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Aug 20, 2008 03:43 PM

Smoke Bros. Southern BBQ - Fresno

Hey y'all (thought I might as well throw that in there!!)... a little BBQ update during this spectacular summer we're having here in the valley.

I am always on the search for great ribs and BBQ, so when a coworker mentioned Smoke Bros. - a place I had never heard of - a lunch trip was planned.


3069 W. Ashlan Ave, (559)224-2020
S/W Corner of Marks and Ashlan

The atmosphere is very clean and minimal, there are only five tables so take-out is encouraged!! The menu (I grabbed a take-out menu before I left) consists of starters (smoked chicken wings, salmon cakes, rib tips, etc), salads, sandwiches (pulled pork, brisket, po'boy, etc) and then plates (fried chicken, gulfport shrimp, flat iron steak, jambalaya, chicken and meat combos). The sandwiches and plates come with a choice of side, plus the plates come with cornbread as well. The choices of meat for the combos are BBQ pulled pork and turkey, St. Louis ribs, brisket, andouille sausage, hot links, chicken and smoked tri-tip. Sides consist of the usual suspects: mac & cheese, BBQ beans, black eyed peas, cole slaw and collard greens (just to name a few). Prices range from $5.99 to $11.99. Desserts (pineapple upside down cake, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and banana pudding) are $3.59.

Of course I went for the ribs!! On the meat combos I chose the two meat choice (the menu ranges from a one meat choice to a four meat choice, in any combo you wish. Two ribs, links and sausage for each choice.) Both choices were for the ribs - I knew my SO was going to steal more than a bite!! At first glance the ribs looked like they were going to be tough, but they really were moist and smoky and did have the "fall off the bone" feature that defines a decent rib in my book. The sauce was okay, presumed homemade, with a nice spicy kick. They are still not up to par with the ribs of my childhood vacations to Texas, but will definitely fulfill my cravings!!

The first side we had were the mac & cheese, which was okay. Not as gooey-cheesy as I was hoping for, but homemade and the noodles were nicely cooked - not mushy as some mac's can get. Secondly we had the BBQ beans which looked and tasted like chilli - these beans were really good!! Spicy and tasted great. I crumbled my cornbread (which was dissapointedly on the very dry side) in it and the sweetness really complimented it.

SO chose the cajun style fish (you get your choice of red snapper, catfish or tilapia) which comes breaded with cajun seasonings and then is deep fried. He picked the catfish - our first choice was the snapper but they were out that day - and the plate came with four good sized pieces of catfish. OMG - this is the best catfish, if not the best fried fish, I have ever had!! The breading was perfectly seasoned and not overwhelming for the fish (you know how sometimes a piece is hald breading and half fish - this was not the case). The catfish was extremely moist and just absolutely delicious. A dipping sauce that can only be decribed as a spicy tartar like sauce was the perfect compliment for the fish. This is a dish that I can see myself craving weekly...

Great BBQ place, I will be back to try the sandwiches and different meats...and of course for that catfish!!

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  1. Why is it that no one can do BBQ brisket like Dickey's in Dallas? I've given up on Cali BBQ.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gail

      You know...I have given up on CA BBQ as well, but I still need my fix every now and then (no matter what). This place has given me a slight hope towards fulfilling my BBQ fix, but I still can't wait until my trip to NM - which amazingly has great ribs and brisket - and TX in the family always laughs at me when I visit, all I ever want to eat is BBQ.

      On the other hand, whenever they visit me I have to take them to every seafood joint from the valley to the coast...guess we can't have it all!!

    2. Thanks for the report CQ77. Haven't been here yet but want to give it a try.

      If I recall correctly, Smoke Bros. is the place that occupies the former Caffe e Via stand in the little strip mall there & then also has a storefront in the same strip mall. And, again iirc, the owners are the folks that used to run Fahrenheit 5401 (before it closed). Supposedly the food they're serving at Smoke Bros. is similar to what they used to serve at F5401.

