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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Southern Smoke Another Good Addition to Area Dining Landscape

South Mountain is witnessing a renaissance–and it happens to be in the number of new restaurants opening. Fueled by new residential growth and a “boom town” feel in the area, dining options are suddenly expanding.  Open just a few weeks, Southern Smoke B.B.Q. Company, located at 7th Street and Southern Avenue, is the latest addition to the community in a location that has played host to a succession of businesses, one being a former BBQ establishment. 
 
While the inhabitants have come and gone, this time around the signs are looking very promising for a prolonged stay for this business.
 
“Our first week we had people come in the same day twice,” says Shondalette Williams owner of South Mountain’s newest Barbeque establishment.  Looking appreciable younger than her age, which she openly admits is 35, she looks less like the proprietor of a new business than a high school student.  Just don’t allow her youthful appearance to deceive you into thinking there is anything juvenile about the food, or for that matter the service. In charge of every aspect of the concern, Williams is not just the owner, she is the chief chef. She handles the entire operation directly. 
 
For those passing by and viewing the establishment slowly coming to life over the past few months, Williams’ latest venture has that just-opened look. But there is nothing incomplete or rushed about the food.
 
Coming to the table with an interesting background, Williams’ father came from the West Indies and her mother called South Carolina home, giving way to a cuisine that doesn’t easily fit into any one category.
 
“Southern Cooking with a twist,” is the way Williams describes the offerings, which is actually accurate considering the methods employed.  Preparing chicken without flour, and keeping the grease to a minimum, the selections here a tad more “heart healthy” than most.  Even early on there are the visible signs of this being the type of authentic place that locals frequent often, and visitors delight in telling their friends about.
 
On the day I dropped in there was a group of diners less engaged in talking than they were with their lunch selections. High school kids, families were among the wide range of people walking in and enjoying themselves. What was even better was the peaceful surroundings. The atmosphere invites you to simply curl up in the corner with a rib sandwich and enter southern style dining seventh heaven.
While the atmosphere is stark, the food is anything but minimal.  I had a chance to sample the BBQ sandwich, and that was literally like a taste of heaven.  Not too vinegary or too thin in consistency, this is about the best over all BBQ sauce I have had since I was in North Carolina.  
 
Anyone familiar with the Southeast knows that each state has a slightly different take on BBQ. The sauces vary greatly from region to region.  What Williams has created has that distinct “Carolina” feel, but with a twist.  This time the alterations work like a charm.  The side dishes were not lacking either. The ingredients tasted fresh, a point that Williams takes pride. She directly ensures that only fresh ingredients are used and not a sour note or weak link in the chain can be found. Did I mention the helpings were generous?
 
If one can be enthused by food, Southern Smoke has managed to get the details down right, and remain flavorful.  I was curious to see if this was true of the catfish, a personal favorite.
 
And what was the verdict on the catfish sandwich?   Without a doubt, this was one of the great catches of the day.  The taste was light, flavorful and the batter was everything I had hoped, and then some.  Not too heavy, not too greasy, not too overwhelming, even the bread in the catfish sandwiched reminded me of the Southeast. 
 
It is in the details that southern food is ruined.  If you don’t know what you are doing, and you are not paying close attention, a great dish can become mediocre fast.  Thankfully, years of growing up with this style of cooking and absorbing detail has given Williams the important edge.  She learned those culinary lessons well, and it shows.
 
Controlling consistency and quality is essential to any business, particularly when food is involved.  Southern Smoke does this by doing what every five-star restaurant does; rather than offering a menu high on variety but low on quality, the focus is on preparing a few dishes well.
 
However, that doesn’t mean there is no variety.  Such basics like ribs, catfish, fried chicken and combo plates are represented.  Side dishes include homemade potato salad, coleslaw, beans and corn-on-the-cob and are coupled with the outstanding food are very reasonable price points.  
 
Sandwiches are in the $5.50 to $6.99 range and full dinners are in the $6.99 to $11.99. Merging value with flavor, Southern Smoke BBQ is certainly aware of their audience. They know the right balance between good food and a good deal. 
 
Even this early, the public is making their opinion known. “The people have been fabulous,” said Williams. 
 
Not only are they pleased, this new business could very fill a vacancy in dining.
 
“People are looking for somewhere else to go,” observed Williams.  With this new place gaining a foothold, South Mountain has just added yet another great little place that makes dining here the best deal in the entire Valley.
 
 
Southern Smoke B.B.Q Company
692 E. Southern Avenue
Phoenix, Az 85040
 
Phone: 602-276-3307
Fax 602-276-9878
 
Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m to 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
 
 
 
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