Somerville, MA - It’s hard for us to get too excited about barbecue. At least in New England. Not only is it surprisingly easy to mess up, for some reason many would be restaraunteurs like to lay on an affected and cringe-inducing faux-Southern charm promising “authentic taste” when it’s painfully obvious the closest they ever got to the Mason Dixon line was purchasing a Williams Sonoma smoker box for the summer condo in Duxbury. Remember that time you wound up paying close to $30 for what was essentially chicken and waffles the last time you were in Assembly Square? Yeah, we think you’d probably prefer to forget that, too.
Still, for highly visible local chef, reality TV competitor, author and owner of the Smoke Shop BBQ Andy Husbands to have won \the Jack Daniels World BBQ Championship in 2010—to speak nothing of being a semifinalist in the James Beard Award’s Best New Chef category the previous two years—means he must be doing something right. And once we heard that the Smoke Shop boasts New England’s largest whiskey selection available (some 200+ varieties,) we couldn’t help but from any undue skepticism. At least, for the time being.
The Smoke Shop BBQ opened their newest Somerville location this past weekend in Assembly Row. The third of his barbecue ventures alongside sister restaurants in Kendall Square and Congress St, Husbands—also former executive chef of the now sadly departed Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in the South End—promises quality pit specialties with none of the cloying “down home” pretense.
“Often people are looking at what’s new, but it’s really what’s good. That’s what’s great about going to a barbecue restaurant—we all know why you’re here,” he explains.
Which means while you’ll find your traditional brisket, ribs and burnt ends, you’ll also find new takes on old favorites such as the hot wings with habañero agave, Thai chili, brown butter, pork belly and pickled peaches and fried chicken in a pimento cheese sauce. Vegetarian? The Smoke Shop also offers a chicarron style fried tofu in a sweet and sour sauce and numerous non-carnivorous sides..
With daily specials, specialty drink nights and plenty of gluten-free options, The Smoke Shop is less about reinventing and reconstructing barbecue, as much as honoring it.
“Barbecue transcends,” elaborates Husbands. “We’ll see a group of guys in suits, next to a family in shorts, next to a couple on a date. Everybody understands barbecue.”
"Barbecue is very similar to making wine or brewing beer, it's a craft in which both the science and the art need to be embraced,” writes Husbands in his 2015 best-seller Wicked Good Barbecue.
The Smoke Shop BBQ is located at 375 Assembly Row in Somerville and is open from 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; kitchen is open until 11 p.m. For more information, call (617) 996-6672 or visit www.thesmokeshopbbq.com