Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Finding the South in Brooklyn

This is a tale of a girl who had her first taste of the South, in Brooklyn. Those of you from the South, please refrain from passing judgment until after reading this post, and hopefully trying the place I am about to revere. That being said, let the story begin...

There is a place in Fort Greene that my friends and I had been wanting to try for a while, called The Smoke Joint. We passed by it once on a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, and I remember stepping inside and having the aroma of barbecue sauce wash over me instantly. Barely glancing at the menu, we knew this was a place we needed to dedicate a night to eating at. Always waiting for the right time, we let months go by before actually going there.

Finally, on a Saturday night with no plans and empty stomachs, we found ourselves craving stick-to-your-bones comfort food. We braved the lingering cold of March and walked over to Fort Greene. As we passed cute restaurants and wine bars, our motivation swayed slightly, but we persevered after remembering what awaited us.

And for the second time, the door swung open and I felt intoxicated as I inhaled the sweet and smoky scent of barbecue. Everything about The Smoke Joint excites the senses. The smells, obviously, but also the sight of steaming entrees and side dishes being carried from the counter, located right next to the front door, over to the tables.

Needless to say, we were overwhelmed. As soon as the server came over, instead of picking and choosing, we went the route of more is more. Was it enough that we ordered cornbread? No, we also needed corn on the cob, which was slathered with a chipotle mayo and sprinkled with scallions and paprika. And of course we needed collard greens. And french fries, tossed liberally in old bay spice. And macaroni and cheese that was bubbling on top and had a thick custard texture beneath. And our entrees came with coleslaw and pickles.

And then there were the entrees themselves. Oh, for the love of meat. As a girl who's only past encounters with brisket have been on Rosh Hashanah and Passover, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was a generous stack of moist and tender meat, begging to be doused in the hot sauces provided on the table for such an occasion. The commingling flavors of the smoky brisket, hot sauce, and crunchy coleslaw were deeply satisfying, with the tangy pickles completing the love affair. Even though I love my mother's Jewish brisket, while writing this post in bed, I could definitely eat some Smoke Joint brisket this very minute.

One of my friends ordered the hot links, which also did not disappoint, with a satisfyingly crackly exterior and an incredibly flavorful inside.

All around us, people were joyfully tucking in to their meats of choice and plentiful sides. There was a general feeling of camaraderie, because I think all of the diners felt apart of something special. We had stepped outside of Brooklyn temporarily, and had entered the bright South, its culture imbued with culinary traditions. Well, it was either that or the wide selection of bourbon that inspired the festive atmosphere.

There's really nothing else to say about the meal, except that afterward, my friends and I literally sat at the table for a good twenty minutes before able to move. And even then, we were only capable of moving to the bar across the street before needing to sit down again and rest. This is not a meal to be underestimated. When you go to the Smoke Joint, it's go hard or go home. In another month or so, when I'm finally hungry again, I can't wait to go back for my second dose of the South.