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 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.
Published July 9, 2014
Milwaukee's homegrown sausage chain, The Dogg Haus, has reached an area development agreement with Minneapolis-based Freestyle Enterprises, LLC, to expand into the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
Published July 8, 2014
I can't believe it's true, but the iconic Gobbler in Johnson Creek is coming back. On May 22, Daniel A. Manesis, of Manesis & Associates of West Allis purchased the long vacant restaurant, that last was, as I recall, a barbecue place and served one of the worst meals I ever had in a restaurant.
Published July 2, 2014
G. Love & Special Sauce, now 20 years old, is still around, and they played at the Miller Lite Oasis on a beautiful Tuesday night. They certainly didn't stop making records in the `90s, but to me, they still have that Gen X sound that this older audience came to hear.
Published June 28, 2014
"When's the last time you saw a keytar?" asked Liz Ofte, in the middle of her band's set at Summerfest on Saturday afternoon. That's a good question, and even though the keytar is one only two of the instruments (along with drums) in the two-person Pet Tiger, Ofte and Jeremy Keith don't really need more to produce a big sound.
Published June 27, 2014
Vegas-based garage punk band Pet Tigers has a pretty strong Wisconsin connection. One half of the band, Liz Ofte, is from tiny Westby near LaCrosse, an actual farmer's daughter. While Ofte and her bandmate Jeremy Keith are well-known in Las Vegas music scene, Saturday marks their first trip to Summerfest. They play at 4 p.m. at the Harley Roadhouse. The duo, which is touring in support of its first album, spoke to OnMilwaukee.com by phone, minutes before hopping on a plane to Milwaukee.
Published June 25, 2014
There are years when Summerfest's lineup seems like it was made just for me. Then there are years, like this one, when the Big Gig just doesn't flip my trigger. It's not their fault, of course - the world's largest musical has to make a lot of people happy. And this year, I'm just not one of them. But I won't sit around and complain. There's still plenty to recommend.
Published June 17, 2014
I remember exactly where I was 20 years ago today, the night O.J. Simpson captivated the entire nation with his slow-speed chase through Los Angeles. I was at Hooters.
Published June 12, 2014
I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous dad. We've done all sorts of fun stuff with our 5-year-old daughter, but I've also tried to remember that some stuff is better done at an older age.
Published June 6, 2014
If you ever want to see the worst people in the world, just scroll down to the bottom of stories on CNN.com or Yahoo News. No matter what the subject of the article, the anonymous trolls will be there, spewing hate, racism, right- and left-wing political crazy talk, and the worst grammar and spelling on the Internet.