Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can I Get Some Mexican Coke?*

The best restaurant in Homestead isn't at The Waterfront. In fact, it's tucked away on 8th Avenue between a dentist and another nondescript storefront. If one was driving by without really looking, one would miss it. And that's his or her loss. A truly big loss.

SMOKE barbeque taqueria (225 E. 8th Avenue, Homestead) is a "BYOBooze" ($2.50 per person), cash only operation that is open every day of the week except Mondays. JTP and I ventured here on a Saturday night before going to see a movie (Savages if you must know), because we had heard/read great things and because we prefer locally owned eateries more than big box restaurants.

Upon entering to a tune of Sublime, we were able to grab two seats at the small bar without a wait (of course this was great considering that upon prolonged observation, SMOKE had a steady crowd blending in and ahhhht for the duration of our visit). We appreciated the atmosphere instantly. Although I think the word "eclectic" is overused, I would describe SMOKE's interior as being tastefully eclectic, yet functionally hip. The variety of furniture, the clean lines of the wooden bar, and the muted green walls are peppered with unique lighting fixtures and items that appear to be "original' (like the fantastic screen door* at the entrance/exit).

Our spot at the bar featuring SMOKE's lamp and our homemade mead (a wedding present).
A glimpse upward.  
I'm totally digging the fork and spoon.
JTP and I always order in tandem, an "art" and/or "science" that we have perfected over our three years of dining together. After hearing the specials, we tend to attack the menu voraciously, weigh the options through conversation, and formulate our order. In this instance, we opted for four tacos: Cuban (the special, $7.50, constructed in the spirit of a Cuban sandwich with SMOKE's mustard on the side), Pork ($4.75, apricot habanerno & carmelized onions), Wagyu Brisket ($6, sauteed onions, hot peppers & mustard sauce), and Chorizo ($4, pinto beans, crispy potatoes with a smoked pepper pico de gallo); and two sides: Jalapeno Apple Slaw ($3, jalapenos + apples + creamy dressing) and Pinto Beans ($3, beer + bacon + hot peppers). 
The Cuban
Jalapeno Apple Slaw
Pinto Beans
As shown in the pictures above, most of the food is served on simple, white dishes that offset the colorful food quite artfully. While the Cuban was served on a plate and lighted pressed, the tacos from the regular menu are served in foil, and when unwrapped reveal the most tender protein, nestled within a perfectly warm, soft, lightly floured tortilla (SMOKE claims that their tortillas are "never a day old"). Truthfully, we really liked everything that we ate, with the Pork and the Cuban tacos coming in a tie for first place, followed by the Wagyu Brisket and the Chorizo. The apricot habanero and carmelized onions truly accented the Pork with perfection; the pork, ham, swiss, mustard and pickles on the Cuban were fantastic in both flavor and texture (and were as good as the Cubans I ate in Little Havana, Miami); the Brisket was incredibly tender and tasty; and the Chorizo, although ground, provided the pleasant experience of having breakfast for dinner.  As for the sides, the Slaw had a solid crunch with sweet creamy taste that soothed the palate; and the Pinto Beans, while in a broth, were al dente and delicious. 

As for concluding thoughts, we believe that SMOKE is a great place to dine before heading to The Waterfront for a movie; and also, we feel that it would be a great option for a first date. The service was friendly and helpful and welcoming. They know their "stuff" and they know that they've got a good thing going on dahn in Homestead. Without a doubt, we will be returning, most likely armed with Boyd & Blair vodka to mix with the Blood Orange San Pellegrino and/or one of the many "Fresh Drinks" (made with organic sugar) on the menu! 

 SMOKE barbeque taqueria on Urbanspoon

(4 stars, 4/4)

*No, I am not talking about illegal substances from May-hee-co. Coca-Cola has many different formulas for its beverages, and in this instance, SMOKE serves the Mexican version. The main difference is that it's made with real sugar, rather than high-fructose corn garbage.
**I have an eye for antique screen doors, which is yet another quirk of mine.