Smoke House Restaurant

21 Feb 2011
A Bit Costly ($15-$25)
West Huntsville
2 out of 5
Smoke House Restaurant

Melanie’s Take

Inside Smoke HouseI rarely make it to Bridge Street. Maybe it is because I don’t care much for shopping or for buildings with manufactured character, but I have probably not been more than five times that did not include a stop at Old Navy. Shane and I were lured there Sunday to try Smoke House Restaurant, a self-proclaimed contemporary southern place. On Sundays, they serve a brunch buffet that offers many of their menu options, so we thought this would be a great way to try several dishes. The atmosphere is decidedly “Bridge Street.” If you are a Huntsvilian, you know what I mean. It tries very hard to be hip, modern, monochromatic, and upscale. I didn’t have a particular beef with the decor, but the 20+ foot ceilings removed any possibility for coziness, even with the black paint trying to lessen their size.

Dressing and Gravy and a BiscuitAfter being seated and having our drink order taken by an upbeat and attentive waitress, we helped ourselves to the buffet. It offered breakfast items like biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, quiche, and assorted pastries as well as their traditional fare like pulled pork, short ribs, smoked chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, cornbread dressing, and a small salad bar. Brunch BuffetMy overall impression of these items was that they were average. The bbq items had nice flavor and texture, but were no better than what we could produce with our meager bbq skills. In addition, many of the offerings tasted not like there was a chef on staff, which there was, but like there was a large freezer in the kitchen housing Costco boxes. This was especially true of the dessert items which included red velvet cake, banana cream pie, and pecan pie.
OmeletteIt is worth admitting that buffets are difficult vehicles to deliver great food. You want it to be a sampling of the best dishes, but it is often mediocre, lukewarm, and unsatisfying. Whatever the issues are that hamper buffets from delivering great food, it was true of Smoke House with one exception; the made-to-order omelettes were delicious. If we return, I will likely skip many of the buffet items in favor of an omelette or two.
Shane’s Take
For the same reasons Melanie doesn’t go for or to Bridge Street, I don’t either. The fake lake, the not-that-fancy fancy theater, and the countless chain stores—it just isn’t my thing. (Of course, I’m not consistent—I think Birmingham’s Summit is awesome, despite it being a peak of consumerism, materialism, and self-interest.) So, I didn’t go to Smoke House expecting much. Unfortunately, it didn’t exceed my expectations, but it’s not awful, either.
Brunch BuffetThe biggest problem with Smoke House is that if feels like a chain. It has a nice logo (no Papyrus!), nice decor (they’re into the wildly popular stone look as you’ve seen in new McDonald’s, Arby’s, Chili’s stores), and pretty good food. In general, the store and the food is well-appropriated and professional. Of course, these are all desirable attributes, but professionalism is a hallmark of chain restaurants, and non-chains that have the same professional touches often feel like chains. Smoke House also is vanilla. Despite serving decent food in a pleasant atmosphere, it, like many chains, takes no risks. The dessert, for example, could’ve come from a Kroger bakery anywhere in the country. It tastes fine, but it’s not memorable. Anyone can eat here and enjoy it a little bit, but no one can eat here and think it’s awesome. Brunch SweetsOn the other hand, Smoke House has some likable qualities. Melanie’s omelette tasted great and probably was the best thing I ate there (although, not to be mean, but is it really that hard to find a good omelette?). The barbecue also was good. The pulled pork was juicy and had a reasonable smoked flavor, and the ribs had an excellent texture and good flavor. Both became quite tasty when covered with one of their four sauces. The atmosphere also was pleasant. It felt modern without being obnoxious and open without being engulfing. Our waiter also was friendly and attentive, offering refills often and no resistance to our coupon. Plus, at about $12 for a buffet whose quality far surpasses that of a Chinese restaurant or a Shoney’s, it was a reasonable price.
Pecan Pie
Smoke House, then, is a decent place to eat. The food is fine, as is the atmosphere and the service. It just doesn’t have the character to bring me back.
A few more notes:
  • This is the sort of place chosen when you’re having a company birthday lunch. It works pretty well for a range of appetites, but no one wants to bring the wife and kids back later that night.
  • Eek, the pastries were no good. The muffins sure looked inviting, but I’ve had better from a $0.79 packet of Betty Crocker mix.
  • I really got the feeling that Smoke House is barely surviving. I may be wrong, but you may want to try it soon.
  • For newcomers, the Huntsville area is full of good homeowned barbecue restaurants. If you need some good ‘cue, go for one of them, not Smoke House.
Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

3 Responses

  1. Lara Baswell

    Next time we do a Sunday buffet, it must be in Cullman at The AllSteak!

  2. Nathan Smith

    Shane’s comment about the barely surviving nature caused me to bust out laughing. Way to go Skippy.

  3. Phyllis Young Basham

    I will come to your house for bbq. I remember those scrumptious ribs you fixed a few years ago.

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