Just last week we posted a review of Glasgow’s latest takeaway venue, Buddy’s BBQ & Burgers – the first American BBQ fast food takeaway spot in the city. Within days of opening up shop, the demand for Buddy’s food was so high that they were forced to close up shop for a few days in order to purchase a larger meat smoker and hire new staff to in order to feed Glasgow’s hungry diners. As Buddy’s prepared for a relaunch, another brand new authentic American BBQ joint was setting up shop in the city. We heard about Smoak from our readers via our Facebook page and decided to head along to try it for ourselves.
Located within Sauchiehall street’s popular Variety Bar, Smoak is the brainchild of owners Chris Lumsden and Stephen Young who’s aim is to bring authentic American BBQ fast-food to Glasgow at an affordable price, using carefully sourced ingredients. Smoak’s menu consists of pulled pork and brisket sandwiches both served on a lightly sweetened brioche bun, Los Angeles style street tacos, grilled cheese, hot smoked salmon and more. The pork is sourced from British farms and the brisket from Linburn Farm in Erskine. Smoak’s menu is finished off with a selection of sweet sauces and coleslaws to finish off each sandwich. Despite not offering burgers, we wanted to stop by and sample some of the food for our ‘All Burgered Out?’ section. Glasgow’s pop up BBQ scene has appeared almost from nowhere and gained a lot of momentum over the last few weeks and with the addition of Smoak, it only looks set to get even bigger.
What I loved about Smoak from the second we walked into Variety Bar was that this is pop-up dining in it’s purest form, with Chris and Stephen both occupying a small food stand at the entrance of the bar, with the delicious meats slowly cooking away and an array of mouth watering toppings on display. The Variety Bar has no kitchen, so the food is prepared freshly infront of you and brought to your table. We wanted to get a taste of everything and decided to try out the pulled pork sandwich, brisket sandwich and street tacos.
I have to mention the presentation of the food, as it was absolutely first class. Considering that it’s all prepared from a small cart at the bar entrance, the food looked fantastic when it was brought to our table. Served on wooden boards, the brioche bun glistened under the neon purple lights and the sandwiches came with dipping sauce, a side of tortilla chips and salsa. Taste-wise, the pork was outstanding. Smoked with mesquite, it simply broke apart and melted away with each bite and had a distinctively rich and smokey flavour. Similarly, the oak smoked angus brisket was moist, juicy and full of flavour and immediately transported me back to the various New York City delis that we visited recently during our trip stateside that served up corned beef and brisket sandwiches. All of the meat used on these sandwiches was also slow smoked for 14 hours – delicious! The bun was light and fresh and was the perfect house for the brisket and pork. The slightly sweet bread offset the tangy BBQ and using the leftover bread to mop up the leftover sauce was a great way to finish off the sandwiches. Both sandwiches were topped with slaw, onions, lashings of BBQ sauce, jalapenos and dill pickle, delivering a lip-smacking, melt in the mouth finish that I didn’t want to end.
We moved on to the soft LA style street tacos. Street tacos are all the rage in California, with people devouring them on almost every street corner in Los Angeles. There are various options available at Smoak, but we opted for the sous-vide flank steak tacos topped with slaw, kimchi, scallions and ginger sauce. Once again, the presentation was spot on with the tacos being served in a basket alongside a range of dipping sauces and sour cream. Taste-wise, Smoak have another winner on their hands. The sous-vide cooking method has ensured that the steak is as juicy and tender as it can possibly be and the combination of the ginger sauce and kimchi give the tacos a sharp yet sweet finish. It’s the perfect dish to enjoy with a couple of ice cold drinks on a hot summer day – light and bursting with too many flavours to keep track of, yet ones that work well together.
When you consider the time and effort that has gone into sourcing and preparing the food at Smoak, the cooking time and the creativity that has gone into the menu, £4.95 is an absolute steal for a high quality pullled pork sandwich, juicy brisket or a serving of soft filled tacos. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spent £6 plus on a low quality boring supermarket lunch or greasy takeaway food when you are simply looking for something quick to eat. After samping both Buddy’s BBQ and now Smoak, I’ll definitely stop to consider my options a little more carefully when I’m in the middle of Glasgow and in need of a quick bite to eat and I’d certainly encourage everyone else to do the same. The only slight concern I have with Smoak being housed within the Variety bar is that it’s not the biggest bar in the world and if demand for the food goes through the roof as it likely will, it may be a fight to get a seat between the hours of 12 and 6pm. It’s certainly encouraging to see Glasgow diners so enthusiastic about having a new fast food cuisine to dive into and in terms of American BBQ, we can’t ask for anymore than what has popped up in the city within the space of only one week. Chris and Stephen are clearly passionate about food and I can’t wait to see what they add to Smoak’s menu next!
Pop-up BBQ fast-food dining is here Glasgow and it’s only going to get bigger. Get out there and try it for yourself. Now.
Price: Pulled Pork or Brisket Brioche £4.95 / Tacos £4.95
+ Great value for money.
+ Handmade to order
+ Diverse menu
+ 14 hour cooked meat!
– Variety Bar may potentially become overcrowded as Smoak’s popularity increases.
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SMOAK @ Variety Bar
401 Sauchiehall Street
Phone: 0141 332 4449