American comfort food @ The Smoke Haus

It’s no secret I love comfort food. From loaded burgers and footlong hotdogs to gooey mac n cheese; I’m all about the stodge. My waistline doesn’t thank me for this love affair, of course, but my stomach is usually quite grateful, and frankly I listen to that more than my skinny jeans anyway. For that reason I was excited to try the newest American-inspired restaurant to take up residence in Brum: The Smoke Haus.

England’s first Smoke Haus – there’s now also two venues in Wales and one in Bristol – it opened in 2016 and is nestled next to the main square in picturesque Brindleyplace. As it’s based above The Slug and Lettuce (with just a small monochrome sign and a doorway on the street to give its location away) you might be forgiven for not really knowing it’s there, but once inside the modern (heavily) graffitied interior means you won’t forget it. It’s light and bigger than I imagined with around 150 covers, and offers some nice windowside tables giving customers a bird’s eye view of the Water’s Edge bandstand below.

The walls are positively dripping with American music and film memorabilia, and red leather booths, motorbikes and exposed brickwork give the place a biker bar feel. It also manages to have a relaxed, homely vibe that’s mirrored in the waiting staff’s friendly attitude and service. I imagine if the Fonz visited Birmingham he’d probably give this place 10 cool points; even the toilets are like stepping into 1980s New Orleans.

The menu is quite extensive and shamelessly filthy; don’t come here expecting diet-friendly food. Aside from a side salad you won’t find any. On this buldging menu you’ll find huge hotdogs, doorstop sandwiches, fried chicken and waffles, and something called The Donut Burger – a cheeseburger topped with grilled smoked streaky bacon and sweet sauce placed between two sweet glazed donuts, and served with fries and sides. Because why the hell not.

We decide to skip starters on this occasion after being informed the mains are ‘pretty massive actually’ which is good enough for me. Recently I’ve rediscovered my love for ribs so decided to try my luck with that part of the menu. I opted for the Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs (£15.95) which come with skin on fries and house slaw, and added the Haus Salad (£3.95) – because I remember I have a bikini to wear in a month and someone once told me lettuce cancels out chips; I pretend they were telling me the truth. My other half, a fan of all things meat, chose the Southern Comfort Burger (£17.95) which we quickly realise is a ridiculous feast of a burger. But more on that later…

The food was quick to arrive and came served on large tray platters with branded paper covers. It’s in keeping with the other American-style restaurants in Brum in that respect; apparently plates are redundant now, something that winds Ian up every time he’s confronted with a tray. I try to explain it’s due to the sheer size of the meals – he can’t argue with logic like that can he! The portions are irrefutably US friendly. And I say that as someone who gained a stone in two weeks when I travelled around California last year. When in Rome..

I dug into the meat first, of course, which is deeply flavoured with its BBQ smoked goodness. The slow smoking process is immediately evident in the rib flesh, which has a rich, deep and distinctive smoky taste that makes the meat taste just as the Deep South intended. It also slid off the bone like butter on a hot knife. The combination of smoky rub and sticky BBQ glaze is flavourful without being sickly, and I noticed different levels of flavour permiating the meat as I worked my way through the rack. The ribs have obviously been smoked low and slow, resulting in layers of flavour. The fries were actually more like chips (that’s a good thing!) and had the desired crispy v fluffy ratio. They also have a deep ridge in them that makes them ideal for dipping and scooping, so naturally I hammered the lot in hot sauce. Speaking of which, the house hot sauce is incredible; firey but vaguely creamy like ranch. Ask for some – thank me later. My only gripe about the main is the portion of creamy slaw; tasted good but nowhere near enough of it.

Ian’s burger is a feat of engineering and makes my meal look like a Happy Meal. An 8oz griddled burger covered in Swiss cheese is topped with a whole crispy coated chicken breast, streaky bacon, fried onions and a healthy splodge of garlic mayonnaise. Oh and another piece of chicken, because skinny is so 2016. Encased in a toasted brioche roll with a few slices of fresh tomato and iceberg lettuce for lols, fine dining this is not… but when you’re essentially merging a burger with a KFC who cares. This is unapologetic filth, and I for one kind of admire that; Ian’s mayo smothered face implies he feels the same. His spiced fries were nice but maybe a little overpowering, although when dipped in that hot sauce everything is right with the world.

We left stuffed with the meat sweats in full swing. Note to self: next time don’t wear tight jeans. I liked the restaurant and comparably to rivals Rub’s Smokehouse across the road, it feels relaxed and focused on flavour not theatrics. Don’t forget, The Smoke Haus does a two meals for £14 lunchtime offer during the week if you fancy comfort eating your way through a Tuesday sometime.

And by the way, my side salad was just delicious *laughs at self*

The Smoke Haus, Brindley Place, Birmingham, B1 2HL

*Disclosure: I was invited to try the food in return for an honest review. Drinks and extras were paid for. All opinions, photos and sticky fingers are my own* 

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