Barbecue Deluxe at Smokehouse Tavern

The Westside BBQ joint heads to the Southeast with brunch, booze, and late-night ribs.

By Benjamin Tepler April 14, 2015

Smokehouse Tavern's massive, meaty ribs.

For years, Podnah’s Pit was the only game in town—who could compete with that Texas-proud, 10-hour brisket? There is a new class of pit master rising in Portland’s smoke scene. For one, People’s Pig: lawless barbecue, highlighted by smoked, deep-fried chicken and thick-barked baby-back ribs. And now, two doors down from Nostrana, Smokehouse Tavern is staking its claim as Southeast Portland’s premier barbecue spot.

Smokehouse Tavern, helmed by owner B.J. Smith, has the same butcher block as the original Smokehouse 21 in Northwest Portland (beef brisket to pork cheeks), but the new outpost is amped up with a fully-fledged bar program, brunch menu, and a few stylish starters.

Smith’s partner, Michelle Lesniak (the Project Runway star), designed the new space with walls of mismatched mirrors and red Damask wallpaper, accented with an entire herd of taxidermy deer. The long, light-filled room with its beautifully vaulted ceiling and 20-seat bar is a major upgrade from the cramped, subterranean Northwest space.

Smokehouse’s ribs might be the best in Portland: Flintstone-sized hunks of amber-glazed meat with off-the-bone tenderness, and blushing smoke rings. Sides are solid too: fingerling potato salad with cornichons and mustard seeds, diabolically creamy macaroni and cheese with cornbread and bacon, and well-tuned collard greens.

Peameal bacon at Smokehouse's weekend brunch.

The new spot’s fringe barbecue creations—crispy chicken skin with barrel-aged hot sauce and a hedonistic mop of pulled-pork poutine—fit right in, while loftier ambitions, like a marrowbone with smoked trout roe and pea shoots are a fussy flop.

Brunch wisely sticks to the house’s strong suit—meat—with a shortlist of hefty morning offerings, from a Benedict and hash starring its rich brisket to a dynamite plate of maple syrup-brined peameal bacon. The kitchen fries up slabs of the sweet-salty, cornmeal-rolled pork loin to serve with eggs, meaty greens, and a craggy, honey-drizzled biscuit.

The cocktail menu, curated by Rum Club star Michael Shea, holds its own with an Old-Fashioned subtly emboldened by “BBQ bitters,” and a bright Prosecco quaff with a bite of celery bitters and cayenne pepper. Most importantly, the bar is open until midnight, offering great barbecue and cocktails all night long.

Smokehouse Tavern
1401 SE Morrison St., Ste. 117
Mon-Fri: 11 am - 12am
Sat and Sun: 10 am - 12am

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