With Smoke BBQ's Success In Fort Lauderdale, Owners Look To Open Another Broward Barbecue Joint By End Of 2016
In the two months that Smoke BBQ has been open in Fort Lauderdale, word of mouth has spread fast.
The restaurant has had almost 10 sellouts since its debut in mid-December (two in the last week alone). Customers sometimes line up for food before opening time at 11 a.m., and repeat customers find themselves returning two to three times a week.
This success in Fort Lauderdale is beyond anything co-owner Scott Kennedy says he could've imagined, and it's the model he wants to continue with as he considers growing the concept.
Kennedy, who, along with partner Stephen Chin, opened the original Smoke BBQ in Delray Beach in fall 2014, said he's looking to open two additional Smoke BBQ restaurants.
Plans are in the works for another Broward location by the end of 2016.
"Fort Lauderdale has put a completely different energy back into the business because it's so focused on the food and the food first," he said.
The original location on Atlantic Avenue is a sit-down, full-service restaurant at a higher price point. It has a full bar, offers happy hour, and provides more of a nightlife environment that fits in with the Ave. But the new Fort Lauderdale concept is what Smoke BBQ's owners have always wanted it to be.
At this location, there's a hyper-focus on true barbecue. Meats are smoked around the clock—14 hours for brisket, up to 20 for burnt ends—with choices that can't be found in Delray.
Options include smoked pastrami, which Kennedy says has been compared to that of New York-famous Katz's Deli. There are also three types of ribs, including beef ribs only sold on Saturdays, and of course, the crème de la crème: the burnt ends, which Kennedy calls "barbecue candy."
The quick-service concept lets customers place their orders up front at the counter, where the meat is cut to order. They can choose among plates with two sides and sandwiches, and prices are kept low enough that customers can walk out having paid no more than $15 to $20 for a full meal.
"Barbecue should be affordable," Kennedy said. "It's a food that's very communal."
Also part of the equation is award-winning pitmaster Bryan Tyrell, a World Series of BBQ competitor who brings experience from the famed Oklahoma Joe's (now called Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que).
Smoke BBQ's ribs follow that Kansas City form. The hefty beef ribs, which are hard to find at most barbecue restaurants, are only sold on Saturday nights starting at 4 p.m., and they're often gone within three to four hours.
But the customers walking away truly disappointed are those who show up too late entirely and find a "Sold Out" sign out front.
"There's an appreciation for BBQ that we didn't really anticipate," Kennedy said. "We thought there was going to be a lot of education."
Education, for instance, on why their meats don't come smothered in barbecue sauce.
Smoke BBQ makes everything with a dry rub, so the meat can be presented as it's prepared, Kennedy explains. The restaurant then offers three house-made barbecue sauces—traditional, Carolina and hot sauce—so guests can dress their food to their liking.
"What we're doing in Fort Lauderdale is a purist form of barbecue"—something that's hard to find among barbecue joints around South Florida, Kennedy said. "They're baking the product and soaking it in sauce but, quite frankly, that's not barbecue."
The team behind Smoke BBQ, however, has taken every step possible to ensure that what customers are getting tastes as real as it gets, Kennedy explains. That includes a recent trip to Austin, Texas, in the name of research. The owners visited Franklin Barbecue, Stiles Switch BBQ and other Texas staples to help them figure out what was missing from their brisket.
"We learned a couple things that really improved the product," Kennedy said. "I thought we had good brisket, but now we've got great brisket."
The restaurant, closed on Mondays, generally operates from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. But, at the rate business is going, there's no guarantee Smoke BBQ will make it till closing time.
Still, Kennedy insists he'd rather have to close up shop than sacrifice quality by over-producing barbecue that doesn't meet his standards.
"What you're eating is what we smoke for that day, period," he said.
Smoke BBQ; 3351 NE 32nd St., Fort Lauderdale
(Photos courtesy Facebook/Smoke BBQ Fort Lauderdale)