Review Date: 08/04/15
Visit Date: 07/18/15
On the side of the road along the Mohawk Trail, you can't miss the smoker out in front of Smoky Bro's, a seasonal stand with counter service and picnic table dining.
Core meats include pork ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and barbecue beef (not billed as brisket). Occasional specials like Hawaiian Chicken bolster the regular menu.
A well travelled barbecue fan with some expertise in food service joined me on a 3-joint Saturday afternoon crawl that hit Smoky Bro's on the second stop.
There aren't really any appetizers as such, but we did manage to order every meat and side off theregular menu.
Ribs: The 3-meat, 3-side combo ($22) got us four bones, a pleasant surprise that kicked off a trend of generosity across the board. Meatiness varied greatly from rib to rib, but all had a pleasing maroon/mahogany tint. The slightly sweet (possibly from glazing during the cook) and well formed crust yielded to very tender underlying rib meat, all of it moist though shy of what I'd call juicy. It had a bit of a hanging-around-a-while feel, but nothing too problematic. Rub and smoke were both noticeable but light.
Pulled Pork Sandwich: Served on a simple burger bun with one side ($8), the pulled pork sandwich impressed immediately with its gargantuan serving of meat that could easily have been spread into two sandwiches at many other joints. Less impressive was the color: some of it was pink but most of it was gray. Texture had an interesting duality. While the initial bite encountered much liquid, it was more watery than juicy; beneath that veneer lay very dry, very stringy shreds. They had hints of porkiness and smoke, but for the most part this pork was a blank canvas calling out for the sauce served on the side. With this addition (a bright spot; more on that later), the sandwich was solid enough.
Beef: Not only am I not sure now what cut it was (remember, they don't call it brisket), I wasn't sure when the plate arrived that it was actually even beef. Pulled into strings, it looked very similar to the pork, only slightly darker. A closer examination showed more hints of a smoke ring and more/different seasoning. That first bite confirmed in an instant that it was beef. This probably had the best texture of any of the meats, with good tenderness and welcome moistness. Smoke was again light, and those seasonings looked more assertive than they tasted; this was all about the beef.
Chicken: Normally I don't order pulled chicken, but since there were four meats and
four sides available here, and I wanted to try a sandwich anyway, the choice of chicken
on a 3-meat combo was a no-brainer. Actually, I wouldn't call it
pulled; instead it comes in large bite sized chunks bolstered with a light
sauce and a heavy seasoning that gave it the most flavor of any of the
meats. Smoke was again hardly noticeable, but that really wasn't an
issue. The main drawback was that it was mostly breast and mostly very
dry. Unlike the other meats, the addition of sauce wasn't really an
option, since the chicken already had a flavor of its own. Because of
that flavor and the generosity of the serving, I'd call it serviceable and give it another try.
Two sauces are available near the take-out window, along with cups. Both are sweet and fruity (strawberry, perhaps) with a complex backdrop of spices. I likened them to pepper jelly, especially the hotter of the two. They tasted very homemade and were the highlight of the visit.
Baked Beans: A generous portion—hey, the meats were more than generous so no surprise that the sides were too—with a canned flavor profile but uplifted by the inclusion of smoked meat.
Cole Slaw: Crispy, tangy, studded with celery seed.
Mac and cheese: This rendition leaned toward the creamy style but with a lighter coating of cheese. Soft and mild enough to be a kids' favorite.
Cornbread: A Twinkie-like block brought the usual sweetness, a beyond-usual vanilla component and an unusual-but-not-overdone saltiness. Tender.
We both wondered whether that smoker out front had any meat in it or was being used as a prop.
The Bottom Line
The online reviews for Smoky Bro's are a lot more enthusiastic than I am, but I can see some upside. If you're driving down the Mohawk Trail on a summer's weekend day and happen to spot it, pull over and give it a try.
Yelp reviews of Smoky Bro's BBQ
Zomato reviews of Smoky Bro's BBQ