Southern Barbeque Dreams: A Review of Smok Denver
I've dreamed of real Southern barbeque for my entire life. Flaky biscuits and succulent meat and the perfect mac and cheese (that's a story for another post).
And, of course, sweet tea.
I didn't particularly like barbeque growing up because, to be honest, it sucked most places I tried it. The meat was dry or bland, and on the rare occasion the meat was good, everything else was hopeless. Grocery store buns, gloppy mac and cheese, limp pickles.
Yet, I still dreamed of the thing I knew was out there: real barbeque. The kind that makes people believers.
Last year, we had a four hour layover in Atlanta. So, we did what any crazy foodie would do and spent $40 on Ubers to go eat real, Georgia barbeque.
It was transcendent.
The meat was succulent. The barbeque sauce was next level. The tea was sweet. The mac and cheese was heavenly. The okra was crispy on the outside, slimy on the inside. There were toasted buns and there were snappy pickles.
There was loud country music playing, every square inch of the walls was covered in, well, shit (which I'm sure could also be described as memorabilia) and our food came in plastic red baskets with gingham printed papers.
It made me a barbeque believer.
When I first heard about Smok moving into my favorite collective marketplace in RiNo, the Source, I kept my hopes in check. Colorado and barbeque go together about as well as your grandma and her smartphone.
We just don't get it.
But then, I saw a picture of their alcoholic slushies and I couldn't help it. I was excited.
We walk into Smok and it doesn't feel like that Atlanta barbeque joint. It's sleek and has an exposed ceiling and there is no gingham in sight, but we're quickly distracted by the intoxicating smell and the hunks of meat being sliced behind the counter.
We order at the line, grab silverware out of a basket and sit down at a communal steel table. The slushies come from the bar and they are the first hint that this is not your typical barbeque joint. There is yuzu in one, allspice in another. Though they are hot pink and bright blue, they don't taste like Bourbon Street regret, they taste like a grown up pool party.
Then, our food is being placed in front of us.
The buns are so glossy. The mac and cheese…
Well, the mac n cheese is already in my mouth and it's reminiscent of cacio e pepe in the best way.
The pickles...oh, ordering an extra side of pickles was such a good idea. Snappy, and dotted with pickled red onions and jalapenos.
Finally, my attention turns to the centerpiece. The bun is glossy on top and when I pick it up, I'm pleased to note it's toasted to perfection. The pulled pork is the perfect combination of crispy and moist. It's adorned by a ginger slaw, that gives it an Asian feel, and still is amazing slathered in their barbeque sauce. The Nashville hot chicken sandwich Topher orders has just the right level of heat. The breading holds up and doesn't slough off.
Our hands are sticky and our mouths are full and it doesn't feel like Georgia, but it feels like Colorado has figured out barbeque, in it's own style.
Get yourself to Smok.
3330 Brighton Blvd #202
Denver, CO 80216