Warning: This blog post may give you the meat sweats.
Smoked meat has made a mean comeback and is surging in popularity in the restaurant industry. Our grandpas would probably say: “Kids – there is nothing new to smoked meat!” And they’d be right. Let’s face it- brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends and pork ribs have been around for as long as Betty White has. But trust us. There’s something new going on here. Traditionally seen as a manly man’s cuisine - think Freddy’s BBQ Joint from House of Cards - some smoked meat restaurants are now catering to new demographics with melt in your mouth meat paired with trendy atmospheres, creative takes on old-school sides, and experiential dining.
From a trend perspective, smoked meat is on point.
Sweet Cheeks Q
Take Boston-based restaurant, Sweet Cheeks Q, developed by Top Chef Contestant Tiffani Faison and inspired by the best smoked meat found along the Texas BBQ trail (@sweetcheeksQ). Situated within minutes of Fenway Park, their pork ribs have fans running for the gates early in order to find a seat in this Boylston Street gem. As you walk through the front door, the smell of well-smoked meat and the unique atmosphere immediately hit you. It’s like you’ve arrived at old uncle Merle’s barn for your family’s annual pig roast. The only difference is – you’re in the heart of the Boston bar scene and your coolest friends are there.
It’s not just the meat that’s bringing patrons in. Barn beams adorn the ceilings, picnic tables hold hungry eaters and mountains of meat are quick to arrive on metal trays lined with parchment. It’s got a wicked-rural vibe in the Beantown core.
Nestled into the Little Italy neighborhood of Toronto, this local pub showcases live music, sports games on big screens and lots of local craft beers. You may not guess it from the fact that you can bring outside food into the establishment (who lets patrons bring in pizza slices from neighboring Italian joints, btw?!), but the Tavern has epic smoked meat.
The man behind the magic, Jason Rees (@porkninjas), spends any down time during a busy night conveying his passion to customers and describing his intensive methods and homemade sauces. The venue even hosts DJs and cabaret-style music – definitely a far cry from the traditional smoked meat joint. But it’s the irrefutable taste of the smoked meat platter which includes pulled pork, sliced brisket and pork ribs, that keeps us foodies coming back for more.
Southern Smoke Truck
Imagine down-home smoked meat... on wheels. Hamilton, Ontario’s Mike Pitton (@southernsmoketk) started the Southern Smoke Truck four years ago. In terms of food, everything is locally-sourced on this ride: meat, bread and even the hardwood that the meat is smoked with. Doing a 100-mile diet? This place meats the mark. Each menu item even identifies the exact type of wood used. C’mon - this place is a lumberjack’s dream! Menu items change daily but could include: redneck poutine, southern nachos and a beefy brisket melt.
And speaking of the changing menu, the food is determined based on the type of event it is parked at. Take the Forty Creek Whiskey Weekend they recently attended as an example. Patrons could easily grab a pulled-pork sandwich slathered in Forty Creek BBQ sauce or a grab-n-go pulled chicken wrap as they meandered around. Are you hungry yet? ‘Cause we are. Southern Smoke Truck has mixed food from the South with Canadiana flavor, and is putting the smoked meat movement into motion. As a result of the successful food truck business, chef Pitton opened a stationary BBQ House restaurant that is now building on the ideas that marinated in his truck.
All of these places sharply contrast with the old-school meat joints that old Uncle Merle would’ve enjoyed. But, hey, this trend is on fire. And we love watching it smolder!
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