The first time we ever experienced Smokin’ With Chris was actually at a wedding rehearsal dinner, and at the end of the night I was embarrassed that we hadn’t previously discovered this gem of a restaurant.
Why embarrassed? Well, I have always complained about how there isn’t enough good BBQ in CT and this place was right under our noses!
It’s like you’re at the friend’s house that owns a smoker, but they actually know how to use it! i.e., there hasn’t been a time where we’ve been to Smokin’ where we haven’t seen Chris, or where the staff haven’t made us feel right at home like friends or family. And, oh man, do they know how to smoke meat!
My latest experience with Chris’ smokin’ lair was meeting longtime friends and past colleagues the other week. I arrived early, so I went straight to the bar area which is separate off of the main room – they always have a killer, craft brew selection.
The ‘tender immediately made me feel welcome and also alerted me to their seriously impressive bourbon list. I guess it’s not surprising, since it is a meat-mecca of an establishment.
I chose the Eagle Rare ($9 for a heavy pour), and they gave me a choice of the stock bottle OR a bottle that they specifically cask ‘smoked’ to give it a new, earthy flavor! (Think High West Whiskey’s ‘Campfire’ – giving you some Scotch smoke, but not enough to offend the bourbon-leaning whiskey drinker).
Once everyone arrived, we nestled into the dining area that Thurs-Sun turns into something more like an Austin, TX backyard BBQ where you’re treated to live music as you dine. Tip: definitely do a Thurs-Sun night for your first experience.
Orders were all over the map, but no one was sharing – it’s just too good! Burnt ends, fried chicken, brisket, spare ribs, baby back ribs, you name it.
I got a half-rack of the baby back ribs with their backed mac & cheese and collard greens (Tip: there was still enough to reserve a small portion for lunch leftovers).
The ribs were a quality cut; melt in your mouthers, and a great balance of that drier, flavorful outer crust with a moist center. I still lathered them with Chris’ homemade sauce, because that’s how I do it! The mac was awesome as well with a nice kick to it (House made cheese sauce blended with chili powder, ancho, chipotle & cayenne peppers and topped with panko bread crumbs). I could not believe how good the collards where… I do like mine with the meat base, but I really liked these lighter, spicier collards (they sauté with onion, crushed red pepper & vinegar… and maybe go lighter on the ham hocks in the process).
Beer pairing: Long Trail’s Limbo IPA (7.6%) and BBC’s Steel Rail (5.3%; Berkshire Brewing Company). The alcohol from the higher-ABV Limbo really brought out the smokiness in the ribs and the Steel Rail was a perfect, light finisher for the mac and collards.
We were all extremely satisfied, and even though they close @9pm on Tues/Wed, we were not rushed out of the joint. It was more like when you’re at a friend’s place on a school night and it’s probably just time to go!
Do yourself a favor this winter and warm-up with Chris and crew at Smokin’ With Chris! (I know, I was REALLY close to busting out a Kriss Kross reference there…)
-The Sweet and Sweaty
Smokin’ With Chris
59 West Center Street, Southington, CT 06489