Food Porn: Smoke On The Water

The buzz around Smoke On The Water started almost a year ago. I first heard about it when I read about a Dinner with Danger meal that would be a sneak peak into the menu at the new restaurant from Kevin and JJ Richert, the brothers behind the excellent Kenmore restaurant Torches. I’ve had the pleasure of watching JJ and Kevin compete at Nickel City Chef events and I’ve always enjoyed their fun/creative/over the top take on cooking. So when I heard they were going to be opening another restaurant and focusing on BBQ, I was beyond excited. It took some time and a lot of renovation but Smoke On The Water just opened their doors in early July, so it was only a matter of time before Alli and I took the drive up for a meal on the canal.

Not knowing much about the location (besides their facebook photos) we arrived late on a Friday night assuming there would be a wait. There was a 30 minute wait but Alli and I killed the time by hanging out near their very cool “water powered smoker” (pictured in gallery) and checking out the view on the canal. The restaurant itself is pretty small and their parking lot will hold only a couple cars/motorcycles, which means you’ll likely have to park across the street in the Walgreen’s parking lot. Being right on the water, you can even pull your boat up to the back deck if you’d like. Inside the restaurant gets a little crowded with a dozen or so seating options and a long bar. Even after we were seated to eat the crowd was still going strong and we were basically surround by standing room only customers from the bar.

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Casual
  • Cuisine: BBQ/Southern
  • Location: Tonawanda
  • Prices: Sandwiches $8-12, Appetizers $4-8, Sides Under $4

To begin, I have to say I was conflicted with our meal at Smoke on the Water. While the actual meat in our dishes was good, all of the “accoutrements”, including the BBQ sauce, were sort of lackluster. When we walked into the restaurant we saw a sign of specials and noticed that Loaded Nacho (pictured above) was their appetizer special, so we started our meal off with a plate of warm tortilla chips topped with beans, cheese, pulled pork, BBQ sauce and sour cream. The pulled pork was a little dry but still had a good flavor, the cheese was gooey and the sauce was sweet. Shortly after we ordered our nachos, I watched someone from the kitchen take out some ice to the bar using a large Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce bucket and noticed that the the sauce on the chips/bottle at our table tasted very similar to that well known brand. Alli and I both love Sweet Baby Ray’s, it’s a sauce we use a lot at home. That said, our expectations for Smoke On The Water were incredibly high because we know how talented the Richert brothers are and was hoping for some awesome BBQ sauces that we couldn’t find elsewhere. I’m not saying they use Sweet Baby Ray’s because I have no confirmation that they do, but we did see a Sweet Baby Ray’s bucket and the BBQ sauce at the table reminded us of it…maybe they use it as a base, or maybe it’s just coincidence.

We both ordered sandwiches off their menu, I ordered the Cubano ($9, pictured above) while Alli ordered herself the Smokehouse Turkey BLT ($8, gallery) and both with a side of voodoo fries. I’ve seen the pictures of the Cubano on the Smoke On The Water facebook page and knew I was going to order it before I stepped through the doors. The sandwich was composed of more pulled pork, house made peameal bacon, pickles, beans, cilantro mustard and lime.¬† There were a lot of flavors going on in the sandwich, but the bacon was what really stuck out. It had a deliciously strong smokey flavor and I almost wanted to eat the meat all by itself without any other flavors from getting in the way. The pork was a bit dry and the sandwich as a whole was a little bit of a mess (which is OK, BBQ is supposed to be messy). The pickles and mustard provided a sour/tart kick that was almost overwhelming. Alli’s Smokehouse Turkey BLT included thick cut turkey that again had a really great smokey flavor while still being nice and juicy. The rest of the sandwich was just OK, the bacon was slightly soggy and the cranberry mayo was spread veryyy thin. The french fries were a little bit of a downer, just generic bagged (I think) lukewarm fries with some Cajun sprinkling on top.

Alli also ordered a side of the Nickel City Mac and Cheese, the Richert’s recipe that we’ve seen on their menu at Torches for a while. Their mac and cheese comes with a liberal amount of blue cheese, crushed gold fish crackers and some hot sauce. For Alli the blue cheese was a little too overwhelming for her and combined with getting really full, we ended up taking the majority of the dish home with us.

So again, we were very impressed with the actual meat of our sandwiches, everything that they are doing when it comes to pork and turkey is just great. The flavors are strong and the meat still juicy. The sides and sauces were somewhat disappointing and the service was chaotic which made the dining experience less enjoyable. I realize that it’s maybe unfair to have such a high standard and I also understand that this restaurant has only been open for a couple weeks so I will definitely go back to try more menu items, especially their meats. The chefs behind this restaurant are very talented and I expect the kinks to be worked out and everything about the restaurant to only improve over time.

Photo Gallery:

Smoke on the Water on Urbanspoon

8 thoughts on “Food Porn: Smoke On The Water

  1. Marie

    I love this place! Not to be mean, but did you expect a BBQ dish to NOT be a bit sloppy? lol

    • Don Burtless

      Ha I’m ok with sloppy for sure, that was more of a statement rather then critique. Plus that bacon was very very good.

  2. This was really disappointing to hear! I was pumped about trying Smoke on the Water out, and now my expectations have drooped a little bit. Thanks for the detailed write-up, though. I’m hoping to stop by in the next couple weeks and maybe write something on it.

    • Don Burtless

      It’s easy to have really high expectations with the Richerts, I’m sure it will continue to get better. Like we said the meat was fantastic and service/small details will def get better.

  3. Marc

    Why did you not order BBQ? Two sandwhiches? No ribs? BTW the BBQ is weak there – Pulled pork is gross. I think my review on yelp summed it up best ha

    • Don Burtless

      could only try so much at one visit for two people, we’ll go back again to try more but the smoked meats we had were pretty good.

  4. More often than not the sauce is, to me, an indicator of the attention the creator gives to there food. It’s a make or break, and when it comes to sweet, KC style sauces a disappointment more often than not. YMMV.

  5. Marc

    I went for their pig luau and that place still is pretty underwhelming

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> 

This site's anti-spam requires Javascript; enable it and refresh this page to continue.

NoScript Users: Whitelist the domain services.wpspamhammer.com and refresh.