You’ve heard me use the term boutique barbecue, right? Well Smokejack was the restaurant that took my boutique barbecue virginity. It was a bit of an, um, uncomfortable experience at first. Up until that point, my ideal Q experience consisted of roadside shacks or decades-old family-run joints in dingy old buildings. Smokejack is none of these really, well except for the old building.
And it is that building and what they’ve done with it that impresses me the most about Smokejack. They are in the heart of downtown Alpharetta in a terrific old building. It is beautifully restored with brickwork and exposed beams. I think it’s rustic yet refined but not in a way that makes it feel fake or contrived. What they have accomplished with the look and feel of this restaurant is what I hope the future of dining in downtown Alpharetta looks like. During the day the atmosphere is that of the power lunch with downtown businessmen in suits entertaining clients. Happy hour is hopping at their inviting bar. Yet even with that, they offer perhaps one of the best kids eat free deals on Monday and Tuesday nights.
But let’s talk about barbecue. It is amazing how far away I’ve been and smelled their smokers. I’ve caught whiffs of the amazing hickory smoke from across downtown Alpharetta. It will put you in the mood, that’s for sure. Their pork comes pulled, which I kinda like. It is always tender and fairly lean. The outside meat, some call it bark, is very delicious. Tons of flavor in these little morsels of pork goodness. They seem to baste the meat in the kitchen before hitting the table. I’m not talking sauce at this point either. It is something I just don’t care for a lot, and tends to cover up what I believe is very good meat underneath.
They serve only a mustard-based sauce. The fact that they offer only one sauce doesn’t bother me really. I hate it when a Q joint dishes up half a dozen sauces. Makes me think they are trying to be all things to all tastes. Pick a sauce you think complements the meat and go with it. Smokejack does just that. Nevertheless I’m not crazy about the mustard sauce here. It is nothing like the South Carolina mustard I’ve experienced. It has more vinegar and tang than I’m accustomed to out of the Palmetto state. I suggest ordering it on the side and using it in very small quantities (like drops of it).
I’ve yet to find any side items at Smokejack that wow me. They are all made from scratch, except maybe the french fries. Really wish they would consider making hand-cut, skin-on fries. I also think the Brunswick stew should be listed as a side item and not all by its lonesome on the soup list. This is Georgia, and stew is a side!
I’ve tried some of the other menu items on the barbecue side of the menu including ribs and burnt ends. I’m by no means an expert on brisket so I won’t pass judgment here. But it is worth mentioning that they have burnt ends on the menu, something that Texas aficionados should take notice of.
All in all, Smokejack is a cool joint.The restaurant is beautiful and the service prompt and friendly. If you haven’t been, you owe it to yourself to try it once. I tend to like their Q but find their sauce and heavy basting a little disagreeable. That’s probably more of a personal preference on my part though.
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