My intrepid family and I visited on a Monday night, ready for some barbecue and Southern-style food. We must have just beaten the rush because the place filled up almost immediately. Our enthusiastic server, Ian, gave us the scoop on smoQ while we perused the menu. smoQ is a family-owned venture run by Pete Zimmer, former partner of Gary Burbank at Burbank’s Real B-B-Q. It opened in late December in the former Carlo’s building in Springdale. A few things were done to personalize the space: black-and-white photographs of the “pioneers of barbecue” and a mural painted in the private party room, but the impressive woodwork and seating remain the same.
I noticed fried green tomatoes ($6.49) on the appetizer menu, but then saw the fried green tomato-caprese salad ($7.99) and was intrigued. The salad is built with field greens, fried green tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and grape tomatoes. It’s dressed with maple-balsamic vinaigrette, a sweet pepper relish and a jalapeno cream drizzle. My husband was dubious, but I was insistent. His doubts left as we dug into the salad. The tomatoes are battered with cornmeal, something I don’t usually care for (I prefer a flour-based batter) but was really quite good in this case. Everything about this salad just works, and it was large enough to share easily among the four of us.
We also tried a cup of corn chowder with lime-ancho shrimp ($3.25). The flavors were exquisite. The sweetness of the corn wasn’t masked by the bits of smoked ham, and the lime-ancho marinated shrimp were delightful; there was a vinegary aspect that was unexpected but very pleasant when combined with the richness of the soup. We devoured the basket of butterscotch cornbread — a little sweet for me, but a definite crowd-pleaser.
There are three barbecue sauces on the table — Memphis Mild, Kansas City Sweet, and Carolina Hot — so I did a little taste test.
I found the Memphis Mild to be the most flavorful — smoky and tomatoey and just a little bit sweet. The Kansas City Sweet was far too sweet for me; all I could pick up was a bit of salt and lots of sugar. The Carolina Hot shows promise but could definitely use more heat.
Then our entrées arrived and we got down to serious eating. The Brisket Reuben ($7.99), which our server had recommended for our daughter, comes with sliced smoked brisket, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing and SmoQ’s mustard slaw. This sandwich blew me away. The mustard slaw is the perfect complement to the brisket, easily replacing sauerkraut. The BBQ Burger ($7.49) was made to order with help from the servers’ handy little “doneness chart.” The adults quite liked the charred parts of the burger while the kids didn’t. My only complaint was that the burger needed more seasoning; a bit more salt and some pepper would have elevated it.
My husband was intrigued by the smoQ’d Chicken and Waffle ($14.99), a smoked, fried chicken breast served with a sweet-potato pecan waffle. Due to customer feedback, they also offer the chicken without smoke, a choice we took. It was fried perfectly, tender and juicy on the inside, not greasy on the outside. I enjoyed the slightly sweet pecan flavor of the waffle, and a bite of chicken and waffle (and syrup) at the same time was pure heaven.
When I mentioned that my husband was the one who wanted the chicken and waffle and that I wanted to try the pulled pork, our server brought me a sample of the pork — a little pink, very tender (almost melt-in-your-mouth tender), incredibly flavorful and is served without sauce.
Entrées come with two sides and sandwiches are served with hickory chips. We tried wonderful collard greens, cheddar grits, and simply divine mac and cheese ($3.29 each a la carte).
The desserts at smoQ offer twists on conventional sweets, like smoked peaches and cream ($3.99) and cinnamon bun cheesecake ($4.99). We settled on the bread pudding ($4.29) made with glazed doughnuts. Cherries and berries are scattered throughout, and it is served with Maker’s Mark sauce. I was thrilled with the addition of the berries and the sauce wasn’t overpoweringly boozy.
I would go the distance for smoQ’s Brisket Reuben and the mac and cheese, and the friendly service is just icing on the cake. I have a soft spot for local, family-owned restaurants, and if they make great food to boot? Win-win.
Jackson Rouse, formerly of the Iron House Inn, was recently hired to be smoQ’s executive chef beginning in late June. Diners can anticipate new dishes liked smoked game, but customer favorites, like the cheesy grits, will remain. Chef Rouse is known for his innovative ideas and looks forward to playing around with traditional Southern flavors, updating them and making them work for smoQ’s identity.
Go: 275 Pictoria Drive, Springdale
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $7.49-$25.99
Red Meat Alternatives: Yes
Accessibility: Fully accessible