Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eating up the Hill: The Smoque Shack

I know I've been a bit less than diligent in my Hill and Hill-adjacent food blogging lately. So, in the spirit of public service, on the weekend I ventured to a BBQ place I've been meaning to try in the Byward Market: Smoque Shack.

As I've mentioned before, I've developed somewhat high standards when it comes to BBQ. Spending any time in Texas will do that. During a few trips to Austin with Dell I've had the chance to try some amazing BBQ -- Rudy's was my clear favourite. It doesn't look like much, but the food is amazing.

So I had high expectations, although I did try to temper them as Ottawa definitely isn't Texas. Still, BBQ isn't cheap and neither was Smoque Shack, so it had better be good.

Smoked BBQ is a little different than other cuisine in that you order by the pound. My first time at Rudy's, I under ordered and ended up with two ribs and half a sausage. Lesson learned. From then on, the rule has been to over-order and bring home the leftovers for lunch the next day. So that's why I went into The Smoque Shack and ordered one pound of Andouille  sausage, a half rack of St. Louis Ribs with a side of Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce, and a side of macaroni and cheese. "Would I like to add curds and bacon to my mac & cheese?" they asked. "Umm, yeah." I replied.

Restaurant: The Smoque Shack, 129 York Street
Dishes (before tax): 1/2 Rack St. Louis Side Cut Ribs $14, Side of sauce $1, 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage $10, side Macaroni & Cheese add curds and bacon $6

Let's start with the ribs. They were meaty, but dry. I don't just mean that they were served dry -- that's why I ordered the side of sauce; they were supposed to come dry. But they were also lacking in moistness. And while smoked, they didn't seem to pick up that much of the smoke flavour -- perhaps not enough time in the smoker. They were OK, a bit crumbly, but definitely made me miss the grilled ribs from Sparks Street Ribfest.

On to the sausage. It's not a typical BBQ choice, but it's one of my go-to favourites. It's hard to screw up sausage; this one was good though. It actually had a nice smoke to it, and a light bit of spice that didn't hit you until after.

The real star, however, was the mac & cheese. I'm a big mac & cheese fan, and this one ticked all my boxes. First of all, and this is important, it was actually macaroni. Too many restaurants are trying to capitalize on nostalgia kicks by putting mac & cheese on the menu but actually serving a dish with rigatoni or some other pasta. That is NOT mac & cheese. It's a run of the mill pasta dish. You can't have mac & cheese without the mac -- it's right there in the damned name. This actual macaroni was served in a cheesy sauce, topped with bacon, curds and shredded cheese and -- this is key, again -- baked, so the cheese on top is all golden and delicious. And you get a huge amount for $6 -- I was worried they had given me the dinner size until I got the bill and confirmed this was indeed the side. Amazeballs value and taste -- best part of the meal.

Finally, the ciabatta buns were interesting and fresh, but if they were going for authentic it should have been Wonder Bread. I know, but that's how they do it in Texas.

So, to sum up, mac & cheese amazeballs, sausage good, ribs were a miss. I'll give them another try in a month or two in case I caught them on a bad day, ribs wise. In the interim, I've sausage and mac & cheese for lunch today -- delish.

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