Sunday, January 31, 2010

Old Smokehouse

SAN ANTONIO: Old Smokehouse
5145 Fredericksburg Rd

San Antonio, TX 78229


Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

Walking through the dining room to reach the counter, my eye was caught by beautiful mounds of meat piled high family style on some of the tables. The slices of brisket looked promising, and I couldn't wait to get my own. As I ordered the standard ribs and brisket, I noticed they had lamb ribs on their menu. Now I've rarely met a lamb rib worth craving, but I always make a point to get at least a taste of this big city menu rarity. The meat cutting area is just out of view over the ordering counter, so it was too late when I saw the ladle rising and quickly falling onto my unwitting styrofoam container. I felt ambushed given the lack of sauce on every tempting plate I passed in the joint. My wife said it best when I got back in the car by noting that it smelled like BBQ sauce rather than BBQ.

This joint has been around since 2003, and I learned later from some friends that it used to be a San Antonio favorite when it was Bob's Smokehouse under previous ownership. They also said Bob wouldn't have been so capricious with his sauce. Forlornly, I opened the box in the car while my wife drove to the next destination. I went straight for the lamb ribs on top. These were truly lamb (less than 1 year old) rather than mutton ribs, which can taste similar to wet wool. The meat had a nice hint of smoke, and the bone had a large portion of meat attached. Lamb meat is very fatty, so they were a bit chewy, but the flavor was excellent.

The pork ribs were beyond saving. They had already been drowned, so they were plenty moist and tender. The flavor of the meat was hard to distinguish, as was the smoke. Brisket was hard to rescue, but the slices were admirable. The meat could have been more tender, but they had a decent crust and a good smoky flavor. The potential was evident. Sides were excellent with a nice mustard potato salad that had plenty of celery chunks and a not-too-sweet creamed corn. I'd eat here again, but I'd be adamant about having sauce on the side.

Rating ***

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was here a few days ago during lunch and your review is spot on. Too much sauce. Brisket had potential and I wasn't sure what to think of the spare rib. It escaped some of the sauce and seemed kind of dry on the ends. The sides were just ok too.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.