Hungry for ’cue? Here are a dozen ways to satisfy that craving
Summer is a time for smoke to get in your eyes … and nostrils and hair as you peek under the lid of your grill to see what’s going on with your meats and veggies. As heat and smoke infuse them with flavor, tenderness and juiciness, it can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
But if you find that firing up the smoker or grill is a hammock too far (we know, you have a life to live, lawns to mow and 5Ks to run), then by all means, ask Siri to direct you to one of the local BBQ joints that follow. Greater SLC now boasts a respectable roster of meticulous pitmasters, classically trained chefs and second-career barbecue artists who know a thing or two about sauces, spice and fire. Our writers at Devour Utah have ’cued you up for some great summer eats.
Thai fusion BBQ
What started as an accidental combination of smoked meats and flavors of southeast Asia has become a mainstay at 565 Firehouse. Owner Tong Chinnapha began by using a curry recipe of his uncle’s— Yuth Kayonsomrouj, owner of Thai Orchard restaurant in Cottonwood Heights. “We were testing foods,” he says, when they assembled the family at the table, and began serving both Thai food and barbecue.
“I had my brisket on a bed of rice,” Chinnapha says, “and my uncle poured his curry on top, and we really liked it.”
Chinnapha had no barbecue experience when he started. “We didn’t plan on creating such a unique dish but people seem to love it, too. We tend to sell out every day.”
Through trial and error, Chinnapha learned the art of smoking meats, using hardwoods such as pecan, oak and cherry to achieve the desired flavors. He serves brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken. Any protein can be added to the massaman or yellow curry.
Try the popular massaman curry with brisket, a well-balanced flavor combination of sweet and smoky, filled with fork-tender chunks of brisket, carrots and potatoes, then sprinkled with roasted peanuts for a nice crunch. (Aimee L. Cook)
565 E. 2100 South, SLC
Fridays are for Burnt ENDS
Fridays are “burnt ends” days at Pat’s BBQ and judging by the crowds it attracts, owner Pat Barber’s burnt ends are almost a religious experience.
“I was looking for that lost American art form of barbecue, and it just didn’t exist in Salt Lake at the time,” Barber says. “It was very pervasive in other parts of the country and after learning, cooking and tasting a lot of barbecue, I decided this state really needed to have a place that served competition-style barbecue.”
After 17 years in the business, Barber continues to expand his culinary offerings (stay tuned for his farm-to-table dishes this summer utilizing his organic garden in the back). But the exceptional things remain the same, like the way he prepares his brisket and renders those candylike burnt ends.
The brisket is cooked all night long, only seasoned with Barber’s signature dry rub, then cubed and served. New to the menu, Barber has taken his burnt ends to a new level, offering them in tacos. (Aimee L. Cook)
155 W. Commonwealth Ave.
South Salt Lake
Island MELTING POT
Brothers Kimo and Kalani Mack are the minds behind Mo’Bettahs, slang for “more better,” which describes the food they ate growing on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Knowing it to be more better, they introduced Utah to their fast-casual service of Hawaiian BBQ in 2008, and now have 10 locations in Utah.
“I sold my house, quit my job, moved my family to Utah (Kalani had already been in Utah for a decade) and opened Mo’Bettahs shortly after I moved here,” Kimo says. “It was time to get some things done in my life that I thought we could accomplish.”
Even though 2008 marked the height of the recession, their Bountiful location developed a good following. “We knew that the food we were selling sells really well in Hawaii,” Kimo says, “and I made the assumption people would like it here—we just needed to expose them to it.”
Mo’Bettahs makes food that is served beachside in Hawaii: teriyaki chicken, steak, katsu chicken, rice and macaroni salad. The family recipes have been passed down from mothers and aunts.
“They were very good cooks, at least in our minds,” says Kalani. “We got pretty fat as kids. We wanted to serve food that was Hawaiian style, taking the different influences and cultures that live in Hawaii now, that came about due to immigrants from Japan, China and the Philippines working on plantations.” (Aimee L. Cook)
Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food
BBQ by the pound
Gregg Chamberlain grew up in Boerne, Texas, raising cows, sheep and pigs for the table. Growing up in a small town of 1,000 residents with a German influence tends to stay with you, as is the case with Chamberlain.
Traditional Texas barbecue takes center stage at Kaiser’s, aptly named for the aforementioned German influence, and folks have been clamoring for his smoked meats since 2006.
“I use oak or mesquite wood, salt, pepper and smoke,” Chamberlain says. “I personally picked out the sauce we serve and the mac ’n’ cheese is my recipe. Everything else we just put together what we have.”
Chickens are spatchcocked and smoked for five hours. And in keeping with true Texas BBQ establishments, meats can be purchased by the pound to serve at get-togethers.