      1. Hello cocktailqueen. I'm in your neck of the woods for a couple of weeks. I read your posts from San Diego and enjoy them. I do want to try this place and please let me know what else is "not to miss" or unusual. I'm staying in Lemoore and have an teenaged granddaughter in tow so clubs are out but food is definitely the main draw. I read Polarbear and Alanstatle as well as Ruth. Real hounds, all.
        Wow, is it hot here.
        Thanks in advance and I'll let you know where we touch base.

        18 Replies
        1. re: P Macias

          We call this balmy, Patricia, hot is when the air stops moving and we get up to around 110 F. ; >P

          There's another Q place in Clovis getting some good ink called QN4U, in the Barnyard center on Clovis Ave N of Shaw. Fellow's won quite a few awards and was a big hit recently at a cook off up in the bay area.

          If you've never had Basque food that would be something a little different for you, I think the best is the Old Basque Hotel on F st. just off Fresno (also near Hwy 99)

          How adventurous are you and your g-daughter? There's B&K Kitchen (Lao and Thai) on First N of Olive for lunch, at night I'd hit their new place Thai Fusion in north Fresno. Let us know a little more about your tastes and I'm sure we can be of more help. Have a great visit and be sure and report back.



          1. re: PolarBear

            Thanks Dave, for the Q req, it sounds worthy of a side trip. TG for AC in this balmy clime. whew.
            I do like Basque food but haven't had it in years. If I remember correctly, it was a table groaner. I'd have to fast for a couple days first but I think the gd would enjoy it. We are both fairly adventurous. I like Asian food but don't know much about it. The fusion place sounds interesting. I like Bistro food, Mex food, pub grub, love veggies not big on steak, love osso buco, oxtails, anything braised, duck, goose, grouse and all their relatives, love fish but I'm particular..not too fond of farm raised. Having read and enjoyed your previous posts, I'd accept your choices in a heartbeat. Thanks and I'm looking forward to some good chow and will report back.

            1. re: P Macias

              Dim sum at Imperial Garden, Sat. or Sun. Herndon & Blackstone.

              Lamb sandwich at Bistro Rustico

              Cobb salad at Ripe Tomato, Fig Garden Village, pricey, but ample and delish.

              Fish special at Max's Deli, Bullard and West. Other goodies there too.

              Kims Vietnamese, Shaw and Fresno. Best soups ever, but not this time of yr.

              1. re: P Macias

                The trick with Basque food, is to give in and stuff yourself with the great lead-ins and take your entree home for another meal. I mean after salad, soup, maybe a dish of tongue, some hearty stew, some potato salad with shrimp, I'm well satiated. BTW, you can get any of the mains with fried garlic, the fried chicken is really hard to beat.

                For Mex, I wouldn't miss Don Fernando's, zero atmosphere, but al pastor off the spit, and camarones to die for, one of the best lenguas around also.

                At Hunan I always have to order the hot and sour calamari and the Ching Qong Spicy (thousand pepper) chicken.

                Thai Royal Orchid is one of the local hounds' favorites.

                1. re: PolarBear

                  PB, is Don Fernando's place alive and well out in the boonies? I love his food, just not convenient. But I think I'm about ready again. Does he have a liquor license yet? Love a good Marg.

                  1. re: Gail

                    Oh, it is MONDAY isn't it? Apologies, was referring to Don Pepe's, ya know, it's impossible to get a headache when you're brainless!

                    RE Don Fernando's, yes it is alive and moving up in the foothills SW of Prather. There have been a couple of downhill reports (at least on some dishes) but unfortunately no recent confirmations. AFAIK, his brother is still doing a good job out in the little backwater of North Fork at La Cabana.

                2. re: P Macias

                  Hi there P Macias...I'm glad we share the same love of great food!!

                  PB and Gail are spot on. Imperial Garden is my "go to" for dim sum and chinese food. And everything that PB recs on Mexican food - go for it!! SO and I just had Basque last night at The Shepard's Inn (downtown Fresno) and everything was fantastic. The lamb chops were juicy and smothered with garlic (a Basque tradition), my catfish was amazing, and the garlic fried chicken is the best I have ever had. If you can - try The Shepard's Inn, they also do lunch as well.

                  Bistro Rustico also has a wonderful vegetarian sandwich, and I am currently hooked on the meatloaf sandwich as well (in house made meatloaf with tomatoes and a cayenne aioli, the squaw bread it is served on is also made in house). At night they have a good variety of homemade pastas and a gnocchi - but if you have one thing you MUST try the scallop appetizer. I leave school early at night just to get there before they close just to order this dish...and take one home!!

                  Cracked Pepper Bistro is a must for the eggplant appetizer (I know all the Fresno 'hounds will agree with me on this one) and desserts. Chef Vatche does amazing soups as well. I love the atmosphere of this little restaurant.

                  If you want adventures in dining then try Trelio's in Old Town Clovis. Chris and Mike Shackelford always impress, and they take many (wonderful) risks - ask them if there are any specials that night, they usually are cooking up something amazing!! They are the only restaurant in town that serve fois gras - an absolute favorite of mine. think on Wednesday's they have half off on wines, even small lots and hard-to-find bottles. Check out the menu here:

                  Sam's Deli and Piedmonte's (Tower District) for sandwiches. Palomino's (Tower District) for drinks and the fish tacos - ask for them to be tempura battered. Chicken Pot Pie Shoppe for a cheeseburger and broccoli/bacon salad.

                  Hope this all helps!! Let us know where and what you have!!

                  1. re: cocktailqueen77

                    Great job of filling in the spaces there, cq77, for some reason lately I seem to tend toward the mom 'n pops and forget about all the stellar haps we have going on (i.e. CPB, Trelio's). Patricia, also check out the wines at Sam's if you're into them, ask to see the cellar in the back if so intrigued.

                    Also thanks much for the update on Shepherd's Inn, I was really sad when the original folks moved out to N. Van Ness (just was never the same). Will have to get back down by the tracks and give them another try, there's something to be said for the nostalgia of having a great meal in a hotel/restaurant that was home for so many of our local shepherds, and right across from the old historic depot. Gotta Go!

                    1. re: cocktailqueen77

                      Oh, my dear, I love the list. I simply cannot wait to try Trelio's. What a menu! I don't usually get out of here except on weekends but I think I have to make an exception here. I eat fois gras every chance I get while we still can. The famous Shepard's Inn might hold me for Saturday AND Sunday. I'm looking forward to it.Tempura battered fish tacos I will definitely do. Sam's deli, I'd like to try. Is it Italian or Jewish? I love pastrami . As pb mentioned, I'll check out the wine cave. Thank you for all the great suggestions and I will report back.

                        1. re: alanstotle

                          OMG!! WE LOVE SAM'S!
                          Had to shop in Fresno and had plans to go to Sam's for a sandwich, La Reina for nieve, and maybe a Bistro later in the evening. Not a chance. Sam's hooked us. Of course I had the New Yorker (I've been a fan of Langer's pastrami since the 50's) Sam's pastrami was divine..the pastrami was tender enough to bite, the grilled onions a great touch but the sauce was unreal.I can usually never eat both top and bottom of a sandwich but every crumb of this one disappeared. The sauce moistened the bread just enough to make you want au just pastrami.
                          Alyssa loves copicollo so had a copi sand with provolone. Tasted my New Yorker and was jealous. We shared a side of roasted marinated veggies. Then I went back inside to peruse the groceries and since I'm visiting..why cooK? I took home a ton of goodies..Pizza and calzone for the teenager. An assortment of premade plates: lasagna, cannelloni, eggplant parm, braciole (yum), meatballs, sauce bolognese, fresh mozzarella, fresh biscotti, pasta salad and some potato salad. So, we'll be eating Sam's stuff all week til I get back to Fresno to try another of your excellent suggestions. I did check out the extensive and excellent selection of wines but only the ones in front of the store. I asked to meet Sam and they told me he was in Italy. Then, shame upon shame, I found their dessert case. They stock gelato and at first I got excited but it's made in New Jersey and has lots of impurities so I passed. Lemon bars were tempting until we saw the tiramisu. This is not my favorite dessert but when it's done well it's a treat. Judging by the rest of the food, we decided to take a chance and it was worth every calorie. Oh yeah. An entire soccer fleet of about 25 players came in the front door and walked around to the back and disappeared. My guess is they were Italians and knew what they were doing. BUT where the hay did they disappear to? Polar Bear mentioned a wine room but just how big is it? Thank you so much for this rec. I think it will become a family favorite.
                          Last time I was in the valley we ate at Max'es and had breakfast at Don Pepe's. I posted on both. So far this visit, I've visited the Vineyard Farmer's Market, Dolce Arte bakery, Hunan, Pangea and now Sam's. I do want to try a Basque dinner and Trelio's before I leave. You guys are terrific.

