Thursday, March 05, 2015

Restaurant Review: Smokeworx or "Why restaurants should have desserts"

Smokeworx is the newest restaurant to open in Ft. Dodge. It's a St. Louis style bar-b-que restaurant that opened a couple weeks ago. I'm hesitant to go to a restaurant their first month of opening as I prefer them to practice on other people and then I'll go after they've worked out the kinks. I really love Bar-B-Que though. I lived in Memphis for two years and loved the BBQ there. I worked in Texas for several years and ate really good BBQ there as well. Some of the best brisket I've ever eaten was from a roadside stand outside of Terrell, Texas. I worked for a while in St. Louis and ate that BBQ as well with gusto. I am a fan of BBQ.

As we walked into the restaurant one thing struck me immediately. This was a restaurant but of a "certain type." You ordered at the counter, paid at the counter, viewing the small menu on a monitor behind the cashier, and then sat down to wait for your food. I also noticed a lack of desserts. This becomes important later.

When we sat down in booths that still looked like Long John Silvers booths (The building was a Long John Silver's last summer, and had been for decades) we commented on the similarity to the previous restaurant. The booth seats had been replaced with what looked like pallet wood that'd been reclaimed, sanded, and varnished, perhaps with polyurethane(?). They were as uncomfortable as a Southern Baptist Church pew where comfort is seen as a sin. You don't GO to a Southern Baptist church to get comfortable and the same could be said about the seating here as well. The lighting was the second thing we noticed. I've been in operating rooms with friendlier/warmer mood lighting. It was stark, far too bright, and not at all conducive to an intimate dining experience. I should have known that from the part where we ordered at the counter like at a McDonald's. But it's just lighting right? We'd come for the food.

The food came soon, our appetizers, quaintly called Armadillo eggs (Armadillos are mammals and don't actually lay eggs, but I quibble) and they were fried jalapeƱos stuffed with, I think, cream cheese and brisket. I say I think because when they arrived and I took a bite out of the huge things that were impressive to look at I realized I couldn't bite through them. Sadly, they were still frozen, not cold, frozen... hard.

I think the grease was too hot because the outside of the armadillo eggs was pretty dark, the replacement onion rings were also pretty dark on the outside but doughy on the inside still... They weren't crisp at all but were a little greasy...

You know. I don't want this to be a laundry list of the sides and here's why, they weren't great or even all that good really and I was really afraid until I tried the brisket. That brisket really was good. It was in the top three briskets I've ever had. It was smoked perfectly. It wasn't overcooked and dry and it mostly fell apart with my fork as I ate it. The rub/seasoning on the outside was delicious. I really really enjoyed the brisket. I'll get that again. I said as we were leaving that if we came back I'd just get the meat and they could keep the sides.

I've rarely been to a BBQ place where I raved about the sides. At a BBQ place it's about the meat and if I'm honest, mostly I don't care about the sides. They have them because we feel silly in front of plate as big as our head stacked high with just meat. That, however is what I want at a BBQ place and if I'd ordered that it would have been one of the better meals I've had lately. The sides? Don't eat them. We had 4 of the ones they offered and all 4 were "Meh" at best. (The grease really is too hot. The fries he got were a) burned, they looked like sweet potato fries and weren't and 2) stale. They'd been done a while before they made it to our table.

We had a problem with our order right out of the gate but we'd already paid so they couldn't take any off our check. They couldn't really DO anything at that point except offer us a free dessert which would have been a GREAT gesture. It would have been the pitmaster, who came to our table to apologize for the frozen food we were served, and was very gracious about it but the fact remains we paid full price for food so bad it had to be sent back and resent to us... that's not enough at a restaurant. At most places fixing a mistake is enough. At a restaurant we've come, as a public to expecting MORE than just fixing it when something is that badly messed up and this place with their McDonald's style ordering and lack of a dessert they could offer us meant they couldn't really DO anything to make us leave thrilled with the experience. I wasn't. He wasn't. Both of us said "If we go back..." and not "When we go back..." that's not a good thing. Some of it was the frozen appetizer and lack of an attempt to fix it better than just fixing it... some of it was the sides were just "meh" at best. Some of it was the atmosphere.

We need a good BBQ place in Ft. Dodge and if you want good BBQ meat get it to go and JUST get the brisket. Any money you spend on sides is money you'll regret having spent. We'll try again in a month. Hopefully they have a dessert by then and have turned down the heat a little on their fryers.
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