My curiosity finally won out. Is it possible for a large chain restaurant to make good BBQ? I’ve tried in the past. I’ve eaten at a Corky’s franchise hoping for the best, but leaving feeling disappointed. In my experience, the best BBQ joints are always locally owned, they smoke on site, and they serve Memphis style BBQ.
Saturday was a pretty crappy day. J and I both overslept due to the rain. Our bedroom looked dark all morning and neither of us were motivated enough to actually look at a clock to see what time it was. When we did finally roll out of bed, we started our Saturday ritual of debating eateries and activities to fill our afternoon before I had to go to work. I had the BBQ craving and J had a GAP Rewards card, so Eastwood Towne Center seemed like the best option.
Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill is just off of Lake Lansing Road in front of the Eastwood Towne Centre near the other chain restaurants that dominate the area. It was a miserable rainy day when we pulled into the parking lot and fortunately, we found a parking spot near the door. The main entrance does not face Lake Lansing Road like you’d expect it to. It actually faces the access road for the mall.
I didn’t have high expectations when we went inside. The theme of the restaurant is more lodge than BBQ joint. The outside of the building looks more like something you’d find in the Colorado mountains than you would on Beale Street. The inside carries the theme. When you first walk in, there’s the main dining room to your right. If you keep going, you hit a pretty nice looking bar then another smaller dining room. Smokey Bones is part sports bar, part rib joint. They have TV’s all over the place and each table has a small speaker system that allows you to listen to whichever TV you choose. You could actually sit and enjoy a baseball game and not have to read the closed captioning like you do at most places.
The hostess showed us to a corner booth in the main dining room. It was a little bit of an odd seating choice since there was only two of us. I’m not a fan of these booths because we either sit a mile away from each other or we have to scoot to around the bend and to the middle. We chose to scoot so we could easily share an appetizer…and just cause we like each other enough to sit close to each other 🙂
We started with a Coke and a Lemonade then put in an order for Pretzel Bones. J likes soft pretzels a lot more than I do, but the menu picture made this look rather tasty so I agreed. The “Bones” are four long pretzel twists served with a trio of dipping sauces. The pretzels are lightly buttered and salted. The sauces are sweet honey mustard, creamy queso, and robust garlic Parmesan. I wasn’t really a fan of any of them. The honey mustard was really sweet. The garlic Parmesan was really salty and the queso didn’t do anything for me. The pretzels were pretty good on their own and I ate two of them. J, on the other hand, loved them and could have made a meal out of an order if I wouldn’t have taken two. She went pretty light on the sauces as well, but she loved the pretzels.
Like we normally do at BBQ places, J and I ordered the same entree. We both went with the Pulled Pork Sammy (and yes, I felt like a douchebag when I actually said the word “Sammy” when I ordered). You get your choice of sides with the sandwich. I went with fries. J went with baked beans.
Smokey Bones claims on the menu they slow-smoke in house. This sandwich tasted like it was. At most BBQ chains, they smoke in a central location, wrap the meat in plastic wrap, ship to the franchises and reheat on the grill….and you can’t taste it. Smokey Bones had a great smokey flavor. The meat was tender and delicious. They serve the meat dry which scores so many extra points with me. The waitress put two bottles of sauce on the table. One was a sweet tomato based sauce. The other was a mustard base which neither of us are really fans of so we didn’t try. I hate a couple fork fulls of meat off the sandwich dry before trying the sauce. I could have eaten a whole platter of meat that way. I did go with a little sauce on the bun just to create that gooey, sauce soaked bun. It was delicious.
J agreed it tasted good, but the chunks were too big for her. Unlike me, she prefers the meat to be drowning in sauce. She likes pulled pork as long as it doesn’t have a big “meat flavor.” She ate most of the sandwich but was already stuffed from the pretzel bones.
The fries I got looked to be fresh cut and they were really salty. I used some more of the BBQ sauce to dip them in. On a normal day, I would have probably raved about the fries, but I was already getting full from the sandwich. J didn’t say a whole lot about her baked beans. She’s got a pretty high standard now after eating the beans at Slows.
This absolutely pains me to say. Smokey Bones was good. Really good. I hate giving a chain so much credit, but it seems they take the time to do BBQ right. On one hand, I think it’s sad that Lansing’s only BBQ joint isn’t the creation of a family recipe, but on the other hand, I’m glad there’s at least one place that takes the time to do BBQ right. It’s a good thing we don’t live closer to Lansing Township. I could literally eat every meal there and be happy.