Smokin' With Chris
59 West Center St., Southington
860-620-9133 and smokinwithchris.com
On a recent Saturday afternoon after a shopping trip, we stopped into Smokin' With Chris, a restaurant and bar in an old factory area of Southington.
THE VIBE: Even in the parking lot, you can tell there's something wonderful going on. It's the smoky smell of barbecue.
Walk in on the bar side and you can see the joint has on tap Narragansett Porter, Long Trail, and Innis & Gunn. Steer through to the large dining room and choose from a window booth or table, covered in brown paper.
There is ample room for bands, which play Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
THE FOOD: Be hungry. This is not dainty dining. There were two of us, so we settled on the appetizer menu, for the best variety. We sampled burnt ends, about 10 boneless tri-tip steaks skewered, marinated in spicy Southwest sauce and grilled. Mini crab cakes were a serving of three, 4-inch cakes with spicy rémoulade sauce. The side sampler platter comes with five of their house-made sides. We chose mac & cheese (too spicy for some, but we liked the sauce powered by chili, chipotle and cayenne), creamy cole slaw, Lincoln sweet potatoes (cooked down with orange juice, sugar, molasses and cinnamon), baked beans (with brown sugar, molasses and onion), and onion rings with spicy aioli sauce. And, of course, an order of corn bread.
This was one of those meals that with the first bite we were in taste heaven. The barbecue was a little chewy but so flavorful that the extra chewing enhanced the experience. The mac and cheese was creamy and spicy, but the extra heat was addictive. The corn bread's consistent crumbled properly without falling apart. If you're fond of extra sweet potatoes, Lincoln is your recipe. The slaw was complimentary to the meat and the beans had that sweet-smoky flavor expected in a barbecue spot.
THE BILL: We paid, with tip and two soft drinks (which our expert waitress refilled before we even realized we were done), $52. And we had plenty to take home.
THE PARTICULARS: Open daily. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. There is a catering menu. The restaurant is open for events and seats 75 in the main dining room, 30 in the piano room and 55 in the seasonal outdoor patio. The restaurant will cater on your site for parties of 50 or more.
THE VERDICT: Now that we've conquered the appetizers, we'll move on to the entrees.