We salute you, or not? Rack ‘a Ribs at the Smoke Haus

Some people buy clothes on payday, head out for a night on the town or for a little pamper session. Me, I head straight down to a local steakhouse and gorge on a nice piece of sirloin or BBQ ribs. It’s an expensive habit, but similar to my love of gin and all things delicious, it’s one that I just can’t give up.

Due to my love of steak and ribs, I tend to be pretty critical when I try a new place. I’ve been to America three times and eaten the best steak I’ve ever tasted at a place recommended to me called Manny’s Original Chophouse. It promises the best steak in town (what US of A steak house doesn’t?!) and it didn’t disappoint. In the UK, my favourite place for steak is Miller & Carter and my favourite for ribs is Gas Street Social.

I was pretty excited therefore to hit The Smoke Haus in Brindleyplace recently. With a slogan that says “we’re all about delivering the big flavours of authentic American barbecue,” you can be forgiven for expecting big things.

On arrival, you’re met with a very typical American steakhouse scene. You know the stuff – Harley Davidson, black and white photos of Hollywood stars, French’s classic yellow mustard on the table as a prop to convince you that you could indeed really be in America and not the middle of Birmingham.

Décor aside though, it was my birthday, I was hungry and so I decided to order the biggest and most impressive looking rack of ribs I could find on the menu that were gluten free. Introducing the Jacob’s Ladder, a full four boned slab of pure barbequed meat and a side order of sweet potato fries.

“Jeepers” I said in a polite but not completely true Scooby Do exchange to my friend, “I wish I’d not eaten lunch.” At nearly £25, the ribs presented to me could have fed a small army and his pack of dogs.

One of the reasons I love ribs is because it’s proper finger food. Unfortunately, it’s not the sort of grub you can order when you’re having a civilised meeting with someone unless you feel comfortable with them seeing you eat like a wild animal. The Jacob’s Ladder however, was not finger food, it was so big you had to slice through each layer from the top. As I got down to the middle of the ribs the marinade had completely disappeared – I was left slicing through thick and sometimes fatty chunks of meat similar to when you use a carving knife to dish up the beef for your Sunday roast. I felt then that The Smoke Haus probably focused more of its attention on quantity over quality.

Going back to my earlier statement, I’ve been to America and I know how big their portion sizes are, although some of the best ribs I’ve tasted have been big enough to satisfy your hunger pangs but small enough to leave you wanting more. The meat should literally fall off the bone and the marinade should have soaked through long enough to leave a tangy after taste once you’ve finished. My mistake, I think, was ordering the biggest thing off the menu. It became more of a competition to see how much you can eat rather than an enjoyable experience.

One Nuclear Hurricane coming up…

My ‘go-to’ bar in Brum town is Gas Street Social. In fact, whenever I say I’m heading into town for a spot of shopping or a few quiet drinks with friends, chances are, I’ll always nip in for a quick ‘Socialite’ or ‘Nuclear Hurricane.’

Unlike many bars where you pay a small fortune for cocktails, the drinks here are genuinely a pleasure to drink, the barmen are friendly and as the bar’s namesake suggests, sociable. They’ll chat to you as they’re whipping up a drink and it actually seems like the sort of place you’d want to work.

Ultimately, my favourite part about Gas Street Social is the layout. The décor is very Scandinavian and rustic and it’s the sort of place where you can sit for hours people watching and enjoying the mellow music on offer.

It’s location in The Mailbox means that it’s situated right next to the canal, where in the summer you can watch boatfuls of stag and hen do parties rowing up and down (badly) on the water. There is nothing fuddy about the place, everyone is welcome and you won’t get kicked out after one drink because they want your table. It’s the perfect spot for socialising.

Despite me being somewhat of a regular at Gas Street, it was only recently that I tested out the food. The kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant and so my friend and I had often admired the delicious smells wafting out into the bar area. The menu is pretty versatile and a good selection of the dishes could be made gluten free. There’s nothing fussy about the food and the chefs pride themselves on sourcing local meat and vegetables which is a nice added touch, as after all, you assume it’s going to be fresh.

I opted for the Sweet and Sticky BBQ Ribs with chips, slaw and corn on the cob. The waitress commented on my good choice of dish when I put my order in and I must admit that I was a bit sceptical, but boy I needn’t have worried. Without a doubt they were the most succulent ribs I’ve ever tasted. The meat simply slid of the bone and the sauce, which the ribs are apparently slow cooked in, was absolutely divine. It’s rare for me to say this, but I could have eaten a whole new plate straight after I’d finished because it was one of those meals you don’t want to end.

There’s a good selection of burgers, steaks, and even traditional British dishes such as gammon and fish finger butties to choose from. The brunch menu offers anything from a Full English, through to sandwiches and buttermilk pancakes – perfect hangover food in my opinion, and there’s a variety of ‘Social Plates,’ ideal for sharing such as scotch eggs, meatballs and chicken wings.

If you’re ever in Birmingham and looking for somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre to chill out with a drink and a slap up meal, then Gas Street Social would be number one on my list. Give it a go, and don’t forget to order the BBQ Ribs!