It's easy to miss Blue Stack Smokehouse on busy North Clinton Street, but the one thing that will catch your eye is the unique sign. The lantern shape gives a clue to the building's origin as an Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips.
The interior of the Smokehouse is not fancy. There are only five indoor tables and each one had its own paper towel holder - a big clue you're in for a messy, sticky treat.
According to its website, the restaurant doesn't follow any special barbecue method, and meats are smoked over pecan or fruit wood.
The menu is simple. Choose the meat you want and either one or two sides.
I ordered the beef brisket and the mac and cheese. My friend chose chicken with potato salad.
As we were ordering, we could see our meals being assembled. The
food arrived at our table before we did.
The woman who took our order said Blue Stack is known for its signature poppers. They often sell out. Poppers are jalapeno peppers that have been hollowed out and filled with cream cheese and maple sausage. They are wrapped with a slice of bacon and smoked. My second popper was even better than the first. I tasted each ingredient individually, but all the flavors complemented one another. The cream cheese cools the jalapeno and accentuates the smoky taste. During our meal we heard many customers order them - mostly by the dozen.
My beef brisket was tender enough to be cut with the plastic knife provided. The meat wasn't drowned in heavy spices and had a nice bark. The slices were thick. I could only eat one. The mac and cheese was very hot and creamy. It tasted homemade.
My friend was surprised that his entree wasn't pieces of chicken, but half of a bird. Despite the large portion, he was able to savor the whole thing. The meat was tender and fell off the bone. He said the lightly charred skin was well-seasoned and was delicious as the meat.
Blue Stack Smokehouse offers four different barbecue sauces - mustard, vinegar, sweet and hot. We sampled all of them.
Neither of us cared for the mustard-based sauce. The flavor was strong and overpowered the meat. I suggest you go easy on this sauce until you try a tiny sample.
I was prepared for a fire-alarm hot sauce, but it wasn't hot at all.
The sweet sauce was subtle and complemented the chicken and brisket. This sauce would be good on the pulled pork sandwich.
The vinegar sauce was our favorite, but we both agreed that neither the chicken nor the beef needed any sauce. The natural flavor of the meat tasted best.
When we ordered our lunch, we didn't see the sign for dessert cake rolls. We chose a pumpkin roll and a strawberry one.
The cake rolls were frozen. If you are interested in trying them, I recommend you order them with your meal, so they have time to thaw. Ours hadn't completely thawed, but it was good contrast to the meal.
When you're finished eating, be sure to clean up after yourself. The paper towel holders at each table make that easy.
There was a steady stream of customers during our meal. I suggest you go early - before they run out of poppers.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Laura Weston-Elchert at email@example.com, or call her at 461-8468.