North is the new South at Ottawa’s SmoQue Shack
If sauce dripping flavours and slow cooked goodness is what you are looking for, let me introduce you to SmoQue Shack – Ottawa’s answer to southern cuisine. You will find them in the Byward Market on York St. Don’t blink or you will miss the restaurant as it is hidden in a nondescript building that looks more like a house than a restaurant. Only the awning gives it away.
My night at SmoQue Shack was part of the Ottawa Restaurant Bucket List project I put together in an attempt to get out and experience more of what my home town has to offer. When I called one of my girlfriends up and suggested we go out and that I wanted to try the BBQ joint with all the great reviews, she was only too happy to join me. This wasn’t her first visit.
She raved about the caesars. Silly me, I thought she meant a salad! This must be some kind of spectacular salad to be getting these kind of reviews – we were going to a BBQ joint after all! Turns out she was talking about the drink – a caesar with a BBQ twist….yes – that garnish is a meat garnish. Even the drink is geared towards a carnivorous paradise. (Not a fan of caesars, I didn’t try it, but couldn’t help myself – I had to take a photo. This drink is a work of art!)
As with any good Southern BBQ, slow cooked is the way to go. The meat is slow cooked and smoked with Quebec maple charcoal and Ontario Apple Wood, infusing lip smacking goodness in every bite. My ribs were finger licking good and oh so tender. The attention to detail and strong support of the local food movement is evident throughout the menu. For the beer drinkers – the local brews on offer will be sure to fit your bill! Back to the food – it was hard to pick just one dish. While it was the ribs that won me out, it was a tough choice with the mouth watering pulled pork tempting me. There was also the tender Texas style brisket calling my name. These are some serious tough decisions for a girls night out!
The menu is set up so that you can pick your mains and your sides. The theory is that you can mix and match to taste. They also have a number of sharable appetizers. We started with the night with a plate of deep fried pickles. This concept was completely foreign to me – who deep fries pickles? Let’s just say – first bite in and I was a convert. Turns out fried dill pickles were first made popular in 1963 by Bernell “Fatman” Austin in Arkansas. Who knew?
Moving on to the main event – my decision for ribs proved to be a good one. It was the right mix of sauce and meat that just falls off the bone. The cornbread had good texture – not too dry and not too oily, offering a nice balance to the ribs. I’d definitely order the ribs again, although I’d like to come back and try the pulled pork. It looked every bit as juicy and tender as a slow roasted pulled pork should be. While SmoQue Shack does have a vegetarian option (smoked and marinated tofu with a coffee inspired BBQ sauce), this is really a place for those with carnivorous tendencies.
It has been a while since my visit to SmoQue Shack. I had a great night – the food was fantastic and lived up to expectations. The service was a little slow and nonchalant, but for 2 girls who could talk the night away, it wasn’t a problem. Before writing my review, I poked around on Trip Advisor to see what people were saying about the food. I have always taken Trip Advisor with a grain or two of salt. One bad night from a server can certainly lead to bad reviews and they may not really be indicative of what the restaurant is really all about. I was surprised to see such a negative trend across many of the reviewers. My memories of tasty goodness and exclamations of “we must come back” flashed through my mind. Has the food gone down hill in the months since I ate there? I don’t have the answer. I agree with the comments about dessert – mine was a disappointment. If I am going to waste my calories on a treat, I want it to be worth it. I would have rathered spend my calories on the mac & cheese (which still got good reviews!) or tried the bacon chocolate ice cream people are talking about.