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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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Smoke Shack's beef brisket sandwich.
Smoke Shack's beef brisket sandwich.
Barbecue plus eggrolls equals delicious.
Barbecue plus eggrolls equals delicious.
Brisket sloppy joe sliders and sweet potato fries.
Brisket sloppy joe sliders and sweet potato fries.

Rapid Review: Smoke Shack

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.

Talkbacks

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.

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brewcitypaul | Feb. 14, 2013 at 11:12 a.m. (report)

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.

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Aardvark | Feb. 14, 2013 at 10:18 a.m. (report)

34650 How did it take two years to go here when it's only been open for one year? #research

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jakkalope | Feb. 14, 2013 at 12:36 a.m. (report)

35403 Speed Queen crushes this place hands down!

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InTheView | Feb. 14, 2013 at 12:12 a.m. (report)

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.

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