It was our anniversary and having stayed up late the night before (binge watching “Sharp Objects”, so calm down), we rolled out of bed late, wanting barbecue meats. My partner decided on “Smoke and Bones” so that I could visit a new restaurant and have material to write about. We dove all the way to it and got cold feet at the threshold. Judging the building by its exterior, we paused to do some more research, before parking. It had an all black facade with neon red and yellow lights directing you to the “BBQ” within.
Our apprehension was in that we feared we would be walking into an empty restaurant. A building that smelled like an old casino, serving up week old, dry barbecue at higher prices. This was enough of a concern that we had to reassess our options. Would we try something new or get our meat fix at a competitor we have visited in the past, and know we will get a fully satisfying meal there? We went for the former, having tried so many different barbecue places before, and wanting to add another to our list of references.
And I was happy to do: passing through the now empty courtyard, fenced in; and walking into the first barbecue restaurant with a wall dedicated to their ribbons, plaques, and trophies. The wall of awards built up our confidence in the place and had us expecting more.
The restaurant was dressed like a ranch themed sports bar. Spotted cow hide was strung up on the wall and upholstered on a bench by the door, an ox skull hung on display by the bar, and a full bison bust was mounted just right under the skylight. With brick columns, metal stools, wooden tables, and leather booths; the place had a modern yet rustic feel to it. I liked the detailing of having each table branded with “S&B” on one of its corners.
We arrived just as happy hour started at 3pm. So I took advantage by ordering one of their $4 beers on tap. This was their “Smoke and Bones lager”, an easy to drink brew with the fluidity of water.
For food they had a great listing with two sliders for $6, a $6 serving of mac and cheese, and a $6 chilli cheese dog. But we instead splurged on their full barbecue platter, in order to get a bit of everything and see if the restaurant bears repeating. This way we won’t walk away disappointed in one thing, and thinking everything else might be better.
Their “Barbeque platter” feeds 2-3 people of $62, and it left us with leftover for days. BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and farmer sausage; served on a large metal baking tray. Intermingled with coleslaw, potato salad, their “Smoke and Bones” beans, BBQ sauce, and corn bread as sides. It certainly is one of the more photogenic bbq platters we have had the pleasure to feast upon, but sadly, not one of the better.
The smell we got a whiff of outside, we got to taste on our tongues here; the taste and difference their smoker made. But bite after bite we could tell this wasn’t a fresh assembly. All the meats were reheated with the sausage still chilly at its core. We visited during a slower time, so could only imagine how all this would have been had we gotten it fresh-made on the day.
The following are some notes on each individual items.
My partner was most excited to see that the bread that was included in this set, also came with butter. Where as at other places bread doesn’t automatically proceed with butter and we have to ask for some and wait while they do it.
The cornbread next to it was a nice sweet bite. A simple mini muffin with that tell-a-tale corn bread mealiness.
I liked the home made pickles, they too were great for in between bites. A sharp salty tang to cleanse and lighten all the heavy barbecue to come. In fact, all the sides were helpful in this regard. Some just much better than the others.
Like the fries. They were great, a crispy thin coating encasing a stick of potato mash. It didn’t match all that well with their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, ketchup felt like a more natural fit.
The coleslaw was nice enough, I just wished it shredded pieces were consistently chopped, so that you aren’t chewing through or avoiding shards of lettuce.
I was intrigued with their use of cooked and caramelized apple in their bake beans. It had me liking the texture of the beans more, whereas I usually don’t like how grainy they are. The apple also gave the side much sweetness, as well as passing along some of its tart nature. This is hence forth new favourite way to have baked beans.
The potato salad had so much promise. Despite its hue, and the mix of extra firm potatoes, crunchy celery, and fragrant red pepper, in what looks like a chipotle mayo dressing; this was disappointing and bland. It had zero zest to it. The potatoes were on the raw side and the peppers could have used a char. If you are going to visit and order this or their potato salad, I would suggest paying $4 more to sub in their hot potato salad instead.
As for the meat, the ribs were very dry. With it and the other smoked meats to come, you could tell it was reheated. Remixed with just a fresh brushing of sauces to help rejuvenate the exterior texture.
The brisket was either dry and lean or dry and fatty. The pieces and the way they were prepared was uneven. A dunk in the sauce did wonders in giving it some flavour.
The pulled pork was slightly more tender and on average better tasting, but only if you didn’t have to bite down on a hard and fully blackened charred bit.
The chicken was my favourite of all the meats, it could have been juicer, but in comparison it was the freshest of all the others, making it noticeably better.
The farmer’s sausage held up the best, but was slightly chilled at its centre. It was a nice enough, plenty pieces of chewy spiced pork link; sliced up for easy one bite sharing.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly, it wasn’t as great as we imagined it, or as their slew of accolades suggested. Even as leftovers remade into sandwiches and wraps, I wasn’t all that excited to revisit the taste. Once again, I truly believe this is only because the meat wasn’t fresh. I would love to try a batch made the morning of, knowing the difference it would make. Don’t deny your cravings.
SMOKE AND BONES
999 Marine Drive, North Vancouver BC, V7P 1S4