Thanks to Smokey Bones my family was hosted for dinner this week at their Fort Wayne location so we could try out their new menu items and check out their updated digs.
Over the years we have sought out places for good barbecue and had a hard time of it. Sadly, even at Smokey Bones our experiences have not been consistently good. One time they’d wow us and the next time the recipes and preparation left us underwhelmed. This past Wednesday provided us the perfect combo of service, food and comfort that blew all other experiences there out of the water.
Driving up to the restaurant we noticed something looked different and inside was an even bigger surprise. The layout was essentially the same, but the restaurant somehow looked more open with a fresh coat of paint and updated lighting just to name a few changes. That was a blessing since where we were seated this evening was almost exactly where we had been the time before – under a light that wouldn’t stop flickering and there was nothing they could do about it. Did I mention I can’t stand flickering lights? This time the lighting was in perfect working order. When we got to the booth we noticed there were greasy fingerprints all over the seat – inevitable when you bring kids to eat barbecue :D. The server immediately went to get spray cleaner, a wash cloth and napkins to wipe down and dry the seats.
Service was on point this evening even though we had a bit of a hiccup with the drinks. My husband ordered the new Smooth Bourbon Blackberry Lemonade. He chose Maker’s Mark, but was also given the option of Buffalo Trace bourbon.
Smooth Bourbon Blackberry Lemonade
Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace Bourbon + blackberry purée + fresh squeezed lemonade + a dash of natural spice and topped with prosecco sparkling white wine
It was supposed to come with a slice of lemon slice and blackberry on a skewer but that was missing as was anything in the drink that made it taste of lemonade. It was loaded with bourbon and seltzer water colored like blackberry and a touch of a spice I couldn’t place at first.
I ordered the Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea as it seemed like the perfect compliment to what I had planned to order. Unfortunately, my drink didn’t come out right the first time either.
Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea
Maker’s Mark Bourbon + Aperol Liqueur + peach purée + hand squeezed lemon juice + house brewed sweet tea + topped with a peach skewer and fresh rosemary
It tasted like watered down peach with some bourbon and was missing the rosemary and any sour component from lemon or anything else. He didn’t want to complain or send it back, but I wanted to be honest with Brittany, our server, that things didn’t seem quite right. She insisted on having our drinks remade – even our daughter’s Strawberry Lemonade mocktail that came out cloyingly sweet.
While we waited for our drinks to be remade, Brittany took our order. This is what we ordered.
NEW 1 LB Smoked Pork Chop
1 LB. Smoked Pork Chop. Sweet brined for 24 hours then slow smoked and grilled to perfection. Served with 2 regular sides. On your mark, get set, pork!
Giant Hawaiian Ribeye
Real meat eaters wanted. A juicy, tender 14 oz. Ribeye marinated for 48 hours in pineapple + soy sauce + ginger + brown sugar + grilled to perfection. Served with 2 regular sides. Bring out the big knife.
Baby Back Ribs
These award-winning baby backs are superstars of the smoker. Smoked 4 hrs. + fire grilled to order + brushed with a sweet BBQ glaze + served with garlic bread. Lights. Camera. Eat these.
Kid’s BBQ Pork Sammy NEW
Pulled pork + bun.
Not too much later our remade drinks arrived at the table delivered by the bartender himself with Brittany coming by soon after. The Bourbon Blackberry lemonade finally tasted like blackberry lemonade with prosecco and bourbon and was properly garnished. We also learned that the myrrh-like, sort of nutmeggy, mildly pine tasting spice in the drink was cardamom! It was a beautiful addition to the drink. My Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea finally tasted more peachy and had the perfect hint of sour from fresh squeezed lemon and it had the rosemary. Our daughter’s mocktail came back not too sour and not too sweet! Now everyone was happy and just waited for our meal to arrive.
Being a Wednesday evening it didn’t take too long for our food to arrive. Brittany was patient with me while I took pictures of our plates as they arrived. I knew if I didn’t get a shot right away there would be nothing left to photograph in a few minutes. My smoked pork chop was tender, flavorful and the fat was wonderfully crispy around the edges. I was afraid it was going to taste just like a ham steak but I could not have been more wrong. It was juicy and you could taste the brine spices throughout the meat. That first bite was a flood of joy. The mashed potatoes were really good with flecks of red potato skin under a light brown gravy. The broccoli was still nice and green, but fork tender.
The Giant Ribeye was cooked to order, but my husband did note it was a little too salty for his taste. There was a sauce mopped on the surface and my guess it was this that was increasing the saltiness. He ate it anyway because he hates sending things back. Our daughter’s Baby Back Ribs were fall off the bone tender and she got so full from the ribs and mashed potatoes that she couldn’t finish her broccoli. This drew Brittany’s attention and asked if she could bring her something else if she didn’t like the broccoli. I had to explain to her she was too full to even think about getting anything else – she’d had ribs in front of her after all. BTW, I love the little paper bag they bring to the table for the rib bones. It’s a little thing, but I often wonder where on my plate am I going to keep all these naked bones whenever I have bone-in meats.
The pulled pork sandwich was a hit with our youngest. She devoured it all with a generous slathering of the Chipotle barbecue sauce. She and I were both pleased and impressed that the kids menu included more than just pizza, burgers, chicken fingers and mac and cheese. Typically, at a specialty restaurant none of those things are well done and she hates being relegated to these items and usually ends up sharing and adult meal with me or her sister. It made her happy to be able to choose from items that also appeared on the adult menu but in smaller portions. We wish more restaurants did this.
We would have liked to try out dessert since Smokey Bones was treating us to dinner, but we were so full from the sumptuous main course that thinking about more food may have made our heads explode. We did get an interesting tip from the manager about the new Bourbon Blackberry Lemonade though. She mentioned she’s never been much of a bourbon fan and thought that one was like any other. This was until one of the bartenders made this lemonade with the Buffalo Trace Bourbon option and she was blown away. We’ve never had this brand of bourbon, but we’ll certainly look into it next time we visit Smokey Bones.