If you’ve read this blog for very long you know that good reviews of BBQ restaurants are few and far between. As an official “BBQ Snob” I just don’t come across restaurants that warrant praise very often. This weekend I’m in Des Moines, Iowa for the 14th Annual Niman Ranch Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner and tonight I had the good fortune to eat at a wonderful BBQ restaurant. Smokey D’s…
Smokey D’s has everything a good BBQ restaurant should have. You can smell the wonderful sweet aroma of good BBQ from a block away and you can smell the wood smoke in the parking lot AND the restaurant smells like BBQ. Everyone that knows good BBQ knows you can tell you’re going to have at least a decent dining experience before you’ve left the parking lot.
Smokey D’s has everything a good BBQ establishment should have. Great food, a good vibe and fantastic customer service. It’s Thursday night and the restaurant was very, very busy. Darren Warth, one of the owners, said it was a little slow. This is a good sign…a packed restaurant and it’s a slow night.
I ordered the two meat dinner combo with brisket, chopped pork, mac & cheese and beans. By the time I filled my drink cup and sat down our food was making its way to the table. Super fast service is not always a plus in my book. This often times means the food is sitting under heat lamps or drowning in sauce in warming pans. It was obvious when the food arrived this was not the case. Sauce on the side and everything freshly cut and plated. BBQ perfection so far…
First and most importantly the meat was served with sauce on the side. This is always a good sign. When a restaurant serves it’s meats without sauce I’m always happier. In my mind this means they aren’t trying to hide something.
The chopped pork was flavorful with little pieces of bark mixed in. It wasn’t soggy or over cooked. It was very good. The brisket was good. Nice beautiful smoke ring with just a hint of smoke (more on that later). I prefer my brisket a little “juicier” than it’s served at Smokey D’s. I don’t mean the brisket was dry, it wasn’t, I just like to get some of the fat cap on my brisket. Smokey D’s serves it with almost all the fat trimmed off. It’s not bad this way, in fact, most people probably prefer it without the fat, I just like the fat.
You can tell a lot about a BBQ restaurant by the sides they serve. I ordered the beans and mac & cheese. Both were excellent. The beans weren’t cooked to mush and had great flavor. The mac & cheese was awesome. I loved it. There was a little spice to it. Not really a “heat” spice, but it did tickle the tongue on the way down. Darren shared with me the pepper that’s in it and I can’t wait to give it a try at home. (Since I didn’t ask if it was a “secret” I won’t share it just in case it is)
Now for some BBQ Restaurant Review hyperbole!
The cornbread is like crack. I could sit down at Smokey D’s and eat just this stuff. It is without a doubt the best cornbread I have ever eaten. It’s just cornbread. No peppers, no pieces of corn…just cornbread. The cornbread does have a little sweet crunch on the top, but that’s just sugar sprinkled on the batter before baking. Darren said they have their own pastry chef in-house. Whoever this person is should win the Nobel Cornbread Award!
And I ate a whole peach pie! Well not really. They don’t have peach pie at Smokey D’s, but they do have these amazing Peach Sliders. And they tasted great too.
The restaurant is full of BBQ Championship trophys. The gang at Smokey D’s don’t just run a first class BBQ restaurant they are amazing competition BBQ cooks. And winning the Grand Prize on the 2nd Season of BBQ Pitmasters is proof enough these folks know their BBQ.