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Smoke Joint - Thank Jebus!!

There has been a pretty consistent choir of praise for this BBQ joint in the old Cambodian restaurant space in Fort Greene, but I'd like to add another voice to the music as I finally got around to eating there Saturday night with four friends.

First, the food - hallelujah finally some NYC BBQ where you can actually taste the smoke. I ordered a half rack of Spare ribs which had a fantastically caramelized outer shell of spiced goodness and a juicy, smokey bonanza of meat underneath. The ribs were not sauced upon serving, but you are given a side ramaken of sauce - I did not need it. The meat itself was so well prepared I touched the sauce only once just to try it.

I had two sides - mac/cheese and BBQ beans. The mac/cheese was good but unremarkable. The beans however!! I almost like them better than the ribs I had. Deep molasses taste with a solid does of pulled pork in the beans (I think it was pork,could have been beef, not sure). Rich and hugely rewarding.

My friends had brisket which I did not try and Baby Back ribs which I also did not try. The brisket is not sliced in strips as I've usually seen but rather looks like a prime rib. Gloriously fatty and a huge portion. That's mine next time.

I still think Dinosaur is the best BBQ in the city but this is a very close second and I don't have to leave my borough to get it. The menu is rounded out pretty well but there are no combo options, which is disappointing - I would have liked a ribs/brisket combo or a chicken/ribs combo. The owner works the counter and is one of the most hospitable and helpful people I've run into at a restaurant. Because there is no waitress service the tables are first come first serve. This could be problematic with larger parties but the owner said that Moe's (the bar around the corner) will let you take your dinner there and eat as long as you drink. This seems like a fine option to me.

Oh and maybe I missed it but I didn't see any cornbread. Bummer. All in all though, this place gets what BBQ is about - SMOKE and large, fresh portions. It's always such a nice shock to taste actual smoked meat in a BBQ joint in this city as it so rarely is considered more important then dumping large quantities of vile over-sugared sauce on clearly boiled meat.

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  1. I have to agree with the praise of Smoke Joint. - We were in there too, on Saturday night and my take is that its a class operation with very tasty food. The spare ribs, tips and shredded (?) beef all were full of good meaty and smoky flavor and well cooked - the sides were also generally good - one of my companions scarfed up all the beans so my recommendation is secondhand - the mac&cheese was delicious but not exactly the yellow cheese classic - there was some cream or cream cheese, as well as some nutmeg going on in there - kale was good and vinegary but could have been rounded out with some meat flavor - I think these guys could learn from ICI in the delicious greens department; the non-mayo slaw was made with red cabbage, and the pieces were too big and leathery - spicing was very good but this one could use some more work.

    I think the sauces could be improved upon (the tomato based one was better) - and be more interesting but its only a quibble - the meat didint need the sauce. Would be good to have salt on the tables.

    Yes there is cornbread of a sort - one of our dishes was garnished with two tiny and very sweet and insipid corn muffins (out of a box???) Cornbread, please.

    I really liked the way this place was set up, down to the nice round trays used for selfservice, and the care and professionalism of the guys. think it can only improve

    1. the guys are only included with one of the dishes right now - when i was there a few weeks ago, they said they were waiting until they perfected it to add it as a side, since their kitchen isn't ideal for baking right now.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dahl01

        Can I assume they'll be adding cornbread, and not guys, as a side?

        1. re: Peter Cherches

          whoops, meant to write "the guys are only including cornbread..."

      2. I tried smoke joint tonight after hearing the great reviews. I had a sampling of everything from the hacked pork to the beef tips, the barbeque shrimp, and the baby back ribs.

        The service was good and fast...the owner was ultra friendly and I really was looking forward to enjoying our food. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. The hacked pork was the most smokey but quite wet and soggy. I had to smother it with their bbq sauce to enjoy it...it was quite forgettable.

        The beef tips were decent though I'm not a huge beef bbq guy. The sauce was a bit too molasses-rich. The baby back ribs were just okay as well. They weren't as smokey as others had mentioned on this board. They were a bit blackened and fell off the bone rather easily. The bbq shrimp were totally forgettable.

        The highlight of the meal was the mac and cheese. Nothing outstanding but definitely my favorite of my meal with a good cheesey crust on the top. The beans looked like their were refried and were a bit of a mess to me.

        I really wanted to like the food. The place is nice and clean, the service was quality, but at the end of the day, its about the cue and I left quite indifferent. This is definitely far from a destination place for me. I give it a 6 out of 10 for nyc bbq. RUB would get a 10.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sam1

          Wow. I find that incredibly hard to believe. Particularly the report about the mac and cheese being the best part of the meal. I actually found the mac and cheese pretty unremarkable and there was absolutely no cheesey crust on mine. Maybe they are experimenting still. Sorry you had a bad experience - just means more room at the tables for me!

        2. yeah, i think i overheard them say that they were pleased with the way things have rolled out but arent done yet. they mentioned that they will open for lunch, have desserts, and deliver in the near future.

          maybe i was expecting a lot from them based on the reviews, but i just wasnt blown away.

          1. just to put my 2 cents in, i loved the mac and cheese. i think it's next level and the nutmeg is a stroke of brilliance. i may permanently alter my mac and cheese recipe after having theirs. i'm quite surprised that so many people don't like it or find it unremarkable. perhaps it's just a matter of taste or maybe they're inconsistant and still tweeking the recipe. i wanted to lick the disposable container it came in. you'll be happy to know that i refrained, though.

            1. i think their mac and cheese has improved. i first tried it maybe the 3rd day after they opened and wasn't so impressed. i went back about a week ago, and it was definitely tastier.

              also, i would like to add my praise for their smoked chicken. i dont think anyone has mentioned it yet here. no bbq sauce or anything like that, just deliciously smoked. my fingers smelled of that yummy smoke flavor for hours afterwards (even after i washed them).

