Thursday, 13 June 2013

Casual Dining - The Smoke BBQ

Talk about hard to get into.  The Smoke just about takes the 'kewpie doll prize' for that.  I guess it was partly my fault too, I kept calling up on the day I wanted to go to try to get a booking, mmmm, good luck with that.  I had been trying to get the planets to align and visit The Smoke BBQ, and after a few false starts I managed to get a mid week booking.  CI and I were trying to head out for a boys night out eating meat. The Smoke BBQ was a place that CI had been to a few times before and quite liked, while I was going for my first time.  I was keen to find out why this place was so popular.

While I am a big lover of protein, especially pork and beef, I've only come to eating American style food recently and was still buzzing from my last experience at Carolina Kitchen (see post here).  The Smoke has perhaps the biggest reputation as an American style food joint, so I was pretty excited to get stuck in.  The only other American BBQ experience that CI and I had shared before was over at the SSS Steakhouse in the CBD, which I thought was pretty good.  With those two experiences in mind, I was raring to get stuck into some authentic American style ribs.

The Smoke BBQ has been around for quite a while and opened its doors to New Farm locals in 2006 and has steadily built a reputation as the BBQ joint in town.  Founded by American restaurateur Steve Johnson, the concept was created by Steve's desire to bring a genuine American BBQ to Brisbane.  Steve specially imported a smoker from the United States to ensure authenticity.  The place was originally called Blue Smoke BBQ but after some renovations in 2010, which included an outdoor patio area, it was renamed to The Smoke BBQ.

Normally when CI and I head out for dinner we usually meet at my place in the CBD and go onto the restaurant from there, however a recent move close to the CBD changed our plans somewhat.  We agreed that we would drive over separately and just meet at The Smoke.  I was first to arrive to a fairly empty looking restaurant and after confirming my reservation was led back outside to the patio area.  On a nice warm summer's day this may have been a great seat, but in the cold of a rainy winter, it was not a great seat.  Not even a good seat.  CI turned up a few minutes later and was actually OK with where we were sitting....  A short while after we were seated our menus were brought over to us and it was time to order.

If you don't like meat, there is not much on offer for you at The Smoke BBQ with a menu that is very much focussed on meat cooked in the traditional American style.  There are some options for those that are less inclined to order meat, but there is no mistaking that there is one star of the show here and it's definitely not vegetarian style.  CI and I decided to get a starter to share and debated for awhile about which of the chicken wings we would get.  I was pretty keen on the spicy Buffalo chicken wings, but CI eventually convinced me that they were too spicy and we settled on the honey soy chicken wings.

The honey soy chicken wings are crispy wings tossed in honey soy sauce and garnished with green onion.  The chicken wings were mainly made up on drumsticks with a few of the wings thrown in for good measure, most people love the drumsticks so this is likely a crowd pleaser.  The wings were dripping with the honey soy sauce, which pooled at the bottom of the bowl and was great for dipping the wings in for additional flavour.  The chicken was well cooked with lovely crispy skin and the honey soy was sweet but not excessively so.  I really enjoyed the chicken wings and found them to be a little moreish, so much so that CI and I almost fought over the last wing!

CI surprised me a little with his selection of the hickory chicken, which was a half chicken, slow hickory smoked and finished off on the char grill then served with a side of Vodka BBQ sauce. I really thought he would go for the ribs.  When the plate of food was delivered, I was a little disappointed with the presentation, which looked as if it was thrown together with very little care.  There were a smattering of chips with the chicken almost carelessly placed on top next to a small pile of coleslaw.  While the plate didn't look too appealing, the smell of the hickory smoked chicken was incredible.  I had a small bite of the breast of the chicken (skin on) and really savoured the taste of the hickory, it was quite amazing.  What was even more amazing was when I had some of the chicken with the Vodka sauce, which really intensified the smokey flavour.  Most of the chicken was cooked really well, but CI found that it was a little too pink near the drumstick, so ended up not finishing it off.

There was no way I was going to go to The Smoke and not have ribs, so I opted for the St. Louis 'thick cut' pork ribs, which were rubbed with seasoning and hickory smoked then also finished on the char grill and covered in St. Louis style BBQ sauce.  It's true that I haven't had a heap of ribs in the past, but I was certainly surprised with what was placed in front of me, which was almost indistinguishable as ribs.  I also thought that my place was carelessly put together with a handful of chips underneath the ribs, which were really hard to get to without moving the ribs to the side.  Eating perfectly cooked ribs is a real pleasure, especially when the meat is so tender it just falls off the bone.  I found the meat on my pork ribs to be extremely overcooked, so much so much so that the meat was dry and tough and really hard to cut through.  The flavour of the St. Louis sauce was really nice, but it was a bit sparse and I found that I needed a heap more to help eat the dry pork.  Not the experience I was hoping for with these ribs, although I really liked the coleslaw that came on the plate.

I didn't want to finish off the meal just yet, so I decided that I would give the desserts a go and after perusing the menu decided that the banana cream pie would be worth a try.  Unfortunately shortly after making my dessert order the waiter came back to inform me that there wasn't any banana pie on offer that night.  A little disappointed, I went for my next best option which was the warm chocolate nut brownie served warm with vanilla bean ice cream.  I soon got over my disappointment when the delicious looking brownie was placed in front of me, with heaps of runny chocolate sauce.  The brownie was rich and wonderful with the additional textures of the nuts adding to my dining pleasure.  The best part was mixing the warm brownie with its rich sauce with the cold vanilla ice cream, yum!

It was really great catching up with CI without the girls around.  I mean we both love our partners to bits, but there is something great about a couple of mates getting together and letting loose.  I think that because we were having such a great time I wasn't so critical about the food and the seats.  It was a bit of a mixed bag evening for me, we had a great time and the starter and dessert was really nice, but the star of the show was a big let down for me.  CI definitely had the pick of the mains with his wonderfully hickory smoked chicken.

While the food on the night was a bit hit and miss, the service on the night was very good.  Sometimes when you are sitting outside, it's possible that the service drops a bit (out of sight, out of mind), but this was certainly not the case at The Smoke.  The wait staff were patient with CI and I while we cracked our lame jokes and were there when we needed them.

There is no doubt that The Smoke is one of the most popular casual dining spots in Brisbane and may even be considered a New Farm institution.  There is very much an American feel to the place with baseball on the TV and owner Steve wandering around showing his hospitality by asking if diners were enjoying their meals.  CI had been a couple of times and always enjoyed it but found the main reason to visit a place like The Smoke (the ribs) to be a little lacking and of all the ribs joints I have been to so far, this would be my least favourite.


The ribs were really dry and there was not enough sauce to soak up the meat
The smoky butter was wonderful with the cob loaf bread, but this was also a little dry
The outside patio area was pretty busy and I think we had the worst seats in the house
A lot more comfortable looking inside, especially in the middle of winter
The Smoke BBQ on UrbanspoonThe Smoke BBQ


  1. Presentation does not appear to be high on their agenda for sure

  2. Nope, and we certainly eat with our eyes before our mouths!

  3. The blue hot wings are delish, if you can handle it!

  4. Haha, I will have to give the hot wings a go next time! I won't go with my 'soft' mate :)


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