Continuing our savory tour of Greenville, Sister Foodie and I sampled Carolina barbecue at Smoke on the Water.
When we strolled up to this downtown Southern eatery on a sunny Saturday, lunch service was jamming outside but plenty of inside seating was available. We parked ourselves in a booth and wasted no time putting in orders for Fried Catfish and the Triple Play, a barbecue sandwich sampler.
Not one to pass up a microbrew, Sister downed a mug of something or other. I can never remember the names of craft beers; guess I'll have to start writing them down. I drank sweet tea because, you know, I gotta fit in with the Southern folks.
Although we weren't seated in the bar area, it looked pretty darned welcoming. Resist the temptation to picture the average barbecue joint because Smoke takes the decor up several notches. Pendant lights illuminate a long, shiny bar, where you can watch the flat screens, or opt for table or booth seating if you prefer more intimate human interaction. Interior colors can best be described as subdued Pottery Barn hues, setting a mood that is clean, modern and comfortable.
Our affable waitress brought us a basket of warm cornbread, which seemed to be standard procedure. It was moist but sweet. I know the Mississippi Maven would have frowned upon the sweetness; true Southerners do not like sugar in their cornbread. With our "border state" birthrights, this didn't present a problem for us Maryland-born sisters; we roll with the cornbread recipes. I've had better (I like a tiny-bit-sweet, cast-iron-skillet version) but I enjoyed the fluffy texture of this one. Cornbread is one of those foods nobody can agree on. Whatever they thought, people throughout the restaurant were chowing down on it.
After the waitress presented our lunch plates, she explained the set of three barbecue sauces placed before us: a mustard-based, a sweet tomato-based and a spicy tomato-based. These condiments accompanied the Triple Play, which featured a miniature pimento cheese hamburger, and pulled pork and beef brisket sliders.
The hamburger was overcooked and the flavor of pimento cheese was undetectable. Strike.
The smoked meats were served naked, so you can slather whatever sauce you wish on them. Since the meats were dry - Strike 2 - the delicious housemade sauces were a welcome addition. I would like to say the pork and brisket were moist and succulent, and that I would return for a giant plate of them, but I'd be lying.
The game stealer was the Fried Catfish. Now this I would repeat. Quickly fried, the catfish was - well - moist and succulent. The batter was light and crispy with a touch of seasoning and not a hint of grease. Catfish is something I rarely order but I saw a gigantic sandwich go by on my way to our table and it looked like a winner. Home run.
Side dishes include mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, fried green tomatoes, Brunswick stew and a litany of other Southern favorites. The menu, which also features chicken, ribs, steak, burgers, salads, soups, and a tempting assortment of starters, would satisfy a variety of tastes and was reasonably priced. The sandwich sampler was $11.95 and the catfish lunch entree was $7.95.
The restaurant offers live entertainment and plenty of outside seating but no fire in the sky. (You knew I had to get that in somewhere!)
Smoke on the Water
1 Augusta Street