              1. I've been a Smoke Joint fan from the start. I like the people who work there. I like the food. I like the mac n' cheese better now than before. And yes, I've had the bread crumb top, the no crumb top, and the crispy cheesey top (the best one yet.) I have yet to try the beef ribs, but my beef craving friends love them. I like the hacked pork and I find it a bit more smokey and spicey than when they first opened. I am also am a big fan of the rib tips. I recently went away from my usuals and tried the chili. I really enjoyed it. It didn't taste at all like I expected it to, but I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know that it will be a constant part of my regular rotation, but it was nice. I guess there's no accounting for taste. That's why some people love poached eggs and they make me gag. And pickled pigs feet, what in the heck is up with that?? Thank goodness there are enough options here in the greater ny metro area for each of us to satisfy our own taste buds! As for me and mine - I just finished eating some of my reheated Smoke Joint leftovers (mac n' cheese, pickles, chicken wings) and I liked those too.

                1. We went to Smoke Joint last night and will definitely be back.

                  The baby back ribs were small (the length of my little finger) but perfect. They needed no sauce and were the perfect balance of fat and lean.

                  A half chicken was nearly black, full of smoky flavor without overwhelming the chicken.

                  The catfish was perfectly cooked, though the breading was quite thick -- too thick for my wife. I've never tasted better tartar sauce, with a potent kick.

                  Fries had a very generous dusting of cayenne/salt/paprika mix. The quality was excellent, but they could have had a crisper outside.

                  The cole slaw side was forgettable, but the vinegared version that came with the catfish was dynamite.

                  The baked beans side was decent -- canned beans with a bit of good sausage.

                  The red sauce was sweet and forgettable. The teriyaki vinegar sauce and the red vinegar sauce were much better.

                  The guy at the next table had the beef ribs, which were enormous and wonderful looking, though there was less meat on them than it looks like.

                  There's a loud but jolly ambiance, with music that makes you happy.

                  1. 3 of us had our best meal yet there:

                    Simple salad
                    Whipped sweet potatoes
                    Baked beans
                    Hacked Chicken
                    Bits and Tips
                    Brooklyn Wings

                    $36 for more than enough food.

                    The wings were excellent.

                    The Bits and tips were excellent as always.

                    The Hacked chicken was fine if what you really want is chicken but there are lots of other good choices on the menu.

                    The beans... when they first opened they were weak. Now? Out of this world. I called Ben over and told him to stop experimenting -- he achieved bean nirvana.

                    Personally, I think this is the best BBQ in NYC, especially when you take the price and vibe into account.


                    1. Finally visited Smoke Joint on Sunday. Really nice guys working there, very friendly and more than willing to answer questions. We had: hacked pork, hacked chicken, beans, slaw and two Pork Slap beers. Pork and chicken were fantastic when combined with the house BBQ and hot sauces. We found ourselves craving more a couple hours after eating. The beans were good, but I thought they would be exceptional with the addition of the hacked pork and chorizo. The slaw was phenominal. Nice tang, not overly dressed, a perfect slaw. I grew up near PA Dutch Country, so I know good slaw. All of the food was nicely complemented by the Pork Slap beer.

                      I plan to go back frequently.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Ralphus

                        which slaw did you have - the red cabbage slaw we had was terribly underwhelming.
                        It and the boring sauces (reminded me of some other multi-sauce place I am still trying to get my finger on) were the worst aspects of an essentially admirable operation.
                        Admittedly this was a few months ago and they have been consistently tweaking.

                      2. I too went by Smoke Joint just a couple of days ago for my first visit. Pretty good overall, I must say. The hacked (not pulled...?) pork I had was pleasant, in a big portion with a nice smoky flavor. It could have stood a few more "hacks" though, as many of the pieces were quite large. None of their sauces really came all that close to real Carolina BBQ sauce. The vinegar-y sauce tasted of Tabasco (which is OK by me, but certainly not the real thing), and the very friendly server's recommendation for the sweetish deep south style red sauce was waaay off.

                        The sides though were great. The vinegar slaw was very delicious, with just the right mix of vinegar (why couldn't they get the sauce right then?) with long shreds of nice crunchy cabbage. And the collards were exemplary. Not prepared in the wholly traditional style (i.e. cut fine and boiled into a stringy green lump), but made just the way I like 'em, cut into larger pices and cooked until they were soft but still had some real vegetable character to them. And there were just enough nice smoky pork bits floating in them to liven up the flavor, but not enough to overwhelm the greens. By the end I was thinking that I'd go back and just get several orders of them. The best I've had in NYC outside of my own kitchen.

                        So. maybe I made a slight meat ordering mistake and I'll have the ribs next time, since they really seem a bit more on the deep south side than the Carolinas side in their cuisine. Complete with finishing the ribs on an open grill. One thing that did really bother me was that in order to get the good ol' meat + 2 one had to actually pay for the sides separately, which really boosted the price quite a bit. I can walk over to Ruthie's and get the sides with my meal, but I guess that's life in the newer high rent Ft. Greene vs. the old one I lived in so many years ago.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Woodside Al

                          Went to Pies & Thighs again tonight just to check my impressions (and because I've been on a bit of a barbeque jag lately, since returning from N.C.) after my recent visit to Smoke Joint. Had the pulled pork. Their meat wasn't as good and smoky as Smoke Joint's, but they sure got the sauce right, and that means a lot to me when eating Carolina BBQ. Greens were good, but not anywhere near as great as SJ, and their beans were just plain weird. I'll be digging into the apple pie a little later...