Name: Smokey Mtn. BBQ & Grill
Location: Exit 7 Linden Dr., Bristol, VA
Order: Combo platter (pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken), ribs, okra, hushpuppies (link to menu)
Bill: ribs (1/2 rack) – $10; Combo Platter (included two sides) – $10; sides included
Speedy: Before I start this review, I just want to lay a few things out. Yes, I was eating by myself. Yes, I ordered a boatload of food. But I had to try everything for the review, right? It wouldn’t be right to just do a partial review? DON’T JUDGE ME!
Rudy: Oh we can judge… but as a barbecue blog, we ought to judge why you didn’t order more.
Speedy: Phew. I feel better. Now that that’s out of the way, on to the review. Smokey Mtn. BBQ & Grill sits just off Highway 81 on the Virginia side of the city of Bristol, which is split between Virginia and Tennessee. I’m not really sure why people would come to Bristol outside of NASCAR races, but I find myself up here quite frequently – at least until this blog gets huge and the Barbecue Bros are offered their own show on Food Network. But anyhoo, right off the highway, you’ll see a gas stations and right behind that sits Smokey Mtn. BBQ and Grill. Honestly, it kind of looks like a dump. It is in its stand-alone building, but the structure just isn’t that impressive. The inside is well lit with plenty of space and a few tables for seating. To order, you go up-front and order at the counter and take your seat and the food is brought to you. I understand that dive ‘cue shacks are often the best in terms of food, but this building just doesn’t seem like your traditional old-timey ‘cue joint.
I chose to sample all of the meats for this meal. I had eaten at Smokey Mtn BBQ before but had only had the brisket and pork. Turns out I was skipping out on the better meats. The chicken was chopped and smoked and served with sauce on the side. You could definitely taste the smoke in the chicken and it was tender and with good flavor. The sauce choices are either spicy or mild and they are tomato based sauces, similar to western-style NC sauces. I think the sauce actually works best on the chicken.
Rudy: I tend to shy away from chicken or turkey because I find most places’ are dry. I usually go with other meats that I find consistently better. Good to hear the chicken was done well here.
Speedy: Generally, I’m the same way, but like I said, I was all about variety and literally eating as much food as humanly possible.
The ribs are also quite good. My biggest complaint about the ribs is that they are actually too tender, as you could pick up a bone and lose all the meat. They’re served wet – pretty heavily covered in sauce (again – either spicy or mild). I think the ribs would’ve been better with a little less sauce, actually, and maybe a more noticeable rub prior to smoking. Overall, though, I think the ribs are definitely worth ordering.
The pork, on the other hand, is a little disappointing. It’s a little dry and absolutely has to be sauced. In my opinion, the sauce doesn’t work quite right with the pork. I think it would be a lot better if there was a vinegar or Lexington style sauce option, as the pork is tender enough and pulled nicely – it just lacking moisture and sufficient flavor.
The brisket had a little more flavor but also was a little dry – requiring the sauce, though not as badly as the pork. It also could definitely stand to be a little more tender, as it was slightly rubbery. All in all, the brisket was better than a lot of brisket I’ve had, but I won’t go out of my way to have it again.
The sides are fine – nothing great, but they have all the staples. Of course the slaw is mayo-based, but at least they have hushpuppies.
Rudy: Nothing sounds too great here. When chicken is the only thing to write home about, you don’t have a top notch barbecue place in my opinion.
Speedy: I wouldn’t write home about the chicken either. Mama Speedy would be all “SON – I RAISED YOU BETTER THAN TO ORDER CHICKEN AT A BARBECUE RESTAURANT” and I would have to go to my room next time I visited my parents. But you’re right – not a top-notch barbecue experience.
Overall, if you happen to be driving through the Tri-Cities, Tennessee area and are craving barbecue, you could do worse than stopping at Smokey Mtn BBQ, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 1.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hog
Chicken – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs