Up In Smoke, 28 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 8188
Standing outside Up In Smoke on a Thursday night, I am breaking two firm ‘n’ fast CTS rules.
First one is, never queue.
Happily, the only people I know who spot me being such an arch hypocrite (apart from the pals I am with) are a famous blogger (see bottom photo) and a Star Weekly colleague – so not too much damage done.
Second rule is, never hit a restaurant – especially one about which there is a buzz – on opening night.
And about Up In Smoke there is most certainly a buzz.
A HUGE buzz.
My fellow blogger and pal Nat Stockley and I had been discussing this phenomena earlier in the week – how we can enthuse about our latest Indian or Middle Eastern hidey holes and earn good responses from our readers; but post in Melbourne anything to do with barbecue and/or burgers, and all of a sudden the readership broadens way, way beyond just the regulars.
Anyway, my friends and I do pay a price for our opening night decision.
“This place took forever to open – now it’s taking them forever to feed us!” quips one of my companions.
It’s true – our food is slow in coming. But that IS what you get on opening night so no blame on the eatery from me.
And after a cautious start in terms of the “small dishes” we share, and especially once we get on to some real meaty action, we have a ball.
Grilled corn ($5) is, well, corn – there’s little or no sign of green habanero mayo and not much that is bacon about the “bacon salt”.
Jalapeno, bacon and cheese stuffed potato skins ($6) are very good and keenly priced.
Smoked hot wings with ranch dressing ($10) are OK but seem to fall into the realm of average bar food. And they’re a bit cold and clammy.
The German’s potato salad ($6) is beaut and another dish that is well priced. There’s apple, celery and pickle in there.
As has been noted here previously, I’m not a big fan of fries heavily seasoned with suspect stuff.
Just salt, thanks …
But the Up In Smoke fries ($7) work real fine, their “BBQ rub” seasoning coming across as something tasty and worthwhile rather than as mean and nasty.
Mac & cheese ($6) is lovely and much moister than it appears in the above photograph.
Now on to the meat!
Ostensibly our table of four ordered as follows …
“The Big Tray” (top photo, $42) of pulled pork, jalapeno-cheese sausage and brisket to be shared by two of us.
The beef rib platter (above, $18) for myself.
And the pork rib platter ($28) for our fourth.
But the truth is we all share everything one way or another.
The pork ribs are of the chewy variety; the single, massive beef rib is melt in your mouth tender.
The pulled pork is smokey and better than most; the brisket is fine.
The sausage is a fatty work of art.
I love it all – including the sauces, pickles and milk buns.
Best of all are the prices.
We’ve dropped some hefty amounts of money on barbecue in the past year or so and generally accept that the prices we must pay for such food are higher than those at our regular, westside cheap eats.
At Up In Smoke, by contrast, you can get a simple meat platter of your choice AND a fine side and end up paying just a little over $20.
Alternatively, you could go with one three $10 sandwiches (brisket burnt ends, pulled pork, pulled chicken), add a side and get a fine meal for $15.
A barbecue place where eating barbecue doesn’t have to be a big deal.
Up In Smoke does, however, bear comparison – in terms of food, prices, vibe – with Fancy Hank’s.
Though the Footscray establishment has more variety, including tacos.
Up In Smoke is a surefire hit.
It’s casual, the prices are great for such food and – frankly – I am very eager to return to explore the menu further.
It’s local, the parking is a breeze (if you know where to go!) and it can be a spur of the moment thing for us.