quick bite: The Smoke Shop BBQ

October 30, 2022

Boston isn’t famous for barbecue. When I first moved here, I was regularly disappointed by dry brisket, flavorless ribs, and pulled pork drenched in so much sauce you couldn’t taste the meat. But that was long ago, and now there are options for high quality BBQ. The place I go the most when I need some smoke (and don’t want to break out my smoker) is The Smoke Shop. And I’m not alone, it was recently named Best Barbecue by Boston Magazine.

The Smoke Shop has five locations in the Boston area, including the original restaurant in Kendall Square. I’m a regular at the Harvard Square post which hooked me with the Hot as Cluck, an incredibly spicy fried chicken slider. I have a fond memory of sitting in a parking lot during the pandemic crying with the hiccups because the Hot as Cluck was that spicy.

If super hot isn’t your thing, they have a regular hot version of the Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders. We had it last Friday, by mistake, but really enjoyed it. Other winning appetizers are the Hot Link with Pimento Cheese and the Chicken Wings. You can get either as an add-on, but it’s better to get the Hot Link as an app so you can get the pimento cheese with it. I’m a sucker for pimento cheese!

At The Smoke Shop I usually get a sandwich. One of the most popular choices is the House Smoked Turkey and Stuffing. It’s a non-traditional New England Thanksgiving sandwich with cranberry-mayo and a side of hot gravy. They also have a fried chicken sandwich, which is a non-spicy take on the sliders but with the addition of pimento cheese!

For more traditional BBQ, you’ve got to get the brisket. It is tender, fatty, and flavorful. You can get it either as a platter with two sides or a sandwich with one. I also enjoy the ribs and the pulled chicken. For all these, sauce is on the side. My favorite is the gold sauce, a mustard based sauce. They also have two traditional sauces, one spicy and one sweet. For sides, you can’t go wrong with the crinkle cut fries dusted in pit spices, and the brussels sprouts are also delicious.

For dessert, the choices are limited, but that’s ok because they are all/both great. The first choice is the butter cake, which is almost a St. Louis-style gooey butter cake. It’s not as good as my mom’s, but good enough that I order it every time. You can get a center cut piece or the edges which are called “the crack.” Because I like it so much, I never moved on to ordering the second dessert until this weekend when we decided to have two desserts. The banana pudding, another southern classic, is so good that I might pass on the butter cake one of these days. Or I might always have to get two desserts.

There is more than great food at The Smoke Shop. They have a world class whiskey collection. They stock a few of my favorite hard to find whiskeys and at a pretty reasonable price. They have an excellent cocktail program including four takes on the Old Fashioned. I go for the classic (pre-prohibition style), but my wife is a fan of the Mad Man (with orange and cherry). Their signature old fashioned is made with brisket-infused Four Roses Bourbon and a smoked sugar cube. Not a cocktail for vegetarians! I also recommend the Bayou Sour or the Saving Daylight, which is a great dessert cocktail. The Smoke Shop is more than great barbecue. It’s the best southern food in New England with a killer bourbon list. If you have been, please let me know, and if you haven’t, don’t wait.

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