I was in the mood for barbecue when I was in Columbia, MO on a recent visit. I knew there were a couple of good ones in the city, but one I hadn't been to was the Smokehouse BBQ on the west side of Columbia. I ended up going there one evening to try their barbecue.
It turns out that I had been to a Smokehouse BBQ a couple three times before. One of my dealers in Kansas City was telling me of his love for Smokehouse a number of years ago and I ended up going to their location in the Zona Rosa shopping and entertainment district on the city's far north side. (Click here to read about that visit to Smokehouse BBQ.) Since then, I've been back there twice to have some barbecue and I've always found the place to be good and reliable.
Smokehouse Bar-B-Que has been in business since 1986. Owner Darioush Ghasemi knew that in order to stand out in one of the barbecue havens of the U.S. he was going to have to do something a little different. He went upscale with his first restaurant offering steaks, seafood and pork chops along with brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs. Ghasemi once had five Smokehouse BBQ locations with four in the Kansas City area and a foray into Tulsa, OK in 2012. However, he closed the Tulsa location about a year after it was in business and closed the Overland Park, KS location in September of 2014. About a week after closing the Overland Park location, Ghasemi opened the new Columbia, MO spot.
The Columbia Smokehouse BBQ is located in a strip mall at the corner of N. Stadium Blvd. and W. Worley, just south of the Columbia Mall. (see map) It was just after 8 p.m. when I walked in. It was a sparse crowd in there that evening. A couple three tables in the dining area were filled, but that was about it.
I ended up sitting at the bar. There were four other people at the bar when I got there and they were all gone by the time I finished up that evening. Five flat screen television were hung over the back wall of the bar, each of them had a basketball game on. The bartender that evening, Brannon, came over to drop off a menu and to take my beer order. They had Schlafly beer on tap and I got a pale ale.
The menu at the Columbia Smokehouse BBQ seemed to be similar to the one in Zona Rosa that I've been to before. They had spare ribs and baby back ribs, barbecued meat sandwiches, as well as pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey and smoked sausage platters. It was more than just your basic barbecue fare on the menu.
I ended up getting the two meat combo platter - brisket and burnt ends. I've not been a big fan of burnt ends over the years, but the ones that I've had at Smokehouse BBQ in Kansas City have been pretty good. I got a side of fries with some baked beans, as well. And like good barbecue places, Smokehouse BBQ provides half slices of white bread to help sop up the sauce, and dill pickle slices to have a vinegar taste to counter-balance the barbecue sauces.
The brisket was tender and flavorful, but was served with Smokehouse BBQ's house sauce mixed in. I would have liked it to be plain and then I could add my own sauce. The brisket, I felt, was very good.
The burnt ends, however, were another story. I've smoked enough meats and judged enough barbecue contests to detect a petroleum taste to the meat if it's been over-smoked. That was clearly the case with the burnt ends. They were meaty and moist, but that faint taste of petroleum turned me off to them. I know it's not petroleum, but a by-product of the smoking process. Too much smoke on the meat and it develops this sort of taste. That was the burnt ends at Smokehouse BBQ that evening.
The fries were very good - crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. And the baked beans were also very good. I like to doctor up my baked beans at most barbecue places by adding some barbecue sauces - usually a spicy one and a sweet one. But the baked beans at Smokehouse BBQ didn't need much help.
Brannon came over to check on me and see how everything was. He asked if I had ever had the barbecue at the Smokehouse before. I told him that I'd been to the one in Zona Rosa a couple three times, but this was a my first trip to the one in Columbia. He said, "I used to work at the one over in Gladstone (MO). I had a chance to transfer over here and I really like the area." (It's tough not to like Columbia.) He admitted that business has been a challenge, but that things seemed to be picking up over the past few months.
So, other than the faint petroleum taste on the burnt ends, the brisket at Smokehouse BBQ was pretty good - moist and flavorful. The baked beans and the fries I had for sides were also good. The place was clean, comfortable and a little nicer than most barbecue joints. It wasn't great, but it was far from bad. And that's what I've come to expect from my visits to Smokehouse BBQ in the Kansas City area and now in Columbia. It's consistently good, not great, but good.