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.