Smoke - Blythewood, SC
This review is based on just one visit. I hope to return. Here is their website: http://www.eatsmoke.com/index.html. Here is the review:
Smoke, a new bbq place in the Columbia suburb of Blythewood, has a lot going for it. The folks there seem to really care about their food and are not afraid to break free of the sometimes stiflingly boring preparations that dominate other bbq places in the area.
Take, for example, their brisket sandwich. The brisket, cut in thick--yet tender--slabs, has a clear wood-smokey aroma and satisfying meaty flavor. It is served on a hearty roll that seems to have been toasted or grilled, along with a horseradish sauce that provides a mild kick and melted provolone to smooth things out. This sandwich is a real winner.
Their dry-rub ribs are fantastic--I would bet that they are the best in the area, but I have not done the research to make that bet a sure thing. They have a spicy crust on the outside, yet inside they were fall-off-the-bone tender. The pulled pork sandwich was good, too, with the pork being less overtly smokey than the brisket. It is nice that all the meats don't come out tasting the same.
We tried some of their more unusual appetizers. These sounded great in theory but in practice they need some work. Take the Carolina Boudin Balls. These are golf balls of hash-like pork and rice that are deep fried to a crisp brown. They were okay, but the balls were very mushy on the inside. Firming them up a bit, perhaps with more rice or good bread crumbs, might help with the texture. I would add that I think it needs something to punch up the flavor, too. We also tried the Dixie Spring Rolls. These are Spring Roll wrappers stuffed with collards, tasso ham, and bbq pork, and then deep fried. Again, while okay, they were not as good as they could be. The wet collards dominated the interior and their sogginess was too much for the meats to compete with. I would recommend an alternative preparation for the collards that leaves them much drier before wrapping them up, and again adding something to enliven the flavor.
Despite the fact that some of their more creative dishes need some tweaking, Smoke is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene here. They are interested in taking Southern bbq cuisine to the next level, but without changing the atmosphere or prices we would expect from the typical bbq place. This has happened in other cities (see, for example, http://www.urbanbbqco.com/), but not here. I applaud their efforts, and several of their dishes. There are also other features of the restaurant I have yet to explore, such as their oyster roast and their cleverly named "Swine Bar," that look worthwhile. If you are in the Columbia area, I'd say it is well worth visiting.