                          1. re: P Macias

                            Next time introduce yourself to D'Arcy, extremely nice lady and quite knowledgeable about wines, especially old world ones, having lived over there for some time.

                            The wine cellar isn't that big, 3 - 4 people at a time max. There is a good size room in the back, went there for a tasting about a year ago, IIRC there were a couple of dozen, maybe 30 people, all seated at three long tables and then two buffet tables with hot chafing pans, large plates of antipasta, etc. They know how to do a wine tasting right! You might want to give D'Arcy your email for her notification list about new arrivals and upcoming events, in case your in town at those times.

                            BTW, did anyone mentioned Cracked Pepper Bistro for your list? Chef Vatche puts out some amazing dishes. It's on the SW corner of Shaw and Fresno.

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              I will introduce myself to D'Arcy, thanks. I thought there might have been a black hole back there! That sounds like a good time.
                              Yes, I think cocktailqueen did say something about the Cracked Pepper Bistro. I just don't have enough time to get everywhere I'd like to but what I've tried so far has been great, thanks to you guys. I wouldn't go anywhere without the CH seal of approval. I'm lovin' it here.

                        2. re: P Macias

                          Are you around town next Tuesday?

                          If so shoot me an e-mail. Chris and Mike do an incredible brown bag dinner. I can give you all the details. I should be there with a friend and you are welcome to come, but I need to tell Chris how many people - it's set for next Tuesday (the 16th).

                          1. re: tavmark

                            Tavmark, are you referring to Sam's? I don't know the schedule the rest of the family has for next Tuesday. It's pretty hectic with everyone running in different directions but I'll try to let you know by tomorrow. Thank you for the invite. I'm really enjoying the area and love the hounds here.

                            1. re: tavmark

                              Hi Tavmark,
                              I'm sorry, I'm a new girl in town and guess I had trouble following the thread...Chris and Mike...Trelios in Clovis...Ok, now I have it.
                              Please do give me the details. Email to

                      1. re: PolarBear

                        Having been to QN4U I can say, they may be the best BBQ masters in competition, but they don't know anything about restaurant cooking.. all of our meats were cold on the inside as if rewarmed.. the meat tasted....well..old.. and the mac and cheese tasted of old socks.. they use some special cheese sauce ladled on overcooked macaroni...and it tasted mostly like stale bleu cheese... we were very dissappointed.
                        I can back you up 100 percent on the Basque Hotel however... best Basque in town!

                        1. re: foodchick45

                          Thanks for the warning on QN4U, driving across town for what you describe would turn me into biPolarBear, not a pretty sight.

                    2. Update on Smoke Bros, looks like the phone number has changed to 559-243-9042, hopefully they are still open. Just tried to call and no answer, so maybe they are closed on Sundays or for the holidays. I have eaten there before and food was good. Though I have had better ribs at Ribs 'N Tips downtown, corner of Divisadeiro and H St. I believe.

                      1. I lived many years in Texas and so far in my experience here in Fresno, Allee is the best Texas-style BBQ (on the west side of Cedar, just north of Herndon, across from People's Church.)

