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Despite the times, Smokey and the Brisket

Some day, this motorsports-themed BBQ joint will offer a fun outing in La Mesa

A vintage pickup truck stores wood for the smokers on La Mesa's newest BBQ joint.
A vintage pickup truck stores wood for the smokers on La Mesa's newest BBQ joint.

From a diner’s perspective, one of the more amazing aspects of the past year has been that a handful of entrepreneurs have gone through with new restaurant openings. Most don’t have much choice in the matter: they have already signed leases, they’ve jumped through all the hoops required by city and country building and health codes, and have otherwise committed huge amounts of time and money toward seeing their plans through.

Place

Smokey and the Brisket

5465 Lake Murray Blvd, La Mesa

Still, it’s tough to think of anything gutsier than opening a new restaurant while the county remains locked in a dining shutdown. Especially when the restaurant in question is so clearly designed for on-premise enjoyment.

Motorcycles and vintage car parts populate Smokey and the Brisket's dining room.

But that’s exactly the case with Smokey and The Brisket, La Mesa’s latest BBQ joint. Opened by chef Alberto Morreale, the restaurateur behind the family of Farmer’s Table properties, the new brisket and ribs joint was likewise put together with an eye for decorative atmosphere. Except, rather than tractors and farm equipment, this one’s designed around chopped vintage cars, motorcycles, and other highway hardware.

For example, in the main dining room, a pair of street bikes stand over a bank of bench seats made from mid-century car fenders, brake lights, and upholstered back seats. At the rear of the restaurant, a custom bar has been constructed from what started out as a 1960s Dodge van, with beers poured from tap handles mounted on old motorcycle fuel tanks.

Prime brisket, served with white bread and pickled onions

All this, combined with large rollup doors ready to open up to patio seating, and TV screens ready to air motorsports, this environment was very clearly meant for less socially distant times. One hopes the return of such times isn’t too far off, but for the moment, Smokey’s has found itself up and running as a take-out and delivery restaurant first.

Obviously, step number one is to try the brisket ($16). In this case, prime grade brisket cut from black Angus beef, wood-smoked beginning “in the wee hours of the morning,” as the barbecue gods intended.

A vintage Dodge van converted into a custom bar

Indeed, it’s a tasty brisket, with a finely rendered ribbon of fat and a salty spice rub charred into black bark. Rather than the fall-apart-on-your-fork kind often cherished in a slow-smoked brisket, my serving was allowed to retain its meaty integrity, perhaps to show off the flavorful, natural tenderness ingrained in the prime cut.

Smoked habañero half chicken

For the most part, Smokey and The Brisket sticks close to BBQ traditions, which include options for both pork and beef ribs, serving hot links, crafting BBQ’d meat sandwiches, and plating brisket with white bread. But there’s also a willingness here to get a little creative and playful. The brisket comes with pickled onions, for instance, and along with some of the standard BBQ sides (mac and cheese, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, $4 apiece), you may get the likes of Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, dressed with figs and balsamic vinegar. Additionally, pizza lovers may order most of the meats as toppings on a flatbread.

Roll-up doors suggest an eventually enjoyable public space.

And, when you order a smoked whole or half rotisserie chicken ($11), there’s a choice of habañero marinated bird, which includes a habañero version of the house barbecue sauce (which I thought could be spicier, but I’ll go ahead and recommend anyway). Though, next time, I’m going to have to try the Alabama chicken, brined for 24-hours and served with the gulf state’s rarely seen in these parts white BBQ sauce.

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A vintage pickup truck stores wood for the smokers on La Mesa's newest BBQ joint.
A vintage pickup truck stores wood for the smokers on La Mesa's newest BBQ joint.

From a diner’s perspective, one of the more amazing aspects of the past year has been that a handful of entrepreneurs have gone through with new restaurant openings. Most don’t have much choice in the matter: they have already signed leases, they’ve jumped through all the hoops required by city and country building and health codes, and have otherwise committed huge amounts of time and money toward seeing their plans through.

Place

Smokey and the Brisket

5465 Lake Murray Blvd, La Mesa

Still, it’s tough to think of anything gutsier than opening a new restaurant while the county remains locked in a dining shutdown. Especially when the restaurant in question is so clearly designed for on-premise enjoyment.

Motorcycles and vintage car parts populate Smokey and the Brisket's dining room.

But that’s exactly the case with Smokey and The Brisket, La Mesa’s latest BBQ joint. Opened by chef Alberto Morreale, the restaurateur behind the family of Farmer’s Table properties, the new brisket and ribs joint was likewise put together with an eye for decorative atmosphere. Except, rather than tractors and farm equipment, this one’s designed around chopped vintage cars, motorcycles, and other highway hardware.

For example, in the main dining room, a pair of street bikes stand over a bank of bench seats made from mid-century car fenders, brake lights, and upholstered back seats. At the rear of the restaurant, a custom bar has been constructed from what started out as a 1960s Dodge van, with beers poured from tap handles mounted on old motorcycle fuel tanks.

Prime brisket, served with white bread and pickled onions

All this, combined with large rollup doors ready to open up to patio seating, and TV screens ready to air motorsports, this environment was very clearly meant for less socially distant times. One hopes the return of such times isn’t too far off, but for the moment, Smokey’s has found itself up and running as a take-out and delivery restaurant first.

Obviously, step number one is to try the brisket ($16). In this case, prime grade brisket cut from black Angus beef, wood-smoked beginning “in the wee hours of the morning,” as the barbecue gods intended.

A vintage Dodge van converted into a custom bar

Indeed, it’s a tasty brisket, with a finely rendered ribbon of fat and a salty spice rub charred into black bark. Rather than the fall-apart-on-your-fork kind often cherished in a slow-smoked brisket, my serving was allowed to retain its meaty integrity, perhaps to show off the flavorful, natural tenderness ingrained in the prime cut.

Smoked habañero half chicken

For the most part, Smokey and The Brisket sticks close to BBQ traditions, which include options for both pork and beef ribs, serving hot links, crafting BBQ’d meat sandwiches, and plating brisket with white bread. But there’s also a willingness here to get a little creative and playful. The brisket comes with pickled onions, for instance, and along with some of the standard BBQ sides (mac and cheese, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, $4 apiece), you may get the likes of Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, dressed with figs and balsamic vinegar. Additionally, pizza lovers may order most of the meats as toppings on a flatbread.

Roll-up doors suggest an eventually enjoyable public space.

And, when you order a smoked whole or half rotisserie chicken ($11), there’s a choice of habañero marinated bird, which includes a habañero version of the house barbecue sauce (which I thought could be spicier, but I’ll go ahead and recommend anyway). Though, next time, I’m going to have to try the Alabama chicken, brined for 24-hours and served with the gulf state’s rarely seen in these parts white BBQ sauce.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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