Successful Columbus restauranteur Mark Jones makes no bones about what will be different at his new downtown barbecue joint, Smoque.
First of all, it’s probably going to be less of a joint and more of a barbecue parlor. Some things, and smoked meat is one of them, should be served in a joint and not a parlor, just saying.
In rolling out the new restaurant that is set to open next month at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway, Jones proclaimed, “This isn’t your daddy’s barbecue.”
Fine. Great. I get it. It’s going to be different.
But it also begs the question: Exactly what is wrong with my daddy’s barbecue?
There have been few things in my 56 years that have been consistently consistent, but I am here to tell you barbecue is at the top of that list. What I like today, pork slow-cooked over hickory smoke, is exactly what I liked 50 years ago when I started this deep-seated love affair with barbecue.
Barbecue can be personal around these parts because it does involve your daddy — and even your granddaddy.
As a little boy, one of my first memories is going into this magical place in Irondale, Ala., not far from my grandparents’ home. Papa would take me and my brother to the Golden Rule because it was his barbecue joint. He made sure it became mine. I can remember sitting on the stools alongside the counter and ordering a pork sandwich, chips and Coca-Cola.
When we would travel to Birmingham in the 1960s to visit my grandparents, and we did it often, there would be Golden Rule sandwiches at the house when we got there if it was late and the restaurant was closed.
My daddy’s barbecue joint was a place called The Grill on Highway 82 going into or out of Union Springs, Ala., depending on whether you were going to Montgomery or Eufaula. I always called the place “Mrs. Rhodes” after the woman who ran it, because that is what my dad called it. Her barbecue pork sandwiches, served in this roadside drive-in, were the best. It was at her establishment that I graduated from one to two sandwiches for lunch or dinner.
Looking back on it now with the lens of an adult, Mrs. Rhodes may have been a little ahead of her time. Seems like the grown-ups could always get a drink there that was a little stronger than the Coca-Cola the boys always got.
So, you see, your daddy’s barbecue is not automatically a bad thing.
But I get what Mark is doing here. The neon sign on the wall spells it out — Bourbon, Beer, Cue. There ain’t anything wrong with any of those things, especially when the beer is the craft variety and the cue is properly rubbed and sauced. The bourbon stands alone.
Will it work? I would never bet against Mark Jones.
He nailed Hunter’s Pub two decades ago. His downtown restaurants — Black Cow, Plucked Up Chicken, Flip Side Burgers & Tacos and Phillyosophy — are consistent and almost always packed.
The guy knows what he is doing. But he better, because now he has gone and messed with daddy’s barbecue.