Smoke Stop is a family run business which is introducing American-style dining to Shrewsbury. A fifteen-twenty minute drive out from Shrewsbury’s town centre. Smoke Stop occupies the site previously known as Ye Old Cross Gates Inn. I made a visit with my girlfriend to find out how they’re doing just five days since they opened their doors.
We’ve seen the popularity of American food in the UK build over the years. Maybe thanks in part to shows like Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Shows which travel America, sampling the local cuisine. Various chain restaurants have capitalised on the interest in BBQ food, for example Weatherspoons serves pulled pork burgers and various “gourmet” hot dogs. So does Smoke Stop deliver on their promise of mouth-watering authentic American barbecue?
Your journey starts here
Walking into the restaurant we passed an impressive BBQ Lovin’ neon sign on our way to the reception area where we received a warm welcome. The reception area was nicely decorated, the walls lined with a wide ranging selection of barbecue sauce bottles. We were seated and given a cup of warm salted popcorn to enjoy while browsing the menu, we felt this was a very nice touch. Overall the appearance was smart and inviting, the welcome we received was friendly and professional.
As well as ordering cider, we also sampled one of the cocktails and a couple of the shakes.
Smoke Stop’s menu lists a fantastic selection of milkshakes. We ordered the salted caramel and strawberry shakes. The menu describes them as being served in a sundae glass topped with cream. The American way we’re told. Ours arrived in more of a glass jar, which we questioned and were told that they had run out of cream and that someone was on their way to buy some more! We were later each given a complimentary shake prepared as per the menu.
These milkshakes will definitely go down well with the kids! Both were extremely sweet and syrupy. They were undeniably delicious. I wouldn’t describe them as thirst quenching due to the sweetness, you’ll definitely want something to wash them down.
I’d say we’ve enjoyed better, thicker, ice cream based milkshakes from other American-style places such as 7 Hotel Diner and even Ed’s Easy Diner. These places mix up the ingredients in a blender and serve the milkshake in the glass with the spare mix poured into a metal cup served on the side. It feels much more generous this way. Nonetheless, the shakes at Smoke Stop are a tasty treat you should consider.
We ordered the Smoke Stop Platter for two as we didn’t want to miss out on trying the selection of barbecue food on offer. The platter, according to the menu contains BBQ pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, half a slab of Memphis dry rubbed baby back ribs, half a slab of Kansas BBQ glazed spare ribs, hot smoked links, fries and deep south slaw.
We ended up leaving a fair amount of the ribs which was a shame as this was what we were most looking forward to. While the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. There just wasn’t a great deal of flavour, especially when you consider the menu proudly states they’ve been smoked for up to fourteen hours. Perhaps a more generous slathering of barbecue sauce might perk them up. I’m not sure, but Smoke Stop needs to give them some more thought.
The pulled pork and brisket dishes were the complete opposite, full of intense, smokey meaty flavour. The pulled pork was slightly sweet and tender (Smoke Stop offer a pulled pork burger and I’m going to bet this tastes awesome). The brisket was a real surprise, I didn’t expect it to be served like a stew. It’s melt-in-the-mouth texture mixed with the rich beef gravy was sublime.
The skin-on chips were great. I just wish there were more of them! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
The “deep south slaw” was fairly ordinary. We also received a portion of BBQ pitt beans which looking back at the menu wasn’t included. However, we quite enjoyed these, they had a rich, smokey barbecue flavour and I’d recommend you try them out. Not your usual Heinz beans!
My girlfriend ordered the “warm American waffles” which looked tantalising, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then generously drizzled with toffee sauce. Unfortunately they were in fact served cold, not once, but twice at which point we gave up. And whoever decided it would be a great idea to eat any desert from a paper lined, flimsy plastic basket (more suited to chips or chicken wings) needs to sit down and try it for themselves.
I had better luck with the Peanut Butter Brownie Cheesecake. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as they were out of pouring cream. A rich, filling desert packing plenty of flavour. A firm crumbly brownie base, a thin spreading of sweet, salty peanut butter and a creamy cheesecake layer topped off with chocolate and caramel. Again, I felt it should have been served on a plate, but nonetheless a beautiful desert, I’d highly recommend you try it.
What did we make of Smoke Stop…
With the exception of the ribs, which we felt could be improved upon, the food we tried at Smoke Stop was generally good. My girlfriend enjoyed the pulled pork dish the most and for me, the brisket was a definite highlight. We saw a number of burgers go out, they looked very appealing. Maybe one for our next visit! If you’ve tried one, let us know, leave your comments on Smoke Stop’s findmyfood profile page.
When it comes to presentation, the food we were served looked fantastic. My niggle is with the “trendy” serving styles and inconsistent presentation. Wooden serving boards, trays, plastic baskets, mess tins, enamel camping cups and dishes. They add to the “American” feel/experience but consistency is needed and practicalities should be considered before style.
Having just opened, the restaurant was busy and the team were doing their best to get around to all the customers. We were served by a number of the Smoke Stop team throughout our meal. At times the service was slower than would be desired and at one point we received another tables drinks. However, the interaction we had was pleasant at all times, especially when we dealt with Phoebe who we could tell genuinely cared about our experience. Overall we had no qualms with the service. The speed and accuracy will no doubt rapidly improve as the team gains it’s confidence through experience.
The music on the night was a touch loud. However, the choice was spot on, American blues music playing throughout the night gave the right vibe and added to the overall ambiance.
It’s a wild generalisation I know, but restaurants further out generally have to be good to survive. While minor kinks let them down on our visit, Smoke Stop shows real promise. I expect, I hope they can make a success of it and we’ll no doubt visit again in the near future. Let us know what you think of Smoke Stop. Leave your comments on the Smoke Stop findmyfood profile page.