild of the local Moroney family and the folks who’ve already established a popular barbecue joint in a beachside town—Swingbelly’s of Long Beach. The partnership came about when John Moroney and his son, Ryan, were thinking about opening a new restaurant in their hometown of Rockaway. Ryan Moroney has worked as the manager of Swingbelly’s for about five years and the owners were on board when introduced with a plan to dip their toes into Rockaway. “We met with the owners of Swingbelly’s and we came up with a game plan to bring what they’re doing out there to Rockaway since there really isn’t a barbecue place out here, and they were all for it,” Moroney said.

With a plan in place, a location was needed and when the opportunity to take over Playland opened, it seemed like a perfect fit. “This is a great location as this area is in its renaissance days and it has a great history between the old Boggiano’s and the Tap and Grill. It’s always been sort of an iconic place for the Rockaway community, so we figured that the location would be a successful one for us,” Moroney said.

Once the plan was in place and the location was set, a total renovation took place starting in February. RBQ’s will operate in the old Playland Grill, while their other unique aspect, “The Market” will be set in what was the first location of Whit’s End. Together, the large space has been completely transformed. From a new bar, to a new interior and exterior paint job, to seven televisions to catch the latest sports events, to customized furniture, including a table made from a barn door, RBQ’s sports a modern, yet rustic country feel with a beach town twist. “It’s completely different from Playland. It’s not even close,” Moroney said. Plus, the new space has a highly coveted aspect that Playland lacked—its own parking lot in the back, able to hold roughly 15 cars.

What’s on the menu will also be vastly different. “We’re going to have a lot of smoked barbecue products and an American Grill menu,” Moroney said. Think smoked brisket, barbecue chicken or a pulled pork sandwich served with a side of coleslaw, mac and cheese and cornbread, burgers and even a variety of salads for those who may want something different from barbecue. Guests will be able to eat in the restaurant portion of the space, featuring a fully-stocked bar and plenty of tables, or in The Market. The Market serves as the headquarters for takeout, delivery and private parties, plus it houses the professional smoker where the meats will be cooked and the space will even have a growler system where guests can bottle their own beer from a choice of 24 taps and take it to go.

Moroney says making RBQ a reality has been a tremendous effort between the partners, including himself, his son, Ryan Moroney, Joseph Hussey, Jamie Dowling, Jake Marlan, Dan Monteforte and Mike Bonino. “A lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of money has gone into this place but I think when the doors open and everyone gets to enjoy it, people will be happy and it will pay off,” Moroney said.

Ryan Moroney, who will manage RBQ thinks it’ll be a place that locals in particular will be happy with. “I’m excited not only for us, but for the town. We’re bringing a piece of what I was working on over in Long Beach, but it will have its own local vibe. We’ll have a similar menu but with a New York City and Rockaway twist. We created a real local feel in Long Beach and that’s what we want to do over here. We have the train and ferry bringing people from all over, which is great, but I can see this being a real local place, especially in the off-season. People are going to be really happy,” Ryan Moroney said.

RBQ’s will open at around noon on Saturday, June 30 for a soft opening to gear up for the holiday week. The kitchen may not be fully up and running by the weekend, so food may be limited, and the staff will be in training mode, but the bar will be fully stocked. The Moroneys say the kitchen should be ready by Monday and definitely by July 4. RBQ’s will operate seven days a week and will eventually offer weekend brunch, in addition to the regular lunch and dinner menu.

“We’re very excited to get to this point where we can open,” Moroney said. “Hopefully the community will really enjoy it.”