The koozies are genius. There's something inexplicably decadent and wonderful about a restaurant offering a cushy foam barrier to keep your beer cold and your hand warm. Sipping $2 cans of PBR from Smokehouse 21's house-branded koozies, this crazy world makes sense.
We've seen this bougiecue formula before: meat like what the Civil War's losing side eats while watching stock car races and MMA bouts, plus sides that incorporate slightly more vegetable matter and less cheese. Factor in proper napkins, show-quality taxidermy and the Black Keys, and you can take a date to this Alphabet District spot.
No, this bistro-style smokehouse in the former Tanuki space is not on par with our 2011 Restaurant of the Year, Podnah's Pit. But, after trying most of the menu over three visits, it's clear Smokehouse 21 does some things extremely well.
The pulled pork is the reason to come. It's juicy, rich with smoke and shredded into perfect pieces. Get a sandwich on a brioche bun from Ken's, pick your favorite of the four barbecue sauces, and have at 'er.
The sides are equally impressive. The greens are sharp with vinegar, but their perfect consistency—crisp yet fully cooked—makes up for it. Baked beans and macaroni and cheese, both topped with a cornbread crust and infused with leftover meat, are pleasantly rich. Fingerling potatoes, shallots and grainy mustard give the potato salad a wonderful earthiness.
The other meats aren't as great. The brisket was too dry with too little bark both times we tried it. Extra fat turned up on the ribs (both pork and lamb), which need be further rendered. The housemade hot link was totally forgettable, given there's so much great charcuterie in this town. The trout isn't bad, but it pales in comparison to Podnah's.
Then again, Podnah's doesn't have koozies.
- Order this: Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw ($10) and a $2 PBR.
- Iâll pass: The bacon molasses cornbread ($2) is missing something.
GO: Smokehouse 21, 413 NW 21st Ave., 971-373-8990, smokehouse21.com. 11:30 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-midnight Friday-Saturday. $$ Moderate.