This category is a landslide every year; I don’t know why I bother. I’m not going to waste your time with hyperbole – you’ll get plenty of that with my review. As far as the winner goes, the only negative comments I have heard out of all the survey questions this year is that service can be an issue. I’ve never experienced that myself, but I tend to go early. I will say that Smokehouse 21 is already leapfrogged many restaurants on the list, which isn’t bad for a new restaurant.
994 votes cast by readers:
1. Podnah’s Pit BBQ – 76% of the vote! 1625 NE Killingsworth Portland, OR 97211 Map (503) 281-3700. My review (if you can deal with a story of my youth)
2. Russell St. BBQ – 11%. 325 Northeast Russell Street Portland, OR 97212 Map (503) 528-8224
3. Clay’s Smokehouse Grill – 4%. 2932 Southeast Division Street Portland, OR 97202 Map (503) 235-4755
4. Smokehouse 21 – 2.4%. 413 Northwest 21st Avenue Portland, OR 97209 Map (971) 373-8990
Though I have friends who swear by Russell St., I’m always amazed to see them near the top of this list. This could be wrong, but I’ve been told they don’t even own a smoker.
Decided to try Smokehouse 21 on Saturday night after seeing this post. The place is tiny and for 7:30 on a Saturday, I expected a line out the door, so I was a bit suspicious to arrive and find only 2 tables and nobody waiting. We placed our order and then our own wait began. It seemed interminable, probably exaggerated by how hungry I was after biking earlier, but still there were no customers to serve but us in the restaurant (the other 2 tables were eating or finishing at this point). Finally the food arrived: Smoked 1/2 chicken, which honestly was one breast with a tiny piece of the thigh still attached. I’d call this 1/4 chicken really. We also ordered the smoked pork ribs since that always seems like a good standard to compare a BBQ joint against its competitors. For sides, we both went with the smoky beans and the collard greens, which our server made sure we knew both came with lots of bacon. We had also ordered a salad, but after waiting 20 minutes for the food to arrive and all of it coming at once, we didn’t pay that much attention to the greens and smoked chicken as they were fairly simple. Then we dug into the entrees. As someone who has watched the meteoric rise of Podnah’s from a tiny place on Prescott with a line out the door to a large space on Killingsworth with the same crowds clamoring, I had serious expectations.
Not only were those expectations met, but definitely exceeded. This was the best BBQ we’ve ever eaten in Portland, as much because the chicken and ribs were absolutely perfectly smoked and cooked, as well as for the fact that the side dishes were fantastically flavorful – something that many BBQ joints suffer with as an afterthought to the meat. Smokehouse serves 4 different sauces on the table so you can decide for yourself which suits your palate. I found the mustard sauce enhanced the chicken nicely and the Memphis vinegar sauce with the ribs added a bit of heat and acid to already well-seasoned pork. All in all, we left scratching our heads why there isn’t a line out the door at this place given the extremely high quality of food they are serving. I know if they were located on the Eastside, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the crowds. For those of us stuck in the desert of casual dining options in NW, this is a real welcome addition to the neighborhood. After one visit, I can’t wait for the next and only hope that they can maintain consistency with this quality level to win my business eternally. And I’ll remember to eat a little something before going next time just in case the kitchen really is that slow to send out a salad. Or maybe I’ll order it as Take Out!
Food Dude says
Thanks for the thorough accounting. It is closer to my house than Podnah’s, so I will give it a try.
It’s such a small space I wonder if people just don’t know about it yet.
Russell St has a smoker on-site now. They used to have a seperate off-site kitchen where it was kept. They have the best sides – best hush puppies, best slaw, decent mac n cheese (Screen Door is better), best vegetarian greens. Smoked meats don’t equal Podnah’s but they use all local meat and wild seafood.
Food Dude says
Good to hear. I take back what I said ;) Thanks L’epicier
I too am glad to see smokehouse 21 make the list. The owner/chef is very talented (another Paley’s Place alum). It’s not a huge menu but it is very well executed. I could definitely see them outgrowing their space soon enough.
I agree 100% with l’Epeciere.
I’d also recommend that if you (FD) live near NW (near S.H. 21), you need to be sure you’re going to Slab Town. It’s so far off the charts better than pretty much everything else in town that I’m quite literally dumbfounded that it’s never in this list. ??? :-/
Podnah’s is still my #1 Jam though :-)
Just ate at Roadrunner Bar-b-q at 51/Foster food truck pod. Truly the best bbq I have ever eaten in my life. Permeated with smoky goodness and tender, not over-salted and not greasy at all. Crazy good.
Has anyone tried SLICK’S BIG TIME BBQ yet?
I highly recommend it! These guys do it right! I’ve traveled the US on business and have had all the major regional BBQ, from Texas, Memphis and Kansas City and Slick’s BBQ is indeed BIG TIME! The ribs are fall off the bone tender and juicy, the smoked meatballs are amazing and Barbi’s strawberry corn bread desert is out of this world! If ever in the Portland area, it’s a quick hop over to Newberg OR for the best BBQ anywhere, period…