Think about something as classically American as barbecue. What comes to mind is slabs of ribs, pulled pork, a little smoked chicken, right? Baked beans, maybe some fries, and a little cobbler to finish it off.
Well, at Blue Smoke you’ll find the ribs all right. The pulled pork and chicken, sure. Even the baked beans and a pie of the day.
But that’s where classic Americana stops. This is a place where your hush puppies come with jalapeno marmalade, and your fry bread is served with chipotle butter.
Oh, yeah. Someone had fun putting this menu together!
Blue Smoke is the right combination of noisy, busy, and fun. Take your choice of a booth, window seat, sidewalk cafÃ© or great high-backed chairs at the bar. Check out the bar menu board, which is reminiscent of a Southern BBQ house chalkboard but without the messiness.
And then spend some time just reading the menu. You’ll find homage paid to all the great barbeque locations. There’s a little bit of Memphis, some Kansas City, definite Texas and some North Carolina thrown in.
We started with an appetizer of Warm Barbeque Potato Chips with Blue Cheese and Bacon Dip. They came out in a small bucket with plenty for three of us, and were exactly as billedâ€”warm, comforting, and perfect for taking the edge off and adding to the anticipation of the flavors to come. The chips managed somehow to be warm and yet crispy; the dip was mild and smoky.
We went traditional in our entrÃ©e choices. One of us went with the Rhapsody in Ã¢â‚¬ËœCue sampler, with three nice sized Kansas City spareribs, a mound of pulled pork, a healthy portion of smoked chicken plus sausageâ€”and, trust me, those ribs were shared.
Others got the Applewood Smoked Organic Chicken, served with mashed potatoes and crispy onions (great combination, with a little smoothness and a little crunch in every bite), and the Pulled Pork Platter (go ahead, have a little alliteration with your barbeque).
Oh, and we added a shared side dish of macaroni and cheese because Joe, our friendly server, told us it was â€˜sort of a signature dish for us.â€™ In fact, Joe helped us with all of our menu choices in a way that was encouraging and open, steering us to what was a totally good food experience.
We were completely intrigued by some of the menu items, like the Shrimp Corn Dogs with Avocado Lime Dip, the Seared Sea Scallops with Charred Leek Vinaigrette, the Roasted Wild Striped Bass and Seared Atlantic Salmon. And a salad of English Pea and Asparagus with Coach Farm Goat Cheese. On a southern BBQ menu??
Well, this is New York. Why not. After all, the menu also offered Braised Collard Greens with Bacon, Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Dip, and Baked Pit Beans with Pork. Only in New York could all of these cultures come together and make sense. We considered it homage to all great barbecue, while defining it new York style—where the melting pot meets reinvention.
We put our meals down with two of the beers on tap, a Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, which had hints of oak rather than the typical banana finish, and a Blue Smoke Original Ale, described as rich, crisp and full-bodied. The third drink had to be a Fitz’ Root Beer, which had to be imported from St. Louis and was served up at the table in a frosty mug.
As Joe cleared away our plates and served us refreshing cloths and a cool box of toothpicks, he teased us with dessert. The pie of the day, a Strawberry Almond. Rhubarb Buckle and Orange Buttermilk Ice Cream, Key Lime Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Chocolate Layer Cake served withâ€”pay attention nowâ€”a cold glass of milk. Had to pass this time, but will think for a long time about what we missed!
The name Blue Smoke, according to Joe, comes from BBQ legend that says when meat is done to perfection, there is a blue smoke that rises as a signal. The restaurant menu also advises you to look for the pink smoke ring, the sign of genuine smoked barbeque.
The restaurant has those nice, homey touches that would make any transplanted Midwesterner feel better, like generous tea towel napkins and an attention to design that transports you to the days of plank tables and pass-the-potatoes. There’s a touch of neon, and a couple of well-placed flat screens. The wait staff is all in blue jeans and branded black t-shirts, and the music has overtones of the bluesâ€”for more of that, just go downstairs for one of their Jazz events, advertised as â€˜family fun.â€™
We saw more ties than t-shirts, although by the time they were walking out those ties were definitely loosened or off.
That’s what Blue Smoke does for you. It reminds you there’s more to life and that somewhere someone’s mother is fixing up a mess of collard greens, fried chicken, and biscuits.
Y’all come back, ya hear?