When you enter Smokin' Q, you might think you entered the wrong door, because the place doesn't look like a barbecue joint. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a little different. The place is spacious and clean, with tasteful, neatly framed photographs on the walls. Only the checkered tablecloths and the squeeze bottles of barbecue sauce on the tables offer any hint that barbecue will be coming out of the kitchen. There's a small bar on your left, near the windows. On your right, you place and pay for your order at the hostess stand, providing your table number, then wait at the table for your order to be brought by a runner. It's a little unusual, but not unprecedented (Q Restaurant, Bobbique).
In the kitchen, they use Ole Hickory pits shaped like large mailboxes. Pitmaster Nestor Laracuente previously worked the pits at Dinosaur Bar-B-Q uptown.
Smokin' Q offers a streamlined barbecue menu with one kind of rib (St Louis pork), pulled pork, sliced brisket and barbecued chicken. Two-meat, three-meat and Sampler Plate (all four meats) combos are served with cornbread and your choice of two sides. There are no appetizers listed as such, but chicken wings are offered as an a la carte side, as are fried green tomatoes, devilled eggs and onion rings. A burger, a grilled chicken sandwich and a grilled shrimp plate are the only non-barbecue entrees. Three different salads are offered with and without meat.
I visited Smokin' Q for a weekday lunch a few months after they opened.
I ordered the Sampler Plate ($26.50) to try the ribs, pork chicken and brisket all on the same visit. The platter was very appetizing, with the meats and cornbread neatly arranged on an aluminum sheet pan with thin liner paper between them. The saucing was a little heavy-handed, but everything looked good, with the sculpted pile of pork the real eye-catcher.
Pulled pork had a good representation of bark among the assortment of different colors of meat. All of the pork was moist and tasty, with an assertively smoky flavor. It was a little fatty in a few spots, but not so much so that the fat was indible; the fat acted more as a moisturizer.
Brisket was sliced thick, with a very dark, very crisp bark and a faint pink smoke ring. The interior had a nice flavor but was dry.
Ribs were small but fairly meaty, with a light crust, a pink smoke ring and a nice smoky flavor to match. I liked the texture, which was tender without falling off the bone. I didn't like that they were drenched in sauce, although the sauce wasn't bad.
Chicken was the most heavily sauced and the least smoky item on the platter. Like the brisket, it has a pleasing flavor but was dry.
Two sauces are available on the table in squeeze bottles: your basic straightforward Kansas City style sauces, with a slight variation in heat.
Cole slaw was a home style version that straddled creamy and spicy with competence. The baked beans looked a little disappointing at first, because the beans themselves were so small, but I dug in to find both the flavor and texture appealing. At first I didn't know what to make of them, but I kept tasting and tasting, liking each forkful more than the last. With sweet red peppers, other unorthodox flavors and a smoky undercurrent, this dish could also be considered a baked bean salsa. Cornbread was pretty standard.
The bottom line: There were a few misfires, but I liked much of what I tried at Smokin' Q, especially the pulled pork. I'd like to return with a larger party to survey more of the menu and revisit the core barbecue items. Though the room lacks the excitement of nearby Brother Jimmy's and Southern Hospitality, I think the food compares more than favorably. How they compare to the New York City BBQ elite is a question for another day, and I'm looking forward to that day.
Insatiable Critic (Gael Greene) on Smokin' Q
Feisty Foodie's Review of Smokin' Q
Urban Spoon reviews of Smokin' Q