Can you handle the Barbecue Truth?

by Joe Murphy

A chopped pork sandwich, baked beans, tomato and green chili-cheese grits, brisket, Poor Man’s ribs and banana puddin’ at Winston-Salem’s Blue Smoke:

The Barbecue Truth.

I found the truth in Winston-Salem. No seriously, I ate at Blue Smoke: The Barbecue Truth on South Martin Luther King Drive near Winston-Salem State University last weekend, and its name is no false claim.

I got there a few minutes before they closed at 8 p.m. along with my friend, who can also be described as “high on the hog” (at least when it comes to appreciation of barbecue). We ordered off of the “Big Appetites” portion of the menu that offers a choice of three meats and two sides for $12.95.

As I placed my order I was informed that they were out of their barbecue chicken — likely an indication of its quality — so I added beef brisket to my order in its stead, along with their chopped barbecue pork and “Poor Man’s Ribs.” We ordered baked beans and tomato and green chili-cheese grits on the side. Both of us have big appetites and I wanted to ensure leftovers, so I also ordered their standard chopped-pork sandwich for myself.

We sat in a booth alongside the spacious dinning area. Besides us, a family of six and a middle-aged couple, the only other patrons, had already finished their meals and were making conversation. While I sipped my sweet tea, an employee came by and offered us each some of their banana puddin’ on the house. She explained that it was made fresh that day and they decided to offer it to their last customers before throwing it away. That brand of hospitality is rare these days — the last restaurant I worked at didn’t even let employees take home leftovers without paying — but it’s certainly alive at Blue Smoke.

A few minutes later our food arrived. People say that you eat with your eyes first. Sadly, my photo and words can’t convey the delectable combination of senses that this feast — entrees, sides and dessert — possessed. It was like a potluck dinner where everyone only brought dishes that were secret family recipes. The food looked and smelled so good I damn near forgot to take a picture before digging in.

I was never a big fan of beef brisket barbecue — as a North Carolina boy I’d always found barbecue pork and chicken to be superior — until I had Blue Smoke’s (I get it now, Texas). Their brisket was better than steak and (along with the savory ribs) so tender that they fell off our forks.

Truthfully, despite my Southern roots, I’ve usually only been able to tolerate grits, even when paired with cheese, shrimp and/or a whole stick of butter. But Blue Smoke’s — made with cheese, chunks of tomato and green chilis — were so good they confused my taste buds. My chopped-pork sandwich, topped with slaw and doused in Blue Smoke’s peppery, red-wine vinegar sauce, also stacks up with any that I’ve had in the Triad. The baked beans and banana puddin’ (they didn’t forget the vanilla wafers) were also fantastic. But I always like those dishes. Blue Smoke converted me into a brisket believer, though, and for that I’m thankful.

We easily could have eaten everything right then, but I insisted that we put down our forks and ask for a to-go box because, as they say, you’re actually full 10 minutes before you feel like you are. Furthermore, a few friends were visiting from out of town that night… and Blue Smoke’s food is a truth I felt obligated to share.

wanna go?

Blue Smoke: The Barbecue Truth 1527 South Martin Luther King Drive Winston-Salem