RE: The Smoked Joint - Philadelphia
Sat, 01/22/05 2:44 PM
Please don't call this a review. It's just my experience and observations. Long-winded, too! I'm no reviewer:
I was taken to the Smoked Joint for my birthday Thursday night. We were seated within one minute. Of every review I've read so far where the place is never crowded, this was another night where few people were there. Maybe weekends are more crowded.
Oh, before I forget, I wanted to respond to something Ian Curtis said about the lameness and the salads. Ian - please remember where this restaurant is located! Broad and Locust! That whole area caters to the before and after theatre crowd, and being born and raised in Philadelphia, I know all the "types". Philly is absolutely, since the whole beginning of the Starr/Stein/Perrier reigns, trying to be New York. I hate the fact it seems to be losing its distinct flavor in some areas! People never hailed cabs when I was younger. Everyone took SEPTA. Now they try to be New York and hail cabs and go to the theatre and have attitudes. This is absolutely out of respect for New York. There is only one New York, and Philadelphia can't be it. Philly is what it is, I'm proud to be a Philadelphian, and I hate the "New York-ing" of Philly. I saw a prime example of that when being seated at the Smoked Joint. We sat a few steps up from the bar area, and looking down, saw this cotton-candy-haired blonde and her male botoxed date posing at the bar with their cigarettes, holding them aloft like Bette Davis. Yes! Lame! And lame how it drifted up into my nostrils! Do not like! I'm an ex-smoker (4 years now) and we're the worst. We later saw them both strolling down Broad Street (with those white scarves placed just so at the neck), and the male was a little too tanned for his own good.
Back to the restaurant. We ordered stuff we should not have ordered, but it was my birthday, and when and if we go back, we won't order the extra stuff that cost so much money. Some items from this place are priced way too high for what you get. You can't order just a side of mac & cheese. You have to get a "crock" of it for $10! Wild! Well, we just went with the notion that we were "ordering it for the table", so that helped psychologically. The flavor was great, though. It tasted like there were some very expensive cheeses in there. The texture was not too runny and not too thick. The crust was nice on top. But the crock was not this huge crock I envisioned. Anyway. Bill ordered a side of cornbread and I don't like jalapenos which this had in it (totally unnecessary IMO). He liked it, and if he's happy, so am I. Root beer baked beans? I don't eat beans, so I know nothing about them. Where are root beer baked beans from? Is that made up, or are they regional someplace? Either way, my darlin' child did not like her "soda beans" and gave them to Bill, who ate a small bit of them and they went into the doggie bag. Nobody ended up eating them, it turns out. Sweet potato fries are the only potato choice. I got a double order, since I don't like coleslaw or the other sides. I liked 'em.
Main dishes: Bill and Shayna both ordered half rack of ribs. $22. I know, expensive, isn't it? These were dry rub and I liked what I tasted. Shayna used no sauce: "You don't need it on these!" Nice pink smoked look to them. Very meaty. I ordered the brisket which was to die for (and maybe from, considering how I woke up at 4:30 this morning after eating the leftovers last night and said out loud to myself, "I'm sick". It passed, but I felt very nauseated). But I totally recommend this brisket. Is there such a thing as overly-smoked? Do ya think that was it? I don't know; it was very rich tasting and that's the only way I can describe it. I liked it. I'm hoping I was nauseated from all the birthday cake I'm not used to eating, and not from the brisket. This brisket platter was $16. I did get some big pieces. Oh, I just looked at the menu and it says "Smoked for darn near 18 hours". Is this too long for brisket? I'd love feedback. I've smoked a chicken and ribs in a smoker before and never smoked anything for 18 hours...
I forgot to backtrack to the appetizer, an order of chicken wings that were very large. It was like $10 for those. I don't like the idea of any appetizer being $10. They looked like frog's legs to me or shrimp cocktail, the way they were presented, hanging over the edge of a shallow bowl. Personally? I didn't like the taste. They were not like a buffalo wing, but they had some sort of very strong spices rubbed on them that I was literally choking from. My other two family members present loved them.
I want to add the highlight of the evening when the waitperson spilled ranch dressing right on my lap. Thank goodness I had one of their towels (they use these dark red fluffy terrycloth towels instead of napkins for that homey touch) across my lap so not a drop spilled on my clothing. The waitperson said, "I've been waitressing for five years and never spilled anything". Well, honey, I've been living for 51 years and never had anyone spill on me. So, uh, your bad, huh? Again, I must remind one and all roadfooders that this is Center City Philadelphia, the theatre district, where if you spill anything on a lawyer (which I might have been, ya know!), you can get your butt sued in a minute. But of course I'm such a wonderful person that I just sat there "lightening the mood" as she replaced the lap-towel and fawned. Hey, don't fawn, cut that mac & cheese bill by about two-thirds! Not gonna happen...
No dessert, we were stuffed, it was expensive, but we would not order the cornbread (you have to literally ASK for white bread. I thought they'd give you loaf bread but it's freshly baked and very yeasty white bread). If you don't ask for white bread you get none and have to order this cornbread which is either $2 or $5 depending. I can't explain it. Also would not order a $10 crock of mac and cheese and maybe, with enough complaints, they'll just offer it as one of the sides. It did taste really fine.
I'm still thinking about when you go down the stairs to the bathroom area and it's such a blinding red all over the walls, ceiling and floors ("Like a Chinese whorehouse!", my boyfriend said) (how would he know??). You really expect the bathrooms to be filthy, you really do, with the cracked tiles and all, and they're just spotless. There are nice music posters on the wall in the hallway there, and there's that poster of Joe Cocker bellowing with almost pursed lips and a surprised look on his face. Remember that poster?
We took a walk afterwards down Locust Street, and passed the spot where Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered. There's a plaque embedded in the sidewalk. We paused, read it, and had conversation afterward about it. It was a somber moment.
I'm wondering if this place lasts, considering a) those prices for some things, b) the curse of that exact location (not too many restaurants since Marabella's have lasted long there), and c) the trendiness of that area.
I do recommend it for the flavor, the people-watching (one guy had the longest, largest head I've seen in a long time. And a mouth that looked like he could put an entire smoked chicken in it. I told Bill he looked like a cartoon man, and he really did look familiar to me, and it's kinda bothering me), and if you have lots of money to spend on dinner and happen to be in Center City Philadelphia and want barbecue.
If anyone wants a menu scanned & emailed to them, let me know. Thanks for reading this, if you were able to make it through the whole thing.