One of the reasons that I try to hit all of the food events and festivals around the county is so that I can try things that are new (or new to me).
Oftentimes, I end up seeing the same old restaurants serving the same old samples. But it’s always exciting when a new place pops up.
At the Iron Chef Hamburg event in November, I sampled pulled pork from Smokin’ Brays BBQ in Hamburg and was immediately a fan.
The restaurant opened in April after the owners closed the original Smokin’ Brays in Dale City, Virginia, and moved to Hamburg to be closer to their grandchildren.
“Our Virginia restaurant was open seven days a week,” I was told by our hostess, who I later found out was Betty Bray, co-owner with her husband Keith.
“We’re only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It’s almost like retirement.”
After we were seated, a woman came in with a little girl, dolly in tow. “I guess we need a table for three,” she joked.
But to their surprise, a high-chair was delivered to the table and dolly was strapped in for dinner, bringing a smile to everyone’s faces.
That’s how you do customer service.
The wait for our food wasn’t as long as it felt. I realized that the only noise – other than the two other diners that joined us – was coming from a radio in the corner.
So many restaurants today have at least one television in the room that I found myself looking around for a distraction that wasn’t there.
When the food arrived, it was the feast that I had expected.
Nearly every barbecue restaurant that I have ever been to has offered some sort of sampler platter. And I guess it’s because there are enough people like me who will order it every time.
At Smokin’ Brays, the smallest sampler is three meats (promising at least 3/4 pounds of meat). I got babyback ribs, beef brisket and pulled beef.
I haven’t found pulled beef on any other menus locally so I had to try some. It may look like pot roast, but it sure didn’t taste like it. There was no sauce, just a spice rub that had absorbed into the meat during cooking.
The flavor was great on its own, though I couldn’t stop myself from adding some of Smokin’ Brays classic barbecue sauce. A sweet sauce with just a little tang and no heat (there was also a hot version, plus a vinegar sauce, for those with differing tastes).
I really enjoyed the brisket. It was well-flavored, sliced thin and melt-in-your mouth good. The ribs were not my favorite. They were too fatty for my taste. I like my ribs leaner and more heavily seasoned.
Not that I needed anything else, but the meal also came with two sides and choice of roll or cornbread. I really only wanted something light so I went with baked beans and applesauce. The beans were alright but I was too full from my meal to really enjoy them. I did really like the cornbread, though it fell apart when I tried to butter it.
Julie’s meal consisted of smoked sausage with mac and cheese, lettuce with hot bacon dressing and cornbread.
The sausage was excellent, a little smoky but not too much. And it wasn’t smoked to the point that the outside was too crispy. It was done very well.
The lettuce with hot bacon dressing was among the best that Julie has had with no skimping on bacon. She also enjoyed the creamy mac and cheese.
After all that food (Julie had to take half of hers home), there was definitely no room for dessert. That said, I actually thought about trying to force some banana pudding after I saw it on the menu board.
Instead, we called it a night. While paying our $30 bill, we saw the Wall of Fame and Wall of Shame, adorned with photos of all those who have attempted the “Big Pig Challenge,” five pounds of food and a 30-minute time limit.
“You want to try the ‘Big Pig’?” the owner asked after I questioned her about the challenge.
“Not tonight,” I said.
I’m sure it will make an entertaining blog someday.
Smokin’ Brays BBQ
278 W. State St
Hamburg, PA 19526