Restaurant Review: Smokeyard BBQ & Chop Shop
As we approach July 4th, there are certain dishes near and dear to one’s heart that are closely related to the holiday, and barbecue is certainly one of them. Especially for those of us born and bred in the Midwest, there is absolutely nothing as delectable as great barbecue, and frankly, I have found few places in California that really know how to do it right. That is why I was especially interested in reviewing Smokeyard BBQ and Chop Shop in the newly-rejuvenated Westfield UTC Shopping Center, since it touts itself as a barbecue with a South African influence.
It started with a great first impression. The place is easy to reach, with parking only about 200’ from the place. The restaurant is welcoming with huge doors that open into the bar area which flows into the restaurant in a casual, yet chic atmosphere. I also liked the outdoor table option, which is a great people-watching spot. I’m an old ex-bartender, so I made a pit stop at the bar to see what was happening (all in the line of duty, of course) and it was very impressive. But since I was on duty, I moved into the restaurant area to begin the ‘investigation’.
I’m also an old maître d’, so I am always very aware of quality of service. Our server Nicole was extremely impressive, immediately greeting us, even though it was a busy night. She was engaging and very knowledgeable, and as I watched the other servers it was clear they were a very well-trained, tight bunch. Nice!
But onto the food. Oh, yeah, the food. We started with the Crispy Rock Shrimp appetizer. It was a huge serving, lightly fried with banana peppers tossed in a rich, zesty chili-garlic aioli. It was freakin’ heavenly, so much so that we attempted to bribe Nicole for the recipe. That was accompanied by some Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It was rich and creamy, served with corn bread croutons, the perfect garnish.
But onto the barbecue tasting. I am a fan of the pork, so I immediately latched onto (no pun intended) the spare ribs. These were done to perfection, literally falling off the bone, and very moist. They were served with a choice of unbelievably yummy and homemade sauces; original Smokeyard BBQ, sweet chili, or mango-habanero. They were unbelievably tasty. I like a bit of spice, so I chose the mango-habanero, which is apparently so popular, they are in the process of bottling it and selling it.
And you can’t have barbecue without coleslaw, again homemade. My lovely companion chose the BBQ sampler, which included a quarter chicken, the most tender tri-tip I ever tasted (yes, I took some of hers) and more spare ribs. This was ordered with some very tasty baked beans and a separate dish of charred cauliflower, with basil-pistachio butter (yum).
I was so impressed, I asked to chat with one of the co-owners, Alon, who shares that title with his brother Guy. I asked him to share the unique methods that made their barbecue so special. “What sets Smokeyard’s BBQ apart is two-fold”, he shared. “First, we begin with high-grade selections of beef and all-natural, hormone-free pork. It’s very important to us to start with a quality product, whereas traditional barbecue often utilizes tougher and less prized cuts. Then, we create a mixture of dry rub and liquid sauces, and don’t try and fit into a regional style of barbecue. Instead, we take influences and pick out flavor profiles from around the nation — and world — and incorporate them into our recipes. It creates a unique, rounded and sophisticated adaptation of barbecue that contains elements of where the cuisine came from, and the heights that it can aspire to.”
After opening their first successful location in Mammoth Lakes in 2009, the brothers, of South African extraction, were itching to get back to Southern California where they grew up, and be closer to family. “We looked at quite a few properties throughout the Los Angeles area, but then we saw Westfield UTC and we knew this is where we wanted to be,” Alon shared. “The re-invention of the mall into a community gathering space really spoke to us, evoking the same type of neighborhood we enjoy in Mammoth. And since our mother lives in San Diego and my brother graduated from UCSD, we were quite happy to be back in our old stomping grounds, so to speak.”
Well, all I can say to Alon and Guy, is a resounding WELCOME BACK!
4313 La Jolla Village Drive, 2265
San Diego, CA — 92122