Food Adventures: Men In The Kitchen Kicked-Up Sandwiches And Barbecue

By Rachael Rivera, AAP Columnist

My family constantly battles over who does the best ribs; and my brother swears by his steak grilling technique over anyone else’s. Regardless of whom does it best, the important thing is that we have a passion for our barbecue. The newly-opened Pennsauken-based eating establishment I visited for this month’s column seems to have come from the same group of food-loving, kitchen-savvy, family-loving folks.

Nina and Darrin Hardison are the masterminds behind Men in the Kitchen Kicked-Up Sandwiches and Barbecue, located at 9003 North Crescent Blvd. in Pennsauken.

Nina and Darrin Hardison are the masterminds behind Men in the Kitchen Kicked-Up Sandwiches and Barbecue, located at 9003 North Crescent Blvd. in Pennsauken.

I walked in the door of Men in the Kitchen Kicked-Up Sandwiches and Barbecue and was welcomed by smoky, tasty goodness drifting in the air, followed by a warm greeting from everyone there. Sirita, the young lady at the counter and the first person I encountered, greeted me with a big smile and welcomed me to the place. Everyone was treated like they were good friends. When you walk in, the open kitchen layout allows for some entertainment; as you wait for your platter or sandwich, you can watch the actually Men in the Kitchen work their magic.

Nina and Darrin Hardison are the masterminds behind Men in the Kitchen. Nina grew up in Mt. Holly and Darrin grew up in Camden; they also have a lot of family from Pennsauken. Both grew up in a family of cooks and catering. Nina’s grandmother even owned her own eatery. After seriously considering starting up a restaurant for years, they took the plunge and Nina quit her job of 25 years to work at the eatery full time. Her husband, Darrin, though still working a full time job elsewhere, manages to make all of the rubs and sauces that they use every day. He has definitely refined his art and takes on the title of “mad scientist” when crafting his homemade creations. He just concocted a new flavor called “spicy mango.” It’s sweet and spicy and hits your taste buds in all the right places.

Along with Darrin in the kitchen is Rashaan Matlock, the jerk chicken and coleslaw man. He was in his element; the skill and focus he showed reads of the passion he has for cooking. Parris Weddington made the wildest potato salad I’ve ever had. I still can’t place my finger on what made it as good as it was. It’s creamy and tangy and seems like it was made to pair with all the barbecue they make there. I was tempted to slather it all over my pork. He also makes a pineapple cornbread to die for.

Their barbecue, I must say, stands strongly on its own. I ate it without a drop of sauce at first and was completely pleased at how flavorful it was without anything on it. This stuff is the real deal, smoke ring and all. Some of it is smoked for 15 hours! I also want to give a shout out to the mac and cheese, which is an essential at any barbecue event.

I could go on about the food forever. What I felt in my time there was like I was hanging out at a friend’s parent’s house and they were offering me a taste of everything they were whipping up in the kitchen, something you’re hard pressed to find at a chain.

Nina explained it perfectly when she said, “Corporate places are too businessy. Our main concern is the food; and if the food is on point then the people will come. We want our customers to feel like they are getting their money’s worth.” She then explained to me how they want to cater their food to the working man and woman. They want folks to be able to run down the street for a hot, delicious lunch. Nina hopes to expand and turn the current location into a luncheonette-type eatery.

Men in the Kitchen is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. They are closed on Sundays. They are located at 9003 North Crescent Blvd., right next to Pennsauken Check Cashing and U-Haul. They also offer catering and their smoker is mobile! A banquet room is also located at their eatery and fits up to 65 people comfortably. You can call (609) 543-9003 for orders or contact Nina at (856) 870-9563 to ask about banquet hall rentals and catering. Men in the Kitchen Kicked-Up Sandwiches and Barbecue is also on Instagram and Facebook.

Let’s give a warm welcome to this great, new barbecue joint in town!

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