Tallahassee has kind of a sad reputation when it comes to barbecue. For some reason, we do not have a BBQ joint that has been around for 50 years with an old character running the pit – as you would see across Texas or in Memphis.
Thankfully, we have had several new places open up and my hopes have been high for each one. However, so far I haven’t been very impressed. We do have several roadside/food truck establishments that have been filling that gap.
Last week, a new bbq place opened on the north side of town by Hurricane Grill and Wings (in front of Z. Bardhi’s, across from Publix) called the Tallahassee Smokehouse.
I had (thankfully) already found them on Facebook so that I could track their progress, and had sort of forgotten when they were opening. But then I saw a post that Mondays were “kids eat free” and “$6 Martinis” – a dangerous, but enticing combo.
Walking up to the Smokehouse, we could smell smoke emanating from the building – always a good sign for a bbq place. The interior is woodsy and welcoming, with a nice bar over to the side and flat-screen tvs all around. The bar menu has a great selection of beers and martinis.
In the back, you can see a huge smoker working away in an open kitchen type area. We were quickly seated and provided drinks. They had a nice selection of kids beverages and had wikisticks for the girls to play with. The menu actually has a lot more than BBQ, with many sandwich and burger offerings in addition to non-bbq entree choices such as fish and steak. The server was quick to point out that all apps and entrees (including the BBQ) are fresh and made that day. He said the Swordfish Dip is made fresh - cooking the swordfish and chopping it with the other ingredients (definitely trying that next time.) They are open for lunch and dinner every day, and stay open late on Friday and Saturday.
In order to try a variety of the barbecued meats, we got the Three Meat Combo with Brisket, Chopped Pork and Baby Back Ribs (with two sides – Mac ‘n Cheese and BBQ Beans) We also got one kids rib meal, with St. Louis Style Ribs and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
The brisket was moist and you could pull it apart with a gentle tug, perfectly cooked. The smoke and dry rub really flavored it well. I was impressed especially since I haven’t had good brisket in Tallahassee before. The Baby Back Ribs were good, even though they were a little too saucy for me. I think I liked the St. Louis style a little better – drier with a great bark on them. They also had a variety of sauces to choose from: Original, Sweet, Hot, and Carolina Vinegar.
The Texas Toast was a hit, but the rest of the sides were a little uneven. The Mac ‘n Cheese was liked by half (this version had corn and peppers in it) and the Garlic Mashed Potatoes were liked by half. They were a little on the gummy side to me - a frequent side effect of making mashed potatoes in mass and over beating them. The beans were more on the light and vinegary side, instead of the traditional sweet and porky southern style – I wasn’t a fan, but it may have been just the surprise of the different style.
The kid’s meals come with dessert. Although we only ordered one, the waiter generously provided one for each girl and even thought ahead to get the fried funnel sticks ordered before we were done with the entrees. Fantastic service, and we ended up having a bill of $30 for four – which is unheard of for us.
Bottom line was that when you have good ribs and brisket (harder degree of difficulty), that matters a lot more to me than the sides. When you add that to the great specials and service, you can bet that we will be back regularly. It may not be a old bbq joint in the traditional sense, but it is a definite upgrade from Sonny’s and a solid addition to the Northeast Tallahassee restaurants.