Up on North Market Street just at the western foot of Sulphur Creek Hill stands a now-empty building. For years it housed El Papagayo, then another restaurant that escapes Femme de Joie’s memory just now, followed by Catanio’s. M. de Joie only visited Catanio’s once; she remembers it fondly as an upscale Italian restaurant that provided a musical interlude during dinner by Joe Catanio. After it closed, Catanio moved on to run the cafe at Turtle Bