Apparently, Aspenites sometimes ride the bus down-valley to The Willits in order to eat at Smoke (and perhaps shop at Whole Foods while they’re at it).
This makes sense especially right now, as many Aspen restaurants will soon be closing for 4-6 weeks, freeing up their owners to visit St Barts or wherever it is they go once the Gondola stops running.
Smoke, an aptly named modern barbecue joint, never has an off-season and rightly so; its a locals favorite due to the consistently good food at un-Aspen prices, coupled with friendly service.
With a growing list of specialty cocktails, its also a great place to drop by and perch at the bar to nibble on deep fried okra or some of their glorious sweet potato fries.
If you dont want beer or rather average wines by the glass, try their appropriately smoky mezcal margarita with blood orange, or the more traditional house margarita; both excellent and free from the hangover-inducing chemical mixers that nearby restaurants are fond of using (but really shouldnt, given the type of restaurant they are). Martinis are also good; the Bloody Marys and Mimosas are perfect with their everything you could possibly desire to eat Sunday brunch menu.
They offer daily specials along with some fabulous salads such as delicate fillets of trout draped over baby greens with slaw, pepitas, citrus, cilantro and tortilla strips or the BLT salad, which is exactly that. The daily special Mac n Cheese on Fridays is my favorite, generously studded with fat juicy shrimp.
The side dishes are excellent and include grits ? something alien to me but I suppose there are grits-fans out there somewhere; theyre always happy to switch things around if you dont like what comes with whatgrits-be-gone!
Im not a frequent meat-eater so Ive mentioned the salads and sides first but their smoked stuff is amazing and Im coming to that.
Stir-fried Brussels sprouts are another favorite when available and what better to accompany a monster slab of dry-rubbed, meat-falling-off-the-bone pork ribs (add your sauce of choice – all homemade); half a juicy smoked chicken; salmon; a plate of smoked pulled pork or beef brisketwhat better, than their wonderful Smokin Slaw? Add an overloaded baked potato ? you get a choice of two generous sides but three wont hurt.
The burgers and sandwiches are equally impressive.
Desserts look calorific; theyre in the banana bread pudding, chocolate-fudge-brownie-piled-with-ice-cream-topped-with-whipped-cream-and-chocolate-sauce category. Ive never had room and I doubt theres much enthusiasm left for dessert once the entrees arrive, with their towering piles of succulent smoked meats, scrumptious sides and extravagantly-stuffed potatoes.
Go to their website http://www.smokemodernbbq.com to register for discounts and on Tuesdays they serve half-price glasses of wine.
I could go on but I recommend you try it yourself if you havent already.
Youll find me there at least twice a month!
(Jackie Mansfield is the creator of www.Edibletcetera.com – Not just another blog ? for Foodies everywhere!)