Sunday, July 22, 2007

Smoken' Joe's Restaurant Opens in Brighton Center

The Brighton Center eatery Seoul Food closed around six months ago and has been replaced by a barbecue restaurant, Smoken' Joe's. There seems to have been some confusion about the joint: The Redstar Perspective thought the restaurant was to be part of the "Smokey Joe's BBQ" chain, but that is not the case. This is the only such restaurant by the owner.

Normally, I would be worried about a restaurant with an obvious misspelling in its name ("Smoken'") and elsewhere in its material ("barbeque" is a sign of non-Southern origins, who prefer "barbecue" and never "BBQ"). But it is nice to have an alternate kind of food in the neighborhood, particularly with so many take-out Chinese eateries, pizza joints, and pubs.

I hesitate to review a restaurant a few days after it opens, because of all the disorganization that you'd expect in the first few weeks. But the family was up to barbecue on a recent night, Smoken' Joe's got a liquor license (presumably from Seoul Food), and the stars were aligned. The service aimed to please, but was a bit frazzled probably because they are still working out the kinks.

The menu is straight-forward and simple. Most diners will focus on a few options: pork ribs (three sizes), beef brisket, or half chicken all grilled on their big smoker, or fried catfish. All have spice rubs before cooking, but without hot spices that would make them inedible by the young. Instead, you get a choice of six sauces for dipping, ranging from mild Alabama white to Memphis hot. Each dinner gets the choice of two sides, which can include a salad, and prices are $10-14. No wide-ranging, over-the-top menu here -- just barbecue and sides.

The beers on tap are well-chosen: two kinds of Samuel Adams, two kinds of Harpoon, Anchor Steam, and Budweiser. Well, all except for one. Delicious, fresh-squeezed lemonade has just enough sugar to keep your face from puckering.

The cornbread portion is small but its quality Southern-authentic: browned on the outside because its made in a cast-iron skillet, full of real corn flavor (the corn meal isn't cut with flour), and absolutely not Yankee-sweet. Butter wasn't served alongside, but the server insisted it will in the future.

The side salad greens were all romaine, and a healthy portion, but the Italian-style dressing overly salted (even for my taste buds).

The pork ribs were tender, juicy, and well-seasoned. They are dry-rubbed and smoked, but not basted, in the "Memphis Style."

The barbecued half-chicken had a tasty rub on its skin and moist meat throughout, including the breast. The thigh meat literally fell off of the bone. On first blush, a half-chicken might seem a large portion, but they use the smaller, younger kind, so few will consider it too much..

The collard greens were nearly au natural, the way I like them, but Dear Wife prefers a stronger flavor of ham hock. Green beans were delicious for old and young alike, having a delicious flavor she couldn't pinpoint.

The restaurant doesn't yave a children's menu yet, which they expect to add soon. But you can just order a larger set of ribs (or pull off the drumstick from the half chicken) and order an extra side -- like the homemade macaroni and cheese -- and the little ones will be happy.

The restaurant has no desserts yet, but is working out an arrangement to have fresh pies (nothing day old) in the future.

We'll certainly go again.

1 comment:

Leigh said...

My reference to Smoken Joe's has been one of my most popular posts! I will definitely check this place out ASAP!