                        It's also one of the more expensive for what you get (a brisket sandwich is about $9, IIRC), so I don't eat there often, but when I need my 'que fix, Allee's is it.

                        I wish I could recommend QN4U, the owners Kim and Brent Walton are friendly, interesting and personable, the service is good, but their BBQ sauce is horrible--overly sweet and under-flavored. It's also served in 1/2 cup size foam ramekins, which means if you like their sauce, you'll be ordering extra sauce frequently. QN4U would be a good place to go for BBQ as long as you brought your own sauce! LOL....

                        However, there is a bright spot: The chile lime corn side is outstanding! Piquant, citrusy, smoky-spicy, I'd go to QN4U just to pick up a pint of that!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: KenWritez

                          Thanks KW, I didn't know about Allee's. What else do you recommend from there?

                          1. re: cocktailqueen77

                            IIRC, the brisket was good--nice smoke ring, good BBQ taste, moist.

                            I remember the sausage wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked, but I prefer my sausage strongly flavored (this is why I don't enjoy knockwurst), so YMMV.

                            As for sides, I confess I'm an addict for the deviled egg. I crave those little white and yellow ovoids of eggy goodness, dusted with paprika and filled with a creamy dollop of yolk, spices and assorted flavors, Allee makes a good deviled egg.

                            They also have beans, pickles, onions, potato salad, et al, the whole panoply.

                            It'll be a while before I can get back to Texas so Allee is a good hold-me-over until then.

                          2. re: KenWritez

                            Before anyone gets too excited about Allee's, could we get a confirmation on it?

                            A few months ago it seemed that Allee's changed over to some other kind of take-out place--maybe a Lebanese place? As I recall, they still called themselves a BBQ place but maybe something different like "Lebanese & BBQ" or "Lebanese BBQ" or whatever.

                            I have not been inside since the change & everything I'm telling you is based on my experience driving by only, so take it with a grain of salt until we get confirmation. But I think we need a confirmation.

                            1. re: alanstotle

                              It's been several months since I was there. If there's been a change, I didn't know about it. I have to be in that neighborhood tomorrow, so I will check then.

                              1. re: KenWritez

                                I stopped in today. It's now indeed a Lebanese food/BBQ meld. The girl behind the counter said the Allee owner sold it to "him," pointing to a Lebanese man, and then said he in turn sold it to "them," pointing to the kitchen where a woman was cutting meat. She later called the woman "Mom" so this is now a family operation.

                                I ordered the lula pita sandwich at $7. A nice portion of lula meat, purple onion, a few what looked like scallions. I asked for garlic sauce, and the Lebanese man held up a large squeeze bottle of what looked like garlic sauce, or it could be mayo, could even be wallboard paste. I said "Garlic sauce?", he nodded, I said "Okay" and he drizzled it on the meat.

                                The sandwich was bland. The strongest flavor was from the pita, and not in a good way; it had an odd, sour, unsalted taste. I couldn't taste any garlic sauce. The best thing I could say about it was the sandwich was nicely moist. Grade: D. I would not order this again. (I ordered the sandwich to go and when I got it home, I spiked it with salad creme and drops of sriacha, which improved the taste of the sandwich immensely. THAT sandwich I would order again!) My version of their lula sandwich: B+ lololol....

                                While I was waiting, the Lebanese man sliced brisket for another customer's sandwich. The meat was cooked but I saw no smoke ring, so it's no longer Texas BBQ, now it's just cooked brisket.

                                They offer all the typical BBQ meats and some sides (I didn't see which ones and none were listed anywhere) in addition to the Lebanese menu.

                              2. re: alanstotle

                                I've been in since the switch but haven't been there lately, so I'm not sure if they are still in business. However, I had great Lebanese food the three times I visited. The kibbeh was delicious. The manakeesh (za'atar bread) was incredible, better than the bread I drove out of my way and double parked for in Los Angeles. It's made to order and it's heavenly.