Featured Restaurant: Smokin’ Hot Bar & Grille
Every year for Thanksgiving, we Americans stuff our faces with meat. It’s without a doubt the unofficial kickoff of the holiday eating season for many of us, and the first gigantic leap we inevitably take towards packing on the lbs. through the the next month or so. Some people will fight it. Some people will exercise harder. I say just go with it, and embrace the the excuse to stuff your face with even more meat. Case in point, my day after Thanksgiving excursion to Smokin’ Hot Bar and Grille in Glenwood, Maryland.
First impressions: this is the kind of hole in the wall joint Guy Fieri would profile on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. It’s located at the end of a strip mall (coincidentally, the strip mall in which my dog and childhood best friend, Reggie, was euthanized) but used to be run out of a mobile smoking trailer. The small, one dining room, one bar joint has a cozy, if not egalitarian feel, but maintains its BBQ joint ambiance with tables lined with thick sheets of paper and ginormous steak knives. Not bad for a place that touts its “family atmosphere.”
With a name like Smokin’ Hot, the grill obviously specializes in smoked meats, but they do offer a number of options that include salads and special. While a special of mango and peach salsa topped Mahi-Mahi sounded intriguing, I wasn’t about to divert from the land-based creature spectrum. After my party ordered a starter of Sweet Potato Fries (always a perquisite to try), I decided on the Pit Club Sandwich ($9.00).
Beef. Ham and Turkey. Slow smoked and topped with bacon.
Pit Beef is a Maryland tradition, although usually the top or bottom round it comes from is char-grilled. I was eager to test of pit beef from a real smoker, as well as the smoked ham and turkey, even though the proximity of my visit was pushing my tolerance for poultry to its breaking point. And of course, everything is better with bacon, which I requested “extra crispy.” And since I was going all out, I thought I’d be reasonably healthy and order some vegetable sides, ponying up the extra $2.50 to make my sandwich a platter and getting the Kale and Smoked Turkey and Country Green Beans added to my plate. You might say it was a veritable feast a mere 16 hours after my last veritable feast.
So how was my first visit to Smokin’ Hot? Well, lets start with what didn’t work. While I usually am stoked to get sweet potato fries, but I have to admit these were a disappointment. They were not crisp and some were quite limp, and the entire batch was too oily. The sugars hadn’t caramelized, and the fries retained quite a bit of starchy moisture inside while still having too much bite. The salt level was desirable, but the flavor was not there, and the texture was honestly off-putting. Another big bother was the service. I felt bad for the one young lady who was waiting six or seven tables, but her inability to explain the nine different kinds of BBQ sauces – as well as the slow wait for the food – didn’t help. I also thought the dining room could of benefited from a TV, and disliked the crowded nature of the table arrangement.
That all being said, many of my gripes with this place went away when the food did finally show up. Nine bucks is a little high for a pit sandwich at most Maryland BBQ shacks, but this sandwich wasn’t your ordinary pit meat sandwich. No joke, there must have been a good 1/2 pound of meat on this baby. Layered with smokey white and dark meat turkey, melt in your mouth slices of perfect, lean beef, and juicy, rich layers of ham, this sandwich was a perfect. The bacon, while not thick cut like I prefer, was nevertheless cooked extra crispy, and added just another element of salty and smokey sweetness on top of the excess in carnivorous embankment. This is the kind of sandwich that Michael Pollan would write editorials about NOT eating, and I enjoyed every last bite. I found the flavor of the beef to be exceptional, and its perfectly defined smoke ring gave no doubt to why it took so long to prepare. But my favorite element was the ham. With melted layers of fat interspersed with the sweet meat, it fell apart in my mouth “like butta” as my man Adam Richman would say.
The sides were really top notch as well, especially the Turkey Smoked Kale. While I didn’t find any pieces of turkey meat in the kale itself, it had a tremendously meaty flavor without being drowned out in some kind of fat – an all too easy error for most BBQ establishments. A nice taste of garlic and black pepper help round out the smoke, while the beans were mixed with some nice crushed tomatoes, and had good spice.
For $11.50 this is pretty much as solid as a lunch as you can get, especially considering the high quality and execution of the smoked meat. Still, it would have been nice to get a more pleasant experience from a lunch out, and considering the somewhat cold feeling I got inside the restaurant, my main suggestion would be for the owners to do a better job in welcoming their patrons and selling their product. I also think they seriously need to go back to the drawing board on the whole sweet potato fry concept, and consider shelving the side entirely if they can’t improve on their undercooked, oily and flavorless fries. All things considered though, if you should ever find yourself in close to Baltimore, this place is more than worth seeking out if you want to get your hands on some real deal barbecue.
Recommendations: Pit Club Sandwich w/ turkey smoked kale.
- Menu Variety: 8.00/10
- Atmosphere: Bar/Grill/BBQ
- Price: $$-Moderate= $7.00-$20
- GrubGrade: 8.00/10 (Very Good): Points deducted for lack of enjoyable lunchtime ambiance and epic fail on sweet potato fries. Stick with the meat and classic BBQ sides and you can’t go wrong though. A strong contender for one of greater Baltimore’s best barbecue restaurants.
Check them out: Smokin Hot Bar & Grill