3620 30th Street, North Park
It turns out that BBQ 81 isn’t North Park’s only barbecue restaurant. Smitty’s Taste of the Bayou opened up quietly at the end of last year, sharing kitchen space two days a week with the 30th Street Cafe. Now that the Cafe is no more, Smitty and his crew hope to extend service to every night. For now, the spot is only open Sundays (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and Mondays (11 p.m. to 8 p.m.).
Good thing, too, because Smitty wrests good flavor out of this little Char-Broil grill and smoker on the sidewalk patio. Not sure exactly how he is doing it, with that miniature grill and a shoebox of a kitchen, but his meaty spare ribs have a decent bark, decent smokiness, and great texture. In the micro-contest for North Park’s best ribs, Smitty’s are winning.
They’re cheap, too. $26.95 for a 12 rib, full-rack dinner is a lot of food for the loot. For one hungry dude, the three rib “regular” size ($11.95) is ample fare. There’s no coleslaw, but the beans are sweet and meaty, and the baked mac and cheese brings something good to the table. Cornbread is salty, not sweet, which will make some people very happy.
Other than the ribs and chicken, Smitty’s menu lists Louisiana food: crawfish étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya.
The gumbo, which appears to be thickened with only a light roux, runs high on the flavor of cooked trinity (onions, peppers, and celery), and with a surprising kick to the gravy. This isn’t great, make-you-drop-what-you’re-doing-to-run-out-and-get-some gumbo, but it’s good, and better than you’d expect from a hole-in-the-wall former coffee shop.
In terms of All Things BBQ, Smitty’s is the only shop without the word “barbecue” (or some variant thereof) in its name. That can slide, though, since those ribs are good.