Smoke House BBQ and Bakery (Now Open!)

Loyal Readers:  This is a new restaurant.  If you're not able to visit them with an open mind and be able to allow them room for error, then wait a few more months.  However, if you're ready for adventure, you understand that new restaurants need time to learn their routines, and you can overlook some mistakes, then I encourage you to get out and EAT SALEM!

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)!


Anonymous said...

Thank you VN! I always trust your opinion when it comes to meat. Cannot wait to go try this place!

jeff said...

I'm hoping to see the Smokehouse succeed for 2 reasons: 1. I think it's pretty good and 2. I'd love to see someone break the curse on that location. Some pretty decent restaurants have been in there and all have failed (or in the case of the Maui Grill, moved, declined, and then failed).
Based on what it takes to get a seat there the couple times I've been in - they've got a good chance of hitting it out of the park.

Anonymous said...

I ate there on opening day with my family.

I love BBQ, and, after driving past it every day since they bought it, waiting for it to open, I was pretty worked up. Maybe my expectations were a little high.

The same couple owns and runs "The Donut Shop" that is very nearby, and the donuts are nothing short of fabulous, so I had hoped they knew about BBQ what they know about donuts.

The side dishes were great, the decor is well done and very cool (especially in Stayton, where no restaurants seem to care about decorations), but the meat was okay, at best. The sauces all tasted like thick mass produced grocery-store sauces... or maybe a mix of off-the-shelf sauces (maybe mixing Bulls-Eye or KC Masterpiece and mustard, for instance).

I also noticed that there was no smell of meat cooking... at a BBQ joint called "The SMOKEHOUSE"?!?

The pulled pork was not awful, but it wasn't really great. It tasted like something that could have been bought pre-packaged and heated up. Although it was a little dry, the flavor of the brisket was good, but I was let down to find that it is only serve pulled, not sliced.

I found out a few days later, on good authority, that they do purchase the BBQ meats pre-cooked.

Please don't think I am slamming them. They do an amazing job with The Donut Shop and, as I said, the sides were great, but I just hoped for so much more from the actual BBQ. I hope that changes and they actually start cooking their meat on site. Maybe then the brisket can actually be served sliced, instead of only pulled.

There were some service issues, but I just chalk that up to the fact that it was the first day and they had brand new staff to train, etc. Still, it was icky when the waitress delivered our 4 empty water glasses to our table with her fingers INSIDE each glass, carrying them one handed, sort of bowling ball style. We just let those glasses sit at the table and didn't use them. I trust that things like that have been worked out in the month since they opened. I will definitely eat there again as it's still the best BBQ in Stayton, but no one is likely to make the trip out from Salem just for the BBQ when they have options like Adam's Rib or even Roadhouse Grill.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

@Anon That's some sad news if true. The owner certainly didn't mention anything about purchasing their meat pre-cooked when I was there -- that leaves me a little disappointed.

I concur that their sides were the best part of the meal (see my notes on the mac and cheese). I sure hope someone from the Smoke House BBQ and Bakery is reading this and can weigh in.

Chuck Bradley said...

I will try this place soon if for no other reason than the last time I ate at it's location was over 50 years ago when it was the Busy Bee. Gosh, I hope I'm not too long in the tooth to chew the BBQ! (Maybe I should get out more.)

Anonymous said...

Bought-in meats?! At a smokehouse?! How disappointing. I had tentatively planned to make the drive out there this weekend, my hankering for BBQ has been so strong lately.... but I dunno... doesn't sound worth it anymore....


Anonymous said...

@Chuck - LOL. I remember as I sat there eating my pulled pork sandwich how, when I was a kid, my parents' insurance agent had his desk about where I was sitting at the time. That building has sure changed hands a few times.

@Nightmare - I hope I'm wrong about them trucking int he BBQ. But, all I was told was that they brought it in pre-cooked. For all I know, it's possible they have someone else local do the BBQ, or even that they do it at a different location. Still, it can't be as fresh that way and that's a let down. Hopefully, it's a temporary situation while they test the market out and all that.

Even if the BBQ improves, I personally was not very hot on their sauces. They were okay, but too thick and syrupy for my taste.

Chuck Bradley said...

Why BBQ places struggle in the mid-valley is a question which has long perplexed me.

I tried their pulled pork sandwich today. They offer four varieties of sauce: Smokey, Sweet, Tangy Amber and Spicy. Smokey and Spicy were my favorites. The pulled pork lacked meat lacked the smokey flavor I enjoy, but the sauces helped make up for that. All in all a decent BBQ joint. I hope they fare better then most others have in the Salem area.

Life's Lessons said...

When I ate there in the first week, service was learning their jobs and the place was slammed. I'm sure they were all stressed and not as prepared for the massive response that the community gave them. Now that the rush has died down, the service is getting better, though sometimes you have to call for a water glass to be filled. (after all, it's some less experienced waitstaff working the tables sometimes)

During the first week, cornbread was not all the way cooked and the some of the food was a bit fatty (ok, really fatty) but now that they aren't so busy, the quality has improved greatly! I've let the management know about the improvements that we've seen and she was very receptive when hearing them.

We now go in when we can afford to eat a meal out because this is our first choice in town. We both love the sauces, the sweet cornbread, the strawberry lemonade served in mason jars, the sweet tea, and of course, the ribs are pretty darn good too.

Here's to surviving the cursed spot in town!