Combo plates allow diners to mix and match between ribs, pulled pork, chicken, brisket and sausage. On Fridays, Chamberlain smokes up prime rib, which usually sells out, but if there is still some around on Saturday, Chamberlain turns it into a tasty, hearty sandwich. You’ll want to grab your seat at the picnic table early. (Aimee L. Cook)
Kaiser’s Texas Bar-B-Q & General Store
962 S. 300 West, SLC
Smoking SINCE 1985
Joe Morley’s BBQ opened in Midvale, where Morley was born and raised, in 1985. Morley worked in a Church’s Chicken restaurant prior to opening his own place and traveled to their headquarters in Texas where he caught the bug for BBQ.
In the early years, most patrons had never heard of brisket, but after giving customers a proper introduction, it remains one of the most popular items on the menu.
Meats are smoked for up to 14 hours, and only cherry wood is used. A housemade barbecue sauce is added after the smoking process is complete so as not to disguise the natural smoky flavors of the meat.
“All of our meats are served with the traditional Texas-style barbecue sauce. We don’t rely too heavily on rubs,” Brent Morley, son and co-owner, says, noting they have not changed their recipes since they opened. “We add some things to the menu, here and there,” he says, “but we have been lucky to have a core set of winners.”
“Sugarback” babyback ribs, spare ribs, chopped pork (otherwise known as pulled pork), chicken and turkey are other meat options on the menu. Be sure to try Joe’s baked beans; the sweetness of the beans are a great enhancement for any smoked meat choice. (Aimee L. Cook)
Joe Morley’s BBQ
100 W. Center St. (7720 South), Midvale
GRILLING the Perfect Steak
According to chef John Murcko from Firewood restaurant, there are three key factors when grilling proteins: quality of ingredients, the technique and the equipment. Murcko says he only cooks over an open flame in his restaurant, and the result is an enhanced flavor.
“If you don’t have wood-fired equipment, work with charcoal,” Murcko says. “Charcoal is a great substitute, and they have high-end charcoals that are made from hardwoods that have great flavor.”
Murcko recommends using natural papers or kindling to start your fire. This ensures you won’t have the taste of fuel in your food. Light the grill three hours prior to cooking, and do not cook directly over the flame or charcoal since it could create a bitter flavor in your food. Best results will come from cooking over a glowing red coal bed. This will give a nice sear to the meat, with an outer bark that seals in flavors and juices.
If natural gas or propane grills are your equipment of choice, it is important to get it very hot, with the lid closed before grilling.
“It is crucial to season your grill beforehand,” Murcko says. That way, “the meat will not stick and you won’t get that burn-off taste.” He suggests brushing them down with grapeseed oil and seasoning with kosher salt. (Aimee L. Cook)
306 Main St., Park City
RUB, SMOKE AND WRAP That meat
Wallabys Smokehouse co-owners Jeff McFadden and Gary Hanson bring their affection for “down under” food to the Beehive State by fusing classic barbecue options with Aussie-inspired fare. Melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket and hand-pulled pork are the most popular signature dishes.
“We rub, smoke and wrap the meat. When it’s done, it’s done—it’s hard to say how long it will take,” McFadden says, describing the prep process that can last as long as 16 hours. “We apply a simple rub to the brisket to let the flavor of the beef shine through and to allow diners to customize the meat with our housemade sauces.”
Wallabys’ cooks hand peel potatoes throughout the day to create “smashers,” a delectably creamy and cheese-topped mashed potato side that is also Aussie inspired. Smashers can be loaded with bacon, sour cream and green onions. “No gravy is necessary,” says McFadden.
The Melbourne Burger is topped with Aussie favorites—a fried egg, grilled pineapple, cheese and tomato with housemade sweet and spicy sauce. The popularity of berries in Australia is reflected in the raspberry barbecue sauce and berry cobbler. Australian-imported Bundaberg sodas are a flavorful, thirst-quenching accompaniment. (Carolyn Campbell)
Therein lies the (DRY) RUB
The SugarHouse Barbeque Co. is a regional institution, renowned for its Memphis-style ribs and homemade sauces. Memphis-style involves applying a dry rub to the meat prior to smoking to amplify its flavor instead of overpowering it with sauce.
When asked what’s the best dish to show off their style, the staff emphatically names the pork ribs. The dry rub not only tenderizes the meat, but the slow smoking that follows infuses it with flavor—so much so, you’d happily eat the ribs bare. That is, of course, until you try one of the signature SugarHouse Barbeque sauces.
“The owner will take the dry-rub spice blend to his grave,” manager Frank Torina jokes. “We’ve been here since 1996, back when there was no one else around. We’re still doing it the way it should be done.”
SugarHouse Barbeque’s technique adds a level of subtlety and nuance to a classic favorite, and their sauces work with the flavors instead of drowning them. If the food alone isn’t enough to convince you, then the friendly, knowledgable staff will make you a lifelong fan. (Caitlin Hawker)
SugarHouse Barbeque Co.
