I called up The Smoke House BBQ & Bakery in Stayton to see how I could get a hold of a menu to review with a group of co-workers. Unfortunately, they didn't have one available online, and their fax machine was busted, so the owner, Karen, had to read me a menu synopsis over the phone which I jotted down. After I hung up, I consulted with the gang to establish our group order, then called it in.
When I walked in the front door, I immediately noticed the fun "smoke house" decor which consisted of rustic natural wood paneling on the walls, corrugated metal on the ceiling, and black and white checkered tile for the floor. It just felt like a BBQ joint should.
While I was waiting for my order to be completed, Karen told me that she and her husband recently purchased the bakery and restaurant in June and October of 2009, and are very busy running between them both. The Smoke House has been open just a month, and has been doing pretty well so far. I believe I heard her say that the recipes are all hers, including the chili which I had a sample of while I waited -- it had beans, but I forgave her for this ICS violation after the first delicious bite. I rarely order chili at a restaurant, but I might change my ways for a bowl of Karen's chili a couple of her cornbread muffins.
Our order consisted of 1-lb of brisket, 1-lb of pulled pork, 2 pulled pork sandwiches, 1 loaded baked potato, 6 sides of pepper-jack macaroni and cheese, a side of hush puppies, and a bag of cornbread muffins. The beauty of trying a new place with a bunch of people is that you can do it family style and everyone gets a taste (that is if you're quick enough).
I'll be honest, the brisket was not very attractive and was a bit dry - there's some room for improvement there. However, the pulled pork was very good, with a light smoke flavor so you could really taste the flavor of the pork. The pork could stand by itself but it also made an excellent sandwich -- and their sauces were quite good too ("Tangy Gold," "Spicy," and "Smokey"). I really wanted to get their pork short ribs as I've only ever had the beef version of this cut -- but I left that menu item for my next visit.
The pepper-jack macaroni and cheese. Did I mention the pepper-jack macaroni and cheese? Well, the pepper-jack macaroni and cheese was outstanding. The pepper-jack macaroni and cheese was simple and cheesy and creamy. We had 12 thumbs up for the pepper-jack macaroni and cheese. I will go back, just for the pepper-jack macaroni and cheese.
Cornbread fans are generally separated by those that like it sweet and those that like it dry and crumbly. The Smoke House's cornbread muffins are more sweet -- good for me because I'm not a fan of dry and crumbly. Their hush puppies are crispy and tear-drop shaped, about the size of a quarter if it were a sphere. The "loaded baked potato" was huge with a ton of toppings, and left my co-worker leaning back in her chair and wishing she had a belt to loosen.
Yep, the Smoke House BBQ and Bakery is open and ready for business and they're ready for you to give them a try. So get out and EAT SALEM (and surrounding communities)!