Umami Mart Barware
I don't care what Time Out thinks. They ridiculously passed up the The Smoke Joint for Blue Smoke in Manhattan in their Eat Out Awards last week for Best BBQ, and all I have to say is: BAD CALL. I'd like to testify that The Smoke Joint is far superior to Blue Smoke, in taste and price.

The Smoke Joint moved into what used to be the famed "Cambodian Restaurant" (a Brooklyn institution that no one knows the name of, and has since moved up to the Upper East Side), and Peter Meehan wrote about it back in December.

Nestled in the tiny little triangle of a block where Lafayette and Fulton Street veer in opposite directions (right behind BAM), The Smoke Joint is an inconspicuous joint that looks like a cabin shack from the front, with nothing more than their name on the top of a chalkboard menu displayed in the window.

This wee cabin however, cranks out some of the best bbq I've had in the city. NO JOKE-- talk to anyone who has been to the Smoke Joint and they will simply drool all over you. It's counter service, so you just walk in, take 5 to decide what you want from the overhanging menu, order from the cheery guy at the register, and go stake out a table.

Number 85, your order's ready...

The mac & cheese takes the prize-- there were 4 of us, and we all agreed that this was a true winner. These glistening ringlets of macaroni are cooked to perfection, and lie in a delightful, creamy cheese bath. Lots of heart attack-inducing stuff in here, no doubt, but I recommend you take your chances and take the plunge.

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The ribs: Tender! Tender! Tender! Perfectly marinated! Hints of honey! Melts in your mouth! They seriously have the ribs down to a science- there's no misstep here. The pitmaster is truly a genius.

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Ohh la la! This corn... masterpiece. Fuminatto will back this up. It's dipped in melted butter then peppered with a slew of spices. Don't ask, just eat. Totally worth the bits of charred corn that will inevitably get stuck between your teeth.

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Usually, I'm not one to order chicken at restaurants (As Anne-Marie aptly put it, it's rarely a memorable experience), but I read that they smoke their chicken in some special smoke machine from Oklahoma. That's pretty special, wouldn't you say? This baby was all about the skin: perfectly charred, sweet yet a little spicy (lots of kick), and crackling. Get ready to get your hands dirty as you try pulling this hunk of meat apart-- so much fun. It was juicy, even the white meat. Don't even get me started on the dark meat, cause I could fantasize about it for hours-- it was truly tender and damn flavorful.

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The Crispy Catfish was flaky and indeed crispy. For those of you who don't do the red meats or chicken, the catfish will satisfy you just fine, I promise. However, I highly advise that you cheat and order the pork ribs, just this once. Do it for me.

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They have all sorts of funky, hard to find local and domestic beers and beverages. This can of Dale's Pale Ale from Colorado was excellent- and only $2.50!

They give you two kinds of bbq sauce with your meal-- one sweeter, the other spicier. They have it just right-- the perfect amount of vinegar to counterbalance the smoked meats.

You can pass up the hacked chicken (TOO smoked), corn bread (too dry), and the fries. I have heard, however, that their baked beans are delicious, so give it a go.

I must say that this place is a bit poorly laid out-- people walk in and clog the doorways, and the line to order is all over the place. And geez, trying to find a table is a seriously bloody battle. When we were in the middle of our meal, this random customer guy came up to us to ask us how much longer we were going to be, and that he was told to "stake out a table". This is when you KNOW you need some sort of hostess, cause that's just ridiculous.

Overall the staff is super friendly and proud of what they're serving, which is so important. The place definitely has a no-frills, DIY, laid-back vibe. And my entire meal of half a chicken, corn, mac and cheese, cornbread and a can of beer was under $20! Dude, at Blue Smoke, you end up spending at least twice that much, and have to deal with the rowdy Park Avenue South crowd. Take your pick.

For your sanity though, I would try to go on the early side of the evening just for the peace of mind that you will sit, and before they start running out of their goods: Stacy just went the other night and said that they had run out of their ribs by the time she got there. I was truly sad for her.

Just remember: snag a table, never leave.

*k*

The Smoke Joint

87 South Elliott Place (Fulton Street)
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
(718) 797-1011
Tuesday - Sunday, 5pm - 10 pm
Closed Monday

MUST ORDER:
- Mac & Cheese
- Spare Rack of Pork Ribs
- Tender Smoked Chicken
- Corn on the cob
- Dale's Pale Ale