Review Date: 07/21/16
Visit Dates: (07/08/16)
Located in a small shopping plaza on a stretch of road filled with similar shopping plazas, Smokeshow Barbeque is a simple over-the-counter joint offering a menu of six barbecue meats sold by the pound, with sides available a la carte. Rather than booths, deuces and four-tops, the seating is in three rows of communal tables, exuding somewhat of a Texas vibe. To further that, there's a J&R smoker behind the counter, and all of the preparation is done out in the open while you wait. If there's too much of a wait, you could always pass the time at the lingerie and intimate accessories shop next door.
The menu sticks pretty much with the basics, with all meats available by the pound (most at around $7 per half pound), with no minimum, so you can order as much or as little as you desire. These include pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked turkey, smoked sausage (two kinds) and a hybrid called "Goodness" that combines brisket, pork and turkey scraps. The boneless offerings are also available as sandwiches ($5.50).
I visited Smokeshow with a well versed barbecue bud for a Friday lunch.
You could certainly make an appetizer out of smoked sausage, or even a few ribs, but the usual appetizer suspects like wings, fried pickles and the like are not offered. If that translates into more attention paid to the staples and more freshness from them, I'm all for a smaller menu.
Ribs: An order of four St Louis cut pork ribs brought three mid-sized bones and a smallish one, all well crusted and all bearing a mostly black pepper rub that was the most potent representation of the meal in the rub department. Smoke was light, moisture was decent and the bite seemed fairly fresh. ocerall flavor was adequate, though more smoke, more porkiness or more well rounded rub might have pushed these into craveable territory.
Brisket: Thick cut slices had little smoke ring but substantial bark at the periphery and the requisite droop factor. As for moistness, some had it in traces while others had it in spades. Flavor was substantially beefy, with smoke (traces) and peppery rub (more than traces, less than spades) backing it up. The real calling card here was the texture, with doneness right on the money, moistness at least adequate in even the lesser slices and inside-out contrast helping the cause. More smoke and more rub would help the cause even more. While I wouldn't put this brisket at the level of Phil's (Milford NH or Goody Cole's (Brentwood NH), it's in that next tier.
Sausage: With Andouille and cheddar jalapeño available, we chose the latter, going with a single link. It was a wise choice, as the cheddar melted perfectly inside the housing that may have been the smokiest (though moderately so) meat of the day. Peppery heat, good snap and tender, juicy meat also made the sausage the best meat of the day. I can't imagine not getting it every time, especially when it's such an easy add-on.
Goodness: Imagine sauced pulled pork, only made instead with scraps of brisket and turkey as well. Done here, it had a similar texture (mostly soft strings with some chopped bits) and flavor (sauce leading the way; rub and smoke far behind) as the pulled pork, with a little more complexity on both.
Turkey: Slices cut from smoked breasts had crisp browned skin on the perimeter, nice bendability but only mere hints of moistness. That deficit was more than overcome by a strong and pleasant flavor that, while hardly fiercely smoky, was emphatic about letting you know it was smoked. There may have been brining or curing involved, but whatever it was, it was very tasty and a quantum leap above any smoked turkey you'd get at a supermarket. .
Pulled pork: A respectable rendition had the benefit of a generous serving for the price, a very tender texture with just the right bounce-back to avoid being overdone, and high bark content to keep things interesting. The pork was lightly sauced with an uncharacteristically sweet choice that didn't overwhelm the porkiness, but whatever smoke or rub flavors were in there got a little lost. All things considered, there were more positives than negatives, so I'd get it again.
A single sauce is available in squeeze bottles on the table: a mostly sweet number with a slippery mouthfeel and just enough heat and tang to bring some contrast. I like the sauce, though it seems to be an odd choice for the Texas style meats it's trying to complement. Some additional options would be very welcome. The sauce station also supplies sliced pickles.
Mac and Cheese: Al dente elbow noodles get introduced to a mild cheese sauce right before service. There are no bells or whistles here, with the flavor light and the mixing a little hasty. It gets the job done, but probably isn't worth ordering again.
Cole slaw: A super crunchy mix of white and purple cabbage had a super thick condiment that may have included sour cream but tasted more bland. With no spices, sweet notes, sour notes or other components to grab the attention, this slaw was more suitable for fiber than flavor.
Cornbread: A large piece brought golden brown color, coarse texture, freshness, moistness and just enough sweetness to make it a cake but not so much to jeopardize its status as a side. More complexity than in your typical Twinkie-like variety.
Remember, just because the meats are priced by the half pound doesn't mean you can't order by the rib, link or fixed number of slices.
Don't get hung up on the communal seating. You might see something you hadn't thought of ordering and you might even make some new friends.
The Bottom Line
For the most part, Smokeshow Barbeque succeeded in presenting good to very good barbecue textures and fresh meats at a good value. Flavor might have a little catching up to do (and sides might have a lot of catching up to do), but the initial impression is quite positive, especially after only a few weeks in business. There's enough to like already and enough upside that I can envision a return visit at some point.
Yelp reviews of Smokeshow Barbeque
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