Every artist needs the right tool to create a masterpiece. For Smokehaus founder Dave Andrea, that tool is a hand-built smoker he purchased from Little Miss BBQ founder Scott Holmes. Andrea, who also owns neighboring sausage eatery Brat Haüs, obviously hopes some of that Little Miss magic will rub off on his new venture.
Unfortunately, not all of his meats are Holmes-level works of art. Too often, I found myself reaching for the barbecue sauce to spruce up the flavors, which is something I’m rarely tempted to do when feasting on the best dry-rub Texas barbecue.
Then again, this isn’t Texas. Smokehaus is the first known Valley restaurant to deliver Santa Maria-style barbecue, a California tradition which involves dry-rubbing and slow-smoking lean back-end cuts like tri-tip and top sirloin over oak wood. So what you ultimately get is something a bit drier and less smoky than LMB’s exquisite, fatty, mesquite-smoked brisket, with a mild and clean finish suited to its West Coast heritage. And some people might prefer that. Not me, but some people.
The house specialty, tri-tip, is parched but flavorful with a subtle charcoal undertone. Try it on a grilled French roll with abundant sweet and smoky house barbecue sauce ($10.25) or as a stand-alone platter with dark meat chicken and two sides ($16). The succulent quarter-chicken’s citrusy skin crackles at first bite, while the tri-tip’s lightly sweetened garlic and black pepper crust is so lip-tingling good you’ll wish every square inch of beef was slathered with it.
Smokehaus’ sirloin fares well in a stylish salad ($11) with eye-opening red onion, candied pecans and refreshing Champagne dressing. In contrast, the 1984 Taco Salad ($10) is an unpalatable Frito pie knockoff – with Catalina dressing, ugh! – that’s truly a tragedy of Orwellian proportions. A better ground beef option is The Greasewood, a luxuriously fatty half-pound patty bathed in earthy roasted chiles ($10.50).
Smokehaus’ little piggies don’t always make it home. Pork ribs ($17) are meaty but practically desiccated, their thirsty charred flesh eagerly soaking up sauce with notes of hot pepper and honey. Pair them with crisp kale slaw and creamy macaroni topped with pork belly “croutons” to improve the meat’s mouthfeel. Tangy pulled pork, marinated and smoked for nearly a full day, is juicier and enjoyable solo ($13) or atop crispy waffle fries smothered in nacho cheese ($14). Cheekily dubbed “wachos,” the latter has a starchy potato and bean base contrasted by the bright, spicy finish of green chile sauce. Prepare to reach for a handful of paper towels after this baby.
Smokehaus’ other starters are hit and miss. Skip the bland barbecue shrimp ($12) and dry cornbread mini-muffins ($6) in favor of heartier starters like rattlesnake chili with serious bite ($8) and ABTs, roasted jalapeño poppers stuffed with sausage ($8). Salty bacon and gooey cheese tame the piquant pepper, making it possible to down a whole plate without needing a glass of milk.
As always, Andrea creates a nice scene, with his prized smoker holding court in an expansive, rustic patio outfitted with picnic tables and mismatched metal chairs. The cocktail program is well-judged, and the urban farmhouse theme is a natural fit for the area and its scene-oriented residents. Who knows? Those same locals might prefer the leaner, more reserved taste of California-style barbecue, which is certainly healthier than your average West Texas brisket.
Then again, so’s an avocado.
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