Friday, May 13, 2011

Smokey's BBQ

Quest Log No8 – Smokey’s BBQ
Hwy 72 West, Madison, Madison County

The Sauce Makes The Difference – that is their motto at Smokey’s BBQ in Madison, Alabama. They also say in their ads that the best barbeque in Bama (Smokey’s, of course …) is right around the corner, which is a pretty bold statement. Yeah right, but virtually every barbeque place here tells everybody all the time that they are the best, so hold your horses. We’ll see about that at the end.

Smokey’s BBQ is very conveniently located on Highway 72, on the western edge of Madison. They are in business since 1991 and proud themselves with offering good food at low prices. This, I found to be true for the most part, and what they did not mention is that the portions are also quite generous. My kind of place …
They describe their style of barbeque as East-Tennessee and claim that they make all their food from scratch. Even more my kind of place …

But back to the difference maker – the Sauce. While I absolutely agree that this is the most important part of any barbeque, the foundation of good barbeque is flavorful, tender meat, of course.
The sauces they offer at Smokey’s are indeed excellent, but the meat … well, that is a somewhat different story.
As usual, my wife had the ribs, while I opted for the pork and beef combo plate this time, with potato salad and slaw as sides, and they also give you a slice of their cornbread or a roll.
The ribs also come with one of those giant slices of corn bread (or a roll, if you prefer that), and we added some BBQ beans to that.
You can have the ribs either dry rubbed or sauced – my wife had the first variety.
It is a big pile of ribs that you get there, but quantity did not equal quality in this case. The ribs were very much on the fat side, the meat was not especially tender, and the taste was kind of neutral. The BBQ beans were your run-of-the-mill, everybody-has-those-in-their-repertoire dish. Not bad, but not spectacular, either.
That description should be reserved for the cornbread. It is more like a piece of cake than a real lunch item, both in shape and in taste. Very much on the sweeter side of the corn bread spectrum, it is the perfect desert for a BBQ meal. Fluffy and golden, sweet and little moist, it represents the high school of cornbreadism. You can even put some of Smokey’s mild BBQ sauce on it for a little savory twist. Yummy. Very.

Ahh, the sauces at Smokey’s. Before we go any further, let me sing the praise for the sauces.
Smokey’s mild BBQ sauce is a thick red sauce, which is fruity and only moderately spicy. They have another sauce there that is also called mild sauce, without the Smokey’s moniker on it, but the difference is neglectable. Well, maybe the sticker that says “Smokey’s” just fell off of it …
You can also get a pre-packaged hot sauce in those ubiquitous little plastic bags, if you must. But the real killer here, the coup de grace, the big enchilada, the I-think-heaven-is-missing-a-sauce experience, is the Mustard BBQ sauce.
I never heard of something like it before, and was very skeptical at first.
But after the first careful and hesitant taste, I was hooked. It is thick and yellow, a bit spicier than the red mild sauce, but instead of the fruity undercurrent of tomatoes and the like, there suddenly is the mustard that kicks you in the back – this sauce has an attitude!
And it goes very well with either pork or beef – and with sweet cornbread it is a revelation. Yes, the sauce does definitely make the difference!
Oh, yes, the pork and beef combo plate. Who cares on what the Mustard BBQ sauce is poured eventually? I bet even road kill Armadillo would be a feast with it.
But to be fair, my pulled pork was very good – tender and with a very well defined smoky taste. The pulled beef was a bit on the dry side, though, but also very tasty, even without the sauces. The combo plate also comes with three ribs, which makes it a very generous amount of meat altogether. My ribs, however, were even fattier than those my wife had and thus had no real value for me.
The slaw was creamy and yet surprisingly sour, which I very much like, but the potato salad had a good helping of cinnamon in it, which I found a bit disturbing.

Service was very friendly, but the place could use a bit more attention to detail when it comes to cleaning the booths. The atmosphere is quite nice, with wooden furniture and faux leather upholstery, and a few pictures on the walls. The omnipresent big screen TV on the wall does not really disturb the peace here, but a nice painting or wood carving, or even a poster with a cartoon pig on it would probably bring a few more style points.
They certainly would not get any of those for the Styrofoam plates, the plastic silverware, the little paper cups for the BBQ sauce (except the Mustard sauce, which comes in a plastic bottle – but there are only a few bottles at the counter, and if they are all already used elsewhere, tough luck for you …), and the fact that after the meal you just drop everything into one of the garbage cans, just like you would do in any fast food joint.

So, would I go there again? Yes, because of the fantastic Mustard BBQ sauce and the spectacular corn bread, although I would probably stay miles away from the ribs (alone the thought of it begins to clog my arteries …), and also would not try the pulled beef again, but order the pulled pork instead, with slaw and French fries, which are hopefully free of any hint of cinnamon. Plus, it is right around the corner from where I live, the prices are reasonable (9 bucks for the combo plate and 11 bucks for the ribs ... well, if you take the quality of the ribs into account, it is kind of overpriced, I guess ...), and now that I know what I like there and what not, the siren song of the Mustard BBQ sauce might actually prove too overwhelming from time to time.

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