880 E. 2100 South, SLC
A taste of Cajun spice
Inside a white church-turned-restaurant in Orem, Five Star BBQ & Catering Co. is cranking out tender, flavorful meat using the restaurant founder’s secret family rubs from Louisiana.
BBQ fanatic Jared Terry opened Five Star in 2009 after years of experimenting and fine-tuning his recipes with a Cajun flair. Five years later, Kevin Santiago, restaurateur and owner of Greenlight Hospitality, tasted Terry’s ’cue—and he wanted in.
“He tried the BBQ and loved it, and he offered to buy the place,” says Sarah Jensen, catering coordinator at Five Star. At the time, Jensen says, the restaurant was facing closure due to financial difficulties. But Santiago and partners Ty Mattingly and Lee Johnson were “able to save it and keep the recipes and the BBQ going.”
Thankfully, Five Star continues to smoke its 12-hour brisket (using a unique combination of cherry and apple woods), Cajun sausage, pork, turkey, chicken and beloved honey-and-brown-sugar finished ribs. They’ve since opened a second location in Provo.
The plates and sandwiches are served alongside a roster of sides that keeps customers coming back just as much as the meat itself: gooey mac ’n’ cheese, fluffy cornbread, cornflake-crusted and deep-fried funeral potato balls, garlic toast, spiced cream corn and housemade potato chips dusted in the signature rub, to name a few.
“We’re very picky about everything,” adds Jensen. “We don’t want to serve anything that’s substandard. We take great care with our food and great care with our employees.” (Claire McArthur)
Five Star BBQ & Catering Co.
Start with a frickle
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a bit of a fried pickle connoisseur. Fried pickles chips? Had ’em. Battered rather than breaded? Tried it. I’m also a pickle snob, fried or not, so naturally, when I walked into Holy Smoke BBQ and saw a long list of fried items, with one of them being a fried pickle—or “frickle”—I quickly ordered a basket.
Holy Smoke’s fried pickles definitely didn’t disappoint. Just the right amount of crunch and no sliding out of the breaded case—perfection. If pickles aren’t your style, try Holy Smoke’s other appetizers, such as hush puppies (ask for the tartar sauce to dip them in), fried okra and Heidi’s jalapeño hot spots. Jeff Ray, owner for 13 years, even has a hard time choosing between sides. “These are all kind of like my children,” he says. “I love them all.”
Follow these treats with one of their signature sandwiches, such as the tasty Christmas brisket or tri-tip.
And for the real Utah touch, Holy Smoke includes a small side of green or red Jell-O with each order. (Anna Kaser)
Holy Smoke BBQ & Grill
855 N. Heritage Park Blvd., Layton
Perfecting the rib
Ribs are the bread and butter of barbecue—the classic item. They must be done right to earn praise at a restaurant. Smokin’ Bones, I’m happy to say, is one of those places that has, indeed, perfected the rib. Not only is their dry rub a well-crafted flavor made in-house, they also make sure to purchase only the prime cuts of meat.
As far as the sauce, which is served on the side, you can choose your own adventure. Jessica Kearns, one of the four owners, says, “Our [original] sauce is a nice, sweet sauce with a little bit of a kick.” If the original doesn’t win you over, you can choose from the spicy, mustard or Carolina sauces.
Now in its sixth year, Smokin’ Bones began out of a simple love of barbecuing. Jessica’s husband, Kile Kearns, and her parents, Greg and Carol Wood, decided to open shop after Kile’s barbecue stirred the passion in the family.
“My husband has always been into barbecuing and is the master of spices,” Jessica says. To everyone’s surprise, the company slowly grew. “If you had asked me eight years ago about opening up a restaurant,” Jessica says, “I never would have thought that would have been an option. We all just jumped in.”
For sides that pair nicely with your ribs, you can’t go wrong with the sweet cornbread or mac ’n’ cheese. (Anna Kaser)
Smokin’ Bones Barbecue
364 S. 200 West, Bountiful
Straight from the Carolinas, Charlotte-Rose’s cuisine is unapologetically Southern and traditional. Thanks to the special touches that owner Trae Eller has infused into the menu and the decor, any Carolinian will feel right at home.
All their sides are made from scratch, using local ingredients as often as possible (they do, however, have Cheerwine cherry-flavored soda shipped in from North Carolina to complete the ambience). The pork sandwich with slaw and a side of mac ’n’ cheese is one of the most popular meals, according to general manager Rebecca Riedler.
I could barely wait to order the famous peach cobbler for dessert. Made from scratch, the cobbler is caramelized and slightly crunchy on the outside while remaining soft and sweet on the inside. Of course, you have to order it à la mode for the complete effect. The cobbler’s traditional style gives it a homemade, straight-forward taste. “We even use local peaches from Brigham City while they are in season,” Riedler says. It’s obvious that much time and thought have been put into this dessert. It’s the perfect way to round out a savory meal. (Anna Kaser)
Charlotte-Rose’s Carolina BBQ
571 W. 2600 South, Bountiful