2013 | Dine

First Taste: Smoke BBQ

Finger lickin' (pretty) good

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So is Smoke BBQ, the Bethesda restaurant that opened in January, the answer to our pulled pork dreams? Aside from food truck fare (Hardy’s, Curley’s Q and BCS), our town has long been starved for a sit-down barbecue joint.

I can’t say Smoke BBQ knocked my socks off (or nude-colored knee highs, as the case may be), but it’s certainly a commendable effort.

The pulled pork sandwich came with a mountain of tender meat; ditto for the pulled chicken and brisket in the combo platter. And the crisp, hand-cut French fries are worth going on a potato bender.

The pulled chicken and brisket combo platter with collards, cornbread and coleslaw.Other sides, like the collards and cornbread, were pleasant company. But the cole slaw—its shaved cabbage mixed with sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and a sprinkle of rib rub—was an unsuccessful departure from the mayo-dressed version. The thin strands of cabbage had turned mushy, and the whole concoction had a bit of an off taste.

In general, with the exception of the brisket—which has a larger surface area and spends more time in the smoker—I’d say the meats need more smoke flavor. And the sauces (vinegar, regular and spicy) are too shy, needing more depth and character. My advice for the meats and sauces: just ramp everything up a notch or two.

Fried brownies with cayenne ganache.Fried brownies with cayenne ganache are a fun, throw-caution-to-the-wind idea, although they were better without the fried jacket. Just the dark, bittersweet brownies with their spicy chocolate drizzle were delicious and decadent enough.

4858 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-2011, smokebbqbethesda.com