I’m almost embarrassed to admit that until this week, I hadn’t paid a visit to the not-so-new Smoke Shack, 332 N. Milwaukee St. It’s been on my list, along with a zillion other places, and finally I can check it off with a juicy, delicious checkmark.
It’s never a bad idea to have lunch with the owner, and Joe Sorge made sure I left Smoke Shack in a food coma. We went nuts with the Kansas City eggrolls ($8.25), brisket sloppy joe sliders ($10.75), the brisket "sammich" with kettle chips ($13.50), sweet potato fries ($3.50) and corn bread ($1.75). I also drank about a gallon of iced tea.
I’m not a barbecue enthusiast, but I like good food, and Smoke Shack was great. I couldn’t imagine the apps and sides tasting any better – the eggrolls rocked – and the only reason that the brisket sandwich was a touch dry was because I asked for it lean – and I was warned that would be the outcome. With that sandwich, though, I mixed and matched between the Kansas City, Texas, house and "Kick 24 Habanero" sauces. I’m not sure I could even pick one winner.
But beyond the food, I appreciated the decor, since the last time I was in this building, it was a tavern called MJ’s. That the creative geniuses from Flux Design dismantled a barn and reassembled it inside Smoke Shack gave the joint an authenticity you don’t usually find in Milwaukee.
There may very well be better, cheaper barbecue places in Milwaukee, and since I’m not a connoisseur, I’ll leave it for the readers to side. But I like the idea of building a tiny, 47-seat restaurant that uses locally sourced and humanely raised meats, and smoked on site. When they run out each day, they run out.
It took me more than a year to get to Smoke Shack. It won’t take me that long to come back.
olderwiser | Feb. 14, 2013 at 11:25 a.m. (report)
Double ditto with all other comments. I have no idea what the BBQ tastes like at this place. I am in the mood for good BBQ ribs but wouldn't chose Smoke Shack on the review I just read at OMC for sure. My faves so far, when I've traveled, have been in the Kansas City area. But I've been told that different regions specialize in different kinds of BBQ styles and flavors. I know some great amateur grillers that can knock them out of the park with tender meat and great flavor so maybe I'll just have to opt for an invitation to someone's barbecue in the near future.
Smoke Shack BBQ is some of the best in the city. Not too many places that do real BBQ in Milwaukee like they do. The quality of the meat is good and the prices are a little high, but fair for what you are getting. I like the Speed Queen sauce and wish Smoke Shack had something comparable in a red tangy sauce, but other than that I've loved the pulled pork, baby back ribs and wings they serve. BBQ gets done differently all over the country and wherever you've had it before is what you'll use to compare it to. That's the fun of BBQ. So many different ways to do it.
I thought the Smoke Shack was alright. BUT, my wife's from Memphis. People in Wisconsin just don't *get* bbq. The bbq in Memphis is so good that you don't even need the sauce. And it's everywhere, and every place is just as equally good down there. And you can get a huge portion of bbq for under $5 down there. In Tennessee, there's a bbq place at every exit on the highway, every truck stop, every back alley, every where. Having bbq in Tennessee ruined all other bbq for me, and I will never, ever, ever find bbq that will satisfy me here in Wisconsin. No matter how much I try.
Show me the other 3 Talkbacks
8 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Entering play tonight, the Brewers are 1.5 games out of the playoff picture. Right now, all of Milwaukee should be very excited about the Brewers, starting with me. Yet, for some reason, we're not.
Published Sept. 1, 2014
If OnMilwaukee.com was a child - and it many ways it feels like one to me - Milwaukee's Daily Magazine would be getting its driver's license today. It would be a junior in high school. Hopefully listening to the Violent Femmes and not Justin Bieber.
Published Aug. 27, 2014
Back in June, I wrote about the five summer kids trips I couldn't wait to take. Well, summer got busy, and despite my best intentions, I only made it to one of my top five suggestions. But that's not to say I was a deadbeat dad this season. My almost-6-year-old and I had lots of fun this summer, and in fact, we found a few other places to visit as the calendar inched closer to the return of school. All three were just within an hour from home.
Published Aug. 19, 2014
I recently interviewed a former boss, a courageous woman who once hired me as an intern. She's now affiliated with the Milwaukee Masterpiece, a high-end car show. Meet Bev Jurkowski, my mentor, and the woman crazy enough to ask me to be a "celebrity judge" this weekend at the show.
Published Aug. 19, 2014
Chicago native Molly Fay didn't expect to host a talk show. But the former investigative journalist, mother of three and self-described introvert, found herself doing just that eight years ago when WTMJ-4 launched "The Morning Blend," and she hasn't looked back. We caught up with Fay over coffee last week to discuss where she's been and where she's going. And why every person, even if their job seems mundane, has a story to tell.
Published Aug. 13, 2014
I quite enjoyed the "Garlicmeister" last time, but I'm pretty sure I'm now partial to their $9 "Baconmeister" meal. With 1/3 pound of Angus beef, topped with bourbon bacon, onion, lettuce, tomato and cheese (I opted for cheddar), it's the brioche bun that makes the difference to me. It comes with homemade chips or fries and a drink.
Published Aug. 12, 2014
I could pretty much eat falafel every day of my life and never get tired of it. The fried chickpea dish is close to the perfect vegetarian dish, and whether you claim it's Israeli or Arabic, it's one meal that everyone in the Middle East can agree is great.
Published Aug. 6, 2014
Last weekend, I talked my wife into joining me on my adventure - we hadn't visited Door County together since we first started dating in 2002. It turns out that showing off old favorites, discovering new memories and cultivating another Door County fan is a wonderful, relaxing way to experience this magical place. After all, even as a entirely different kind of trip, Door County remains my "happy place." Scoring points with the wife makes it even happier.
Published Aug. 5, 2014
This time around, Spacehog returns to Milwaukee in a larger venue, joining Everclear, Soul Asylum and Eve 6 in the Summerland Tour at State Fair Thursday night night. It's easy to call it a `90s band reunion - and it may be - but listen to Spacehog play, and then ask yourself if this is a band just cashing a paycheck. Pretty sure you'll come to the same conclusion I did. We caught up with Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg from Denver, as his tour moves to the Midwest. He talked about life on the road and what's next for a band that did so much more in its four albums that just what you heard on the radio and saw on MTV.
Published July 22, 2014
It's easy to complain about highway construction in Milwaukee. After all, it's pretty much a constant. When one project finishes, another begins ... if we're lucky. More often, it seems like every interchange or stretch of freeway is being worked on all at once.