After waiting several weeks with baited breath and a hankerin' for ribs that even North Carolina couldn't satisfy, Smokin' Aces finally opened for business today. Naturally, I have better things to do on a Friday night than cook dinner, so the mister and I headed there to let them do the cooking.
Back in May, I interviewed the owners and manager of the new Xenia eatery and got all of the scoop on the upcoming menu. Chef Andrew Englar impressed me with his menu plans and talked a good game about his know-how when it came to the grill - so I was really hoping he'd deliver.
The owners let me know that they had some issues opening because of, well - let's just say typical contractor issues. So, they had to ixnay the private tasting they'd planned and decided to open up shop today. They were itching to open, so the signage and decor is still a bit lacking, but in due time they'll have the place rockin' & rollin' as far as looks. And guess what? When I want ribs, I'm not looking for ambiance, I'm looking for good ribs.
They're a bit short on wait staff because everyone seems to think Xenia is out in the sticks, when really, Smokin' Aces is only about 11 miles from the woodman entrance on 35. It still didn't take them longer than 30 seconds to let us know we could sit where ever we'd like. Our server greeted us quickly, then one of the owners (Kate) came over to say hello and take our beverage order. They won't have their liquor license until Monday, but big props for having Coke Zero!
We were so famished that we opted for a full order of hog wings to start off with. You can get a half order, but really - why would you do that when they look like this?
I'd been really anxious to try these since it was a piece of pig I'd never tried before. They looked a bit different than I'd pictured in my head, but they were LEGIT. Mr. FvF barely took the first bite of his and said "These are amazing!" I replied, "You barely even had it in your mouth yet," which of course, yielded a "that's what she said." But honest to hog, they were amazing. I wouldn't be surprised if on my next visit, I ordered them as my entree. They were perfectly juicy with hardly an ounce of solid fat on them. They didn't really require any sauce, but they came with the house-made red sauce and mustard sauce. Both sauces had great flavor, but we both loved the gold sauce enough to bathe in it. (Okay, maybe that was just me.)
As for the entree, we played our usual hand - ordered the biggest ting on the menu and split it - the BBQ sampler. This was a half-slab of ribs and pulled pork served over johnny cakes with two sides. I picked the onion straws, and Mr. got the parmesan-garlic potatoes. The food came out quickly, but not so quickly that it made you suspicious of how long it had been sitting under a heat lamp.
You could actually pick up the scent of smoke coming off of the food. Knowing Chef Drew uses only real smoke, that small is enough to make you fist-fight someone over the plate. First, let's discuss the sides so I can blow my wad later talking about the meat. My onion straws were more than plentiful - I actually wasn't able to finish them. Somewhere between onion rings and haystack onions, they were sweet and crispy, but not greasy at all. The Mister's potatoes (which I forgot to snap a photo of) were top notch - scalloped-style with a few crispy edges and amazing flavor.
Now, my pretties, let's talk about meat. I consider myself pretty finicky about BBQ because my old man does such a fantastic job of it. It needs to have the right amount of fat, right amount of bark, real smoke flavor, and need not require sauce. Any place else in the Miami Valley serving BBQ have officially had their asses handed to them. Chef Drew did more than just talk a good game - this dude has perfected the technique. The pulled pork was ideal - the perfect ratio of meat, moisture and bark, and it paired perfectly with the house gold sauce. The ribs were cooked absolutely perfectly. It is so, so easy to overcook ribs, and to over-flavor them with both sauce and rub. These weren't sauced and had a killer dry-rub on them that made them easy to handle. The one end-all trait of good slab of ribs is when they don't need anything extra, and these didn't. I think I dipped into the gold sauce once or twice just to see if it matched up well (which it did), but they were so good that I didn't want to mask the flavor with it. Beautiful smoke ring, magically crispy bark - this is the stuff a carnivore's dreams are made of.
I really can't say enough wonderful things about this place. They're still getting their feet wet as far as operations go - but keep in mind, this is their first venture as proprietors in the restaurant biz. The floor was about half-full today on our visit, but I don't think those empty tables will last long if they're consistently serving food this delicious.