In Leonardo, BBQ and Mini Golf Served Up with Gusto

May 11, 2018
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On Route 36 in Leonardo, Jersey Shore diners can get a barbecue dinner and a round of mini golf at TSTBBQ. Owner Charles Mule hopes to draw summertime crowds with his unique recipes and concept.

By Chris Rotolo | 

MIDDLETOWN – A new barbecue restaurant is looking to entice customers in with a menu of smoked meats, cooked low and slow over natural wood in custom-made barbecue pits, accompanied by a round of mini-golf.

TSTBBQ and Mini Golf is the name of the unique Leonardo-based eatery at 910 Route 36 East launched by Charles Mule of Middletown, who has made a name for himself in the world of mobile tailgate parties for corporate events.

A year ago he came to the closed site to check out the attached kitchen for lease, which had been used for pizza in the past. He was looking for an opportunity to serve up his own signature backyard barbecue.

“I came in, looked around, saw the mini golf course and said ‘no.’ But it did stick in my mind for two or three weeks.”

The more he thought about it, the more he realized it could be a unique Jersey Shore destination that would get lots of exposure from summer beachgoers driving towards Sandy Hook. With his wife’s encouragement, he signed on, and took a dive into the food and entertainment business.

“I’ve never worked in a restaurant or went to a culinary school; I’ve never so much as bussed a table in a restaurant,” said Mule. “But here we were, opening up one of our own.”

Over the past year, Mule got to work on his brisket, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork and chicken dishes which can be “top-shelved” with bacon-wrapped onion ring, mac and cheese, fire and ice pickles and barbecue sauce. He developed a smoked filet mignon chili and the Ribdog – fall off the bone ribs with melted cheese and diced onion on a toasted hot dog bun and Mule’s Burnt Ends – crisp, succulent cubes of charred brisket – that are in such demand you can only order them on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s advised you do so in advance as they often sell out.

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“This is a labor of love,” Mule said. “We love what we do. We love the food we make. We love seeing other enjoy it. And that all resonates with our community.”

TSTBBQ and Mini Golf owner Charles Mule stands inside his Leonardo location, which he hopes to transform into a gaming center and restaurant that will be a summertime destination.

On April 16 – just 11 months after opening its doors – TSTBBQ and Mini Golf was visited by Casey Webb, host of the Travel Channel series Man V. Food, a nationally syndicated showcase of fascinating snacks and the eccentric establishments that ser ve them up. The episode has not yet aired.

There is much to look forward to as summer approaches.

“I want to create a destination where not only the kids, but the adults are happy to come to,” Mule said. “We’re envisioning a complete outdoor gaming center coming this summer, where the kids can play mini golf, while their parents can play cornhole, or horseshoes or bocce. And when you get hungry, come see us for some barbecue.”

TSTBBQ and Mini Golf is located at 910 Route 36, near Chamone Avenue. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but is open on Wednesday (4-8:30 p.m.), Thursday, Friday and Saturday (noon-8:30 p.m.), and Sunday (noon-7 p.m.). The site does not serve liquor. Mini Golf is open whenever the barbecue is open, and the fee is $6. The site is available for birthday parties and corporate events. Recently, the establishment began offering trays of food for pick up, drop off and tailgate events.

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This article was first published in the May 3-10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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