The Work We Do: Dennis O’Leary, Maple Tree BBQ Smokehouse

Hi, I’m Dennis O’Leary of the Maple Tree BBQ Smokehouse. I essentially run this place — I’m an owner. [My wife and I have] had this place for a little over three years, and we’ve really transformed it. It was once known as a deli and now we’re a full-service restaurant. 

On a typical day here, when I come in, I’m just making sure my restaurant is ready, open for business, getting into interacting with my customers while watching the kitchen and making sure everything works accordingly.

We take pride in smoking meats the “good old fashioned” way, I’d say. We smoke our meats every day, like our tagline says, by using oak wood. There’s no gas or propane involved … We smoke brisket, ribs, chicken, pastrami, salmon, turkey, and it’s really something I take pride in because it’s really unique, everything is made from scratch.

Years back, I was actually working as a financial executive in the city. I had my CPA and everything. I just had a passion for this style of cooking. I was always someone who worked in my backyard … When the opportunity to buy this place became available three years ago, we seized it, and my plan B turned into my plan A.

Our restaurant is busy all year round, but in the summer is when our catering really spikes. … when you have all the graduation parties, everyone is having a backyard barbecue, rehearsal dinners, all that … We’re really busy up until mid-October, when we peak.

I love being a part of this community — living and working in it. I’m very happy to be here as a business owner in Riverhead because I feel like it offers a lot to us in terms of a wide customer base and a year-round business versus places out east, which are very much seasonal.

I also think, from how we prepare our sides, our mac and cheese, our potatoes, even our sauces, our barbecue sauces — they’re all prepared from scratch.

You are essentially getting a home-cooked meal when you come to my restaurant. I think that’s what makes the difference compared to any other places that are out there.

“The Work We Do” is a News-Review multimedia project profiling workers around Riverhead Town. It is made possible by Peconic Landing. See more photos every Monday on Instagram @riverheadnewsreview.