Smoken Bones Cookshack

101-721 Station Rd (Langford) tel: 391-6328

Bottom line - wear loose fitting clothes...track pants, a moo moo, anything would be better the the tight jeans I opted for.

Chad, self-proclaimed pork lover and BBQ enthusiast and I were pretty excited to gorge ourselves on saucy, fatty goodness for the afternoon and after getting lost twice and making three phone call to the restaurant for directions, finally arrived ready to eat.

Not heavy on ambiance, the space is simple, but neat and tidy. We were seated in a booth, which in retrospect, I would highly recommend as it seemed my ass grew larger the longer I sat in the restaurant.

We were delighted to see a long list of starters and immediately ordered hushpuppies ($7), fried oysters ($9.25) and two pints of Smoken Bones Ale (made by Philips') ($4.90). We might have been getting ahead of ourselves a little bit on the double starters, when we hadn't yet picked our mains. Out came to big baskets of deep fried goodness. I'm no expert on hushpuppies, but they were pretty tasty - six, seasoned and fried cornmeal balls,  accompanied by a creamy, cajun spiced dip. Similarly, the oysters were fresh tasting and the cornmeal batter nice and crispy. The tomato based dipping sauce could have been spicier, but was otherwise a good compliment. Chad was a little less impressed with the oysters, but admitted to being less of an oyster fan generally. In both cases, the portions were big enough for a family to share. While, I'm normally critical of big portions, this is a BBQ restaurant and big portions are expected.

For our mains, Chad had the the pulled pork and beef brisket combo plate ($13.5) and I had the BBQ pork ribs ($17). As is the tradition in BBQ restaurants, you get to pick your side. We went for the mac and cheese and the house made fries, as well as an extra side of coleslaw ($2) -  because we're pigs. Served piping hot, my pork arrived with a little bucket for the bones, a nice touch. I asked for the some hot sauce and was delivered a brand new bottle of Tabasco. I guess people aren't asking for it, but it seems to me that hot sauce fits with the BBQ theme. There was nothing wrong with the Tabasco, but I'd love to see it as part of the table condiments and a house made alternative would really make me happy. The ribs were tender, smoky and cooked just right. The sauce was thick enough to stick to the meat and the flavour well balanced with the smokiness of the meat. The accompanying fries were also hot and tasty, as promised by the server.

Chad's pulled pork and brisket were yummy too, but we both thought they would have been better with some bread. We both remarked on the nice balance of fat and meat on the brisket. The mac and cheese was creamy, without being unbearably rich, which in our throws of gluttony was a good thing. The coleslaw was crunchy and had a sour cream dressing, which we both enjoyed.

Having sampled three BBQ meats, Chad made the constructive observation that all the BBQ sauces were quite similar. He suggested that one of the exciting things about the BBQ tradition is the diversity of sauces that you find in different geographic regions. We both agreed that a little variation would be interesting.  Granted, it's not how they do it down South, but hey this is the only BBQ restaurant in town and a survey approach would help broaden peoples understanding of the culinary style.

There were a couple of menu items that seemed like add-ons or after thoughts. The salmon and the vegetarian option stuck out as such. The salmon just seemed out of place and while I was happy to see a vegetarian option it looked like it could use some work. I know vegetarian BBQ sounds like a tough one, but I once dined in a vegan BBQ restaurant in New York (the only city I know, where the variety and quality of vegan restaurants, even vaguely compares to mainstream dining) and was thoroughly surprised by the taste-quality. My lesson from that restaurant - BBQ tempeh, it actually works. 

Somehow we put down a bowl of peach cobbler  ($5.85) for dessert. Chad thought the peaches were a bit cornstarchy, but we both ploughed through it, so his complaint seemed of little consequence. I was pleased with the nice moist biscuit topping and freshly whipped cream. 

In addition to a reasonable selection of beers and a somewhat lame, albeit acceptable, selection of wines, they also have a bourbon list. It's not often I've seen such a diverse selection of bourbon - had it not been the middle of the afternoon and needing to drive home, I certainly would have tried some.

It wasn't the fastest lunch I've ever had (2 hours) and some of the timing was a little off, but considering how much food we ate, it was probably a good thing. The server was casual, but knew the menu and had lots of feedback when questioned.

We were pretty full by the end of this feast with no significant complaints - the food was good, the presentation was simple but thoughtful, the drink list was well paired and the service was friendly -  not bad for a fairly new restaurant. There are a few improvements to be made, mainly with regard to saucery and ambiance, but otherwise the Smoken Bones crew should be pretty pleased with themselves.

Reviewed November 23, 2006