The Shack is smokin' in the Third Ward
All of the meat comes from humanely-raised animals that are free of hormones and antibiotics, according to Sorge. Smoke Shack is buying whole Berkshire hogs from a source in Black Earth, Wis., and the demand for ribs at the restaurant has been outstripping supply. A single pig only has so many ribs, the restaurateur points out.
Sorge was meeting with suppliers in one of the eatery's booths when I arrived at the Shack for a chat with him. The goal is to get more Berkshire hog ribs into the smoker.
Smoke Shack makes its own smoked sausage from the pigs and uses Black Angus beef for its brisket.
The restaurant's menu reveals smoking times for the different meats and cuts served. If your eye stops on the pulled pork, you will see it spends 13 hours in the smoker. Beef brisket gets 10 hours; ribs are smoked for 4 hours.
A full slab of baby back ribs is the most expensive menu item at $29. Among the entrees, a half chicken or half pound of sausage is $14. Pulled pork costs $14.50, a half pound of beef brisket is priced at $18, and a pound of bone-in short ribs is $24.
Two combo platters are $27 and $28. Ribs are served only after 5 p.m.
Dinners are accompanied by corn bread and a side, with choices running from barbecue restaurant traditionals to such intriguing items as fried corn on the cob, creamy braised leeks, and seasonal roasted vegetables.
Sorge is especially proud of the corn bread, which is home baked. "It is more cake than bread. We mill our own corn. It is sweet and delicate," he said.
The corn bread is the responsibility of a new pastry chef who has been hired to service all of the Sorges' restaurants. She creates desserts for Smoke Shack, including beignets ($4.25), bourbon praline cake ($7.50), seasonal fruit crumble ($7.50) and gooey bacon bourbon brownies ($7.75) made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and yes, bacon.
Purple Door Ice Cream has developed a special flavor, whiskey, for Smoke Shack, and it is served alone ($4.50) and with a slice of pecan pie ($8.25). The local company's vanilla bean ice cream accompanies the fruit crumble and bacon bourbon brownies, and can also be purchased alone ($3.50).
Other unusual items on the menu include pulled pork nachos ($8.75), candied bacon and sweet potato fries ($7.25), fried tomato salad ($7.25) and roasted poblano corn chowder ($3.50 and $5.50). A selection of sandwiches served on a potato roll features pulled chicken ($9.50), pulled pork ($10.50), beef brisket ($13.75) and a brisket sloppy joe ($11.50).
Vegetarians are offered two sandwiches – roasted portobello with fontina cheese, grilled sweet onion and arugula ($9.50) and the wheat gluten product seitan with onion and arugula ($8.50). Both are served with the house barbecue sauce.
All sandwiches come with slaw and a choice of kettle chips or sweet potato fries.
Befitting a roadhouse barbecue joint, Smoke Shack's bar specializes in bourbon – 10 choices – and beer from bottles and tall boy cans. "We have been thoughtful in our selection of bourbons," Sorge said.
Wine drinkers can choose among three reds and three whites available by the glass.
Smoke Shack opens daily at 11. Its capacity will nearly triple when it can seat customers at picnic tables on an outdoor deck.
A second indoor dining area will eventually be opened on the restaurant's second floor. All menu items can be carried out.
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I like small taverns with character! Smoke Stack is every bit of that...one problem what the hell kind of place that calls itself Smoke Stack runs out of RIBS & BRISKET! Tell me one BBQ place around the country that doesn't have RIBS. When they informed us of this...I was just floored, couldn't believe. The cherry on top was when I ordered the first item on the desert menu the Beignet's and was told they weren't turning out right! Excuse me, does this mean you have them but don't know how to cook them. I had no idea how to react to that one. I ended up getting the the pulled pork which was as pedestrian as it gets. Honestly could have gotten the same sandwich at Culver's. First time there and doubt I will return any time soon.
Been to the Smoke Shack a few times now. Service was friendly and the atmosphere is great. The restaurant however is uncomfortably small and the food is average, pricey and nothing special. They charge extra for a small dipping cup of cole slaw? Really. Sweet potato fries are okay, you can find the same all over town. Also, if you have community seating then your prices should reflect that. Ribs are expensive for what you get. Too bad, it's not more like rib shacks all over the South, maybe on atmosphere but that's about it.
Not judging the food at Smoke Shack because I have not been there but Lo-Cash is right near by and way cheaper.
I've been there a couple of times to really let the experience sink in. The smoke shack looks good on paper. New BBQ joint in Milwaukee, nice decor, fresh smoked meat, etc. In reality there is nothing really worth standing in the small waiting area for. Expect a wait as the place has extremely limited seating. If you do go and there are only two of you expect another couple to be seated with you. Depending on the time of day your options may be limited. Ribs and Rib tips for example are only served after 5pm and in very limited supply. My last outting there they "ran out" at 5:45pm. I was informed by my server that another round would be up at 7. Indeed it was and I was one of the fortunate people to get a rack of the baby back ribs. You choose from 4 sauces. 3 bbq and 1 mustard. None really stood out to me. The ribs were fair at best. Part of the problem is that you have such a narrow window to get these ribs that they have a lot to live up to. I'd be surprised if I found anyone who told me they were worth the hassle. The brisket was good. I got it in sandwich form my first outting there. The sweet potato fries were a nice side but nothing to write home over. It's really not hard to find these types of sides anywhere else. The garlic mac was fair. Overall I was looking forward to a new BBQ joint in town. I can't help but feel this is a missed oppurtunity. The seating is poor. There is no real wait area. As we opened the door to survery the situation we were scolded for having cold air in. Well its february and there is no place to wait. Limitations on what could be considered the hallmark attraction on a BBQ menu is limited to the point where most people wont be able to get the ribs. All in all it's not really worth trying to find parking for such a medicore experience.
Place is way too small. As an owner, you should know the city has been craving a BBQ place and to open a joint with 49 seats? Idiotic if you ask me, and the prices are steep. I had the brisket sandwich and it was average. Next time I'll try to chicken.
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