So what’s new at Smokehouse Brewing? Well a lot. But I suppose I should backtrack a bit. Smokehouse Brewing is the new name for Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub. First, I should caution you not to panic. The Smokehouse Brewing of today is largely the same as the Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub of last week. The owner is the same, so are the staff, so are the brewers and the beer. And what may alleve the most panic….so are the wings. The wings are still brined, smoked and grilled before they are served to you. So now that I have made things a bit more clear and reduced the likelihood of an anxiety attack, let me go back, back in time to the origins of Smokehouse Brewing.
The building has a long history in Columbus dining. It was once Jack Bowman’s Suburban Steakhouse home of the nation’s first salad bar (although a few other places debate this). Then it was a B.J. Salvi’s…oh, Pasta Salvi, how I miss you. In 1997 (or 1998 depending on a few interpretations of various things) Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was born. Most of you know of Barley’s Ale House #1 located downtown. And 95% of those folks that know, know that Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was connected to Barley’s by ownership until 2012. Smokehouse Brewing is still owned by Lenny Kolada. Angelo Signorino Jr. is still the head brewer in the house. While the name change was announced a few weeks ago, today, May 7th, is the day that Smokehouse Brewing decided to go big and stay home with a new menu. Many menu favorites of the last 15+ years are still on the menu but if you are a regular afraid of change, I encourage you to take the plunge into these new selections. If you have never visited, this is your opportunity to see what a brewpub can deliver (this is not a fish and chips joint).
I visited on the first day and as a rule, I never write about a first visit or a new menu. It’s not fair to anyone, but I’m OK breaking my rules in this case. With the assistance of Mrs. Gourmand, we tried out three of the new menu items. First on the list, Smoked Bahn Mi. As a disclaimer, the Bahn Mi is a favorite sandwich of mine so my standards are unrealistically high. As an additional disclaimer and sidenote, my favorite Bahn Mi’s are at Mi Li and Indochine and my favorite Bahn Mi inspired sandwich is the Bahn Meanie by Green Meanie. Those three are stiff competition for any contender. Smokehouse Brewing’s spin on the Bahn Mi involves: a thick pile of smoked ham, ample roasted pork, pickled vegetables (mostly onions), a light slathering of sweet chili sriracha aioli, shredded carrots and jalapeno, a dash of cilantro and mint on a Dan the Baker Baguette. If that sounds good, let me assure you it also tastes good.
Next on the table, the Greek Lamb Burger. To begin, I must admit that I made a rookie mistake with the new menu. I did not look at the add on’s for the burgers. While it was not needed, I wish I had asked for Double Smoked Thick Cut Bacon on this burger. The lamb burger was simple which made it simply good – the ground lamb was well seasoned, cooked just enough and served with tzatziki sauce and crumbled Feta cheese. The burger was skewered with a toothpick impaling two of the house made pickles on top of the bun. Good Burger but some bacon….and a fried egg and maybe something else…..might have made it even better.
Finally, under the subheading of Traditional Barbecue: Smoked Pork Barbacoa Three Way. This includes: pork shank on Asian slaw, pork belly swimming in honey chipotle BBQ sauce, pulled pork butt on a bed of lettuce (makes a convenient wrap on the fly) and with my serving, I had baked beans and cole slaw (while the menu says grilled asparagus and barley risotto). I think the substitution was an error on my part for not reading the menu in detail combined with my server working hard to give me what she believed I wanted. I’m glad I made an error because I really enjoyed both the cole slaw and the baked beans. I’m frequently disappointed by both so I am happy to report both sides were among the best of their style I have tried in town. As for each single part of the three way, as a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge I’d say they were each executed well. I first encountered the pork shank as a tasty snack prepared by our local Manbeque Chapter at a beer event in February. It made an impression on me as well as Lenny who was at the event as well. I am a proud convert to the pork shank. I will be eating that again and again. The pork was perfectly prepared and with the bone retained it adds to the flavor and makes it very easy to eat like a lollipop. The pork belly was neither cooked too much or too little, a tough balance for some. As for the pulled pork butt – it was well done but I would have enjoyed it more served in the barbacoa style I’m more accustomed to with some more spice and juices mixed with the meat. I’m a Butt man what can I say.
All in all for day one and based on only three brand new menu items, I’d say Smokehouse Brewing is well on the way to defining (and maybe refining) their new name with this menu and truly making a new name/mark for themselves which will please regulars and converts alike.