As I type this, it’s 12 C outside.
Yep, 12 in July.
While Toronto, Montreal and many other tracts of the country are literally cooking, we in our marvelous Calgary are enjoying a fall weather revival.
My friend just emailed me to say ‘Bet you’re glad you didn’t plant that garden now, hey?’ and in fact I am. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but two awful summers were enough for me to see which way the light in shining, (or not as is often the case in Calgary), and now I can sit back and enjoy every cold, windy, rainy day.
But cold or not, unpredictable or not, our summers are what we get, and what we make of them, so it was with great excitement that I took myself down to a fairly new BBQ shack off the beaten track.
Located in the industrial area, and housed in a revamped garage, Holy Smoke BBQ and Smokepit first opened to little fanfare with limited hours, and immediately began to pick up local buzz. As their popularity grew they stayed open later and more, and shortly after their weekend hours came into effect I was there waving my napkin.
For some reason BBQ like Mexican food immediately craps out when it reaches the prairies. We have had any number of Mexican restaurants and BBQ joints try and fail in Calgary, and at best both could have been called ‘meh’. Some sort of invisible border stretches over the land this far north reducing greatly the taste and spirit of the food. Perhaps those fiery foods draw heavily on their landscape and terrain and become watered down when traveling to the land of snow and winds instead of the hotter, slower climates they originated in.
But Holy Smoke appears to be bucking the trend. You can smell the amazing, mouthwatering smoke as you approach the low building, and the few communal tables were full inside. They have a limited but good menu, and we sort of ordered one of each items, all the sides they hadn’t sold out of yet, and 25 BBQ ribs at a buck a piece. Ahem.
Hauling our bounty home, we proceeded to chow with abandon, pausing only to establish if a certain sauce goes better with a certain meat.
Here’s some photos from best to worst, worst being very very relative:
The pulled pork and the beef brisket – side by side – heavenly combo. Both of the sandwiches were fantastic. Soft, smoky meat, tender, flavorful and only enhanced by the solidly good dipping sauces. The buns held up to the meats well, and like a mother pretending she doesn’t have a favorite child, I’d be hard pressed to choose between them. Which is why you should always grab a friend and share.
The sides – we tried one of each that was available and the cornbread broke, so no photo. All the sides were nicely inoffensive. The macaroni salad and baked beans were pretty good – better than supermarket but not in the homemade category. The coleslaw avoided the uber-sweet mayonnaise dripping calorie-fest and was pretty decent but still too sweet for my tastes. My favorite was the broken cornbread – more of a sweet corn muffin than cornbread it was a lovely foil for the smoky meat. I wish I’d gotten another one.
Oddly enough the ribs were not as good as they looked. They were a bit shy of easy to pull off the bone, requiring some mastication skillz and membrane pulling, but worst of all they committed a cardinal meat sin – no salt. I’m sure they had SOME salt on them, but none that we could detect, so you had the odd combination of smoke, spices, and no salt. Salt is some imperative to seasoning meat that there are reams of books on the subject, and every bite was an odd disappointment until we seasoned them ourselves, stuck ‘em in the oven to warm up, and enjoyed them for the next three days. But it was not what stellar ribs should be like.
So overall – I am thrilled Holy Smoke is here. They are head and shoulders above previous BBQ offerings Calgary’s had. Their sandwiches are works of art, their sides and sauces a fair addition to the meatfest, their ribs can use some work, and on their site Brunswick Stew has just appeared, which is on my food bucket list.
4640 Manhattan Rd SE