Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Smokin' Aces - Xenia, Ohio

Yesterday an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook that he was helping open a BBQ joint and needed some wait staff. Ever the gumshoe, I started shooting emails back and forth with him and arranged to meet up with both him and the owners today to get the scoop on the location, opening date, and most importantly - the menu.

My buddy Jason Ledbetter met sous chef Andrew Engler several years ago working at Moraine Country Club. Angler eventually moved on to the Downtown Cafe in Xenia, but recently decided it was time to venture out on his own. When Enlger and his girlfriend Kate Pasquinelli decided to make the investment and open a new restaurant, Jason was the first person he called to help get Smokin' Aces on its feet.

I met the three of them in their new location in downtown Xenia, just around the corner from Downtown Cafe where Angler most recently cheffed it up. Smokin' Aces is located in the former L.A. Sports bar space, which before that housed Noble Roman's Pizza, and apparently a handful of other retailers and eateries.

I always get to the important questions first, so YES - they do have a liquor license. They will be serving beer, wine and cocktails until 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and will give themselves a day of respite on Sundays. The proprietors were quick to let me know, though, that this wasn't just a bar that serves food - they'd prefer people think of it as the opposite - a great, family-friendly restaurant that happens to serve drinks. Based on the next hour we spent talking about food - that's no joke.

They'll have the standard BBQ fare you'd expect - ribs, pulled pork, chicken and steaks. Some of the side items will include house-made Saratoga chips, cole slaw, and Tabasco onion straws. You're also going to see a few things that aren't common in BBQ joints, or in Dayton at all. Instead of serving wings or chicken chunks (really, once Wendy's gets in on the action, it's no longer inventive to put it on your menu), he's going to do skewered chicken in the style you might find in a Chinese or Thai restaurant, with a few different options of marinades.
Another thing that I've personally never laid eyes on and can't wait to try, are the Hog Wings. They're basically a small section of pork shank, still on the bone, about the size of a chicken leg and very lean, tender meat. From the sounds of it, it's like eating ribs but the effort vs. reward ratio seems a lot better with hog wings. Engler will also be making his own barbecue sauces from scratch, starting with the basics - a sweeter red sauce and a Carolina gold sauce. He said he'll probably be adding a hotter version of the standard sauce if he thinks his customers want to see it. He's also using real smoke, not tossing in some Liquid Smoke, like some other chains whose names we'll omit as to not publicly shame them.

The price points are very reasonable, even for those of you ballin' on a budget. Smokin' Aces will have meal options starting around $5 for a daily special basket, up to about $16 for a giant ribeye steak or a full slab of ribs meal. Since they want to appeal to families, they'll have options for the kiddos, too - things like burgers, chicken tenders and hot dogs. They've got some desserts in mind, too, like the cheesecake-filled won-tons dusted in cinnamon and sugar that Andrew shared with me. Anything that comes as a sandwich will actually be served on pita bread, as opposed to a bun, but you can opt for a bun if you like, or even a tortilla. As for the ribs, Engler prefers not to put a name on them, but they'll all get the secret dry rub, but can also be sauced if you want'em that way. If you're not a big meat eater, or your life is empty -er, I mean if you're vegetarian, they'll have veggie options that will change daily. There's also the house salad, which will be an Iceberg-Romaine blend, topped with tomatoes, bacon, Engler's own signature horseradish dressing, house blend of cheddar, pepper jack and smoked gouda cheeses, and Tabasco onion straws. Diners will also be able to dig into family-style dining, and enjoy Smokin' Aces BBQ anywhere once their catering business gets its legs.

They plan on opening up the first week of June. The owners and operations managers had tentatively set a date of June 1, but are now possibly looking at a more realistic date of June 8 to open up shop. They're located at 40 West Main St (35) in downtown Xenia, just past 5/3 Bank in the Clocktower Shopping Plaza. They're still looking for a few good folks to add to their serving team, too! If you're interested, contact Jason Ledbetter via Facebook.
Considering the lack of good BBQ joints in the Dayton area, and the complete void of them east of town around Xenia, I think Smokin' Aces is going to do Gangbusters business. So, keep your eyes peeled for their grand opening, because you're definitely going to have to brawl with me and Mr. FvF if it comes down to the last empty table.


Anonymous said...

I was really excited when I saw that a BBQ joint was going to be in Xenia. I am a huge fan of BBQ and also felt that Xenia needed one. I always make a point of trying different BBQ places in my area and even outside of the state. I frequent City BBQ in Beavercreek because frankly, it's one of the few places in the area that offers good, smoked meats and BBQ. I was disappointed however when I read the Smokin Aces menu. Outside of one dish of ribs, and one pulled pork sandwich, 95% of the menu didn't qualify as BBQ. Bob Evans is more of a BBQ restaurant than Smokin Aces. Their food might be good, but they don't qualify as a BBQ joint. Still waiting for a real BBQ joint in Xenia...

Vizz said...

I love people posting negative comments will only do so anonymously.

So, a place can only be considered a BBQ joint of they serve *nothing* but smoked and grilled meats? What if they serve sides or desserts - does that take them out of the running?

We just went to City BBQ last night, and although it's pretty decent, it's hard for it to stand on it's own, in comparison to Smokin' Aces. If Smokin' Aces happened to be right across the street from where we were shopping, we would have been eating there instead.

In a market like this, the owner and chef had the sense to diversify the menu for different likes and diet restrictions.
Also, the place has only been open for a month. I'm sure they'll expand their BBQ menu in due time to include things like chicken, turkey and brisket. Start-up capital tends to limit the abilities of opening restaurants.

If an independent shoe store just opened, you wouldn't expect them carry the 100+ different brands that Zappos does.

JohnV said...

Had a half slab there this weekend, with tobasco onion straws and slaw. They were excellent. As stated - there is nothing else close, so they have my rib vote! I will be back!

Doug Yates said...

I absolutely LOVE Smokin Aces BBQ. The Food is AWESOME! Doug Yates

Andrew Engler said...

Chef/owner here. We are in the process of reconstructing our menu/theme. We are going to change the name to SmokinAcesBBQ&Grille. I do agree that we are not your typical "BBQ Joint" and we do not want to be. "Their" pork is dry and you need those 6 different BBQ sauces to give it flavor. We make all of our sauces from scratch and you wont find that anywhere else. By November we should have our new menu so come back and check us out!!! Thank you for your comments!!! -Andrew Engler-

Anonymous said...

Awesome resteraunt the people who posted bad are a bunch of tricks!!!! they have no sense of taste haha good job kate and drew!

Michael Wolf said...

Great restaurant we like to go on Wed. when they have free live entertainment.

Steve Campbell said...

The new menu absolutely rocks! My wife and I love the BBQ but we also have been looking for a place that we can call "OUR PLACE" that serves good burgers, appetizers, etc. The new menu fills that void and it has expanded the BBQ area also. As for me, I need a beer choice that goes beyond the Bud, Bud Lt., Miller, Miller Lt, etc. These guys have it. Plus, a full bar and it still is a family restaurant. Great job Andrew and Kate! Also, how many restaurants can you walk around the side and look into the kitchen. It's spotless! That's nice to know, especially here in Xenia where the restaurant quality has been occasionally suspect. Got to go, I just got a hankering for some BBQ.

Post a Comment