The Smokehouse Barbecue & Brews returns to the far right side of the United States Pavilion. Picnic tables surround it, which means you may have a rare opportunity to sit down with your food.
The Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider is new as is the Central 28 Wheal Ale.
We ordered one of each.
Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw – $6.75
The sting of last year’s size reduction is decidedly in the past and we can again focus on the tender, flavorful pork on top of the soft bun that’s topped with a crunchy, if not forgettable, slaw.
Given the price and the current portion, it’s difficult to give this two thumbs way up, but it’s a “safe” option that serves as a filling snack if you’re in the market. They’re quite popular.
Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue and House-made Pickle – $7.25
There’s a lot going on here and I’m not sure that it all works in tandem. The key to the burnt ends is the caramelization of the sugar in the sauce, giving the dense meaty bites a little bit of a crispy exterior before giving way to the juicy, soft, chewy, interior. I’m not sure if the fat content of the point wasn’t high enough or the cooking times/temperatures were off on the first day, but our meat was dry and overcooked with char replacing the preferred crispiness.
The pork belly is much thinner, softer, and more delicate and it’s what you see doused in the cheese fondue inside of the bun. Our two bites of brisket serve more as a side dish. The good news is that the pork is very good – a more intense bacon flavor enhanced by the creamy cheese fondue. The bun is good too – crispy around the edges but soft on the inside – it does a nice job of containing everything. We’ve got some bonus items up top with the very garlicky sausage and the acidic, thick slice of pickle. With so many things going on, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy at least a couple of the components. Pricing is a little regrettable, but you can decide if that extra $1.50 keeps you away. The taste rating would be higher with better brisket.
Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños – $6.50
The Hash was a major disappointment this year. Even if the burnt ends were the best ever, we’re still talking about three bites haphazardly placed on top of some under-seasoned potatoes and enough cheese fondue to cover exactly one bite of food.
Here’s last years, which makes what we were served this year a complete joke. Hopefully things improve, but you might take a look at what other people are carrying before committing to something based on last year’s reviews. Very disappointing.
Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans – $4
Luckily, the cake is as ooey-gooey as ever with a fluffy, light base that is not unlike the great toffee cake over at Liberty Tree Tavern, this time with a sweet caramel sauce tempered a bit by some hints of bourbon and spiced up with the nuts. The cake has a pronounced, but not heavy-handed chocolate flavor. It’s a big slice for the money and would be a “must buy” if it were perhaps just a little more unique. It remains one of the better safe bets.
Zen of Zin Old Vine, California – $5.25
Available for around $10/bottle at the grocery store, the $5.25 price here is not a particularly good value for this spicy zinfandel with some juicy berry notes on the front end backed up by chocolate and plum. It does pair well with the barbecue even if I’d rather see $3.50 next to the name of the wine.
Beer Flight with Central 28 Brewing Company Sunshine Greetings Orange Hibiscus Wheat Ale, 3 Daughters Brewing Phantasmas Spicy Double IPA, and Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout – $9.50
That’s the beer flight on the far left. Great shot, I know. The easy-drinking, slightly floral Central 28 Hibiscus What Ale is the newcomer. Moderate carbonation and a crisp finish make it easy to polish off the flight’s 4-ounce cup in short order.
Also in the flight, I’m not sure if the Phantasmas Spicy DIPA is a pleasant drinking experience – it tastes like a milder, more drinkable version of the Twisted Pine Billy’s Chilies that was available here a few years ago that continues to haunt my existence even more than the collections calls I get for nonpayment of seven years worth of Italian Festival food. You’re not getting my money, Italy. It’s fine in the 4-ounce size, particularly paired with the barbecue, but there aren’t a lot of hops or carbonation and it tastes like somebody squeezed some jalapeno juice into a Coors Light.
The Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout has a nice subtle sweetness from the maple combined with the smokiness of the bacon that adds up to a relatively complex experience. It’s arguably the best of the three and should be enjoyable separately or as part of the flight.
Remember that individual pours are six ounces and the flights are three cups that are four ounces each. That means the beer in the flight is 79.2 cents per ounce and the individual pours are an even 75 cents per ounce. So if the beer sounds good and you have three hands or are otherwise good at balancing, the individual 6-ounce pours are actually cheaper and you can easily put together the same flight with three individual pours.
Frozen Lemonade with Firefly Blackberry Moonshine – $11.75
I neglected to take a picture of this year’s version, which looks just like this only in pink. We all enjoyed it more than the Minue Maid version pictured above. There’s a real tart berry flavor to the drink that helps balance out all the sugar in the lemonade and the pour of moonshine was better than average. It’s a lot to pay for a very small cup, though.
I like getting the Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset from the Joffrey’s Stand, which you’ll find to the left of the Pavilion. For 75 cents more than the Moonshine, you’ll come away with a double shot of Grey Goose Vodka and a much more sizable drink.
I’m really hoping the Burnt Ends Hash returns to form sooner rather than later. I gave last year’s a 10/10 on taste and value. The Slider is overpriced, but a lot of care goes into its creation and it’s sort of like Baskin Robbins in that it comes with your choice of at least 75 flavors with all of the different meats and sauces. The Chocolate Cake is worth stopping for specifically and the beer flight offers some interesting flavors that pair well with the barbecue. Nothing is reinventing the wheel here, but those that have been victimized by some “weird” flavors elsewhere may want to hone in on some good old fashioned smokehouse favorites.