Strange Fed Fellows: BBQ and Elegance
By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Staff writer, Conrent Manager
I have been waiting and watching that SW corner of Main St and 1st Ave for a REALLY long time and finally the Smokehouse Downtown opened. As I have mentioned elsewhere, when it comes to restaurants, it's the total experience that I'm interested in, including the building. The building that houses Smokehouse is an old historical one, and the best part about it is the beautiful stained glass windows. They are surrounded on the outside by beautiful old red brick, and now, thanks to the new owners, very cool stone work. This building has a long history in Gainesville and hopefully the GLOB Historian will provide some of that information – or maybe some of you GLOBBERS will.
So much for the outside. I really wanted to get inside to get the full effect of the windows. I was not disappointed. In addition to the windows, the décor was exceptional. There are heavy wood tables that, I learned from their website (link below), are made from 105-year-old heart pine taken from the attic of the building. Booths are well upholstered with high backs for privacy. Floors are aard wood. In short, the interior is very elegant but not at all formal.
Wait, isn't this a barbecue place? Yes, it's "gourmet barbecue." How strange is that? So let's just see about this. My friend was quite excited about the potential for some good BBQ brisket.
Sure enough, the menu is not your father's barbeque, but all the usual suspect ingredient are there: brisket, pulled pork, ribs, coleslaw, beans, corn, onion rings, smoked meat sandwiches, and barbecue platters. In keeping with the upscale style of the building and the claim of gourmet food, however, you do indeed find some dishes, ingredients, and treatments that are not typical.
We started off with an appetizer of Smoke Rings. They were big and thick and crunchy and the onion plentiful, but they were a little too greasy. When will I learn? They were served with remoulade (OK, I finally had to look that up after all these years: mayonnaise, chopped pickles, capers, anchovies, and herbs). Also very good.
For our entree, it was all so tantalizing that my friend and I decided to make sure we picked completely different sides so we could taste each other's and get the wides coverage possible, so to speak. She is a very discerning lover of brisket, so her meat choice was a given. For her sides she got Mean Greens, which is local collards with lemon and olive oil, and Smoked Corn, which is shucked and sautéed in tequila-lime butter. I got the smoked turkey with sweet potato fries and slaw. Overall, we were both very pleased: The brisket passed the acid test; it had a great flavor and texture. The turkey's texture was like butter.
Of the sides, I liked the corn the best – browned but not tough. The coleslaw had a touch of ginger, which I really enjoyed. The greens tasted fishy to me for some reason, but my friend thought they were great. The sweet potato fries were a little disappointing – they were not crispy. But they were well done and almost velvety inside so they tasted good even thought they did not meet expectations.
The sauce that came with the fries was a bourbon laced sauce. My friend thought the alcohol flaver was too strong and I thought it was too sweet, so I used the remoulade and it was a great combination with the sweet potato. Smokehouse also has their own special barbecue sauces. I tasted them all and all were very good and a little different.
Last but not least, we ordered the Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake to share and we both declared it was excellent. It's a creamy cheesecake rather than cake-like, which is how I prefer my cheesecake. Yum!
I can't end without adding that the Smokehouse is powered by solar energy and has an innovative, hydroponic roof garden [that] will produce over 3,000 food plants at a time. The restaurant owners also have a farm in Reddick, Florida, taht will supply up to 10,000 plants for the restaurant. So in addition to being well done and interesting, the food is local, fresh, and cooked up with alternative energy.
All in all, the Smokehouse has it all. I am looking forward to my next lunch there.
The Pluses and Minuses of the Smokehouse Downtown
Smokehouse + indicators : Building, interesting menu, local food, sustainable energy.
Smokehouse - indicators: To be determined after next visit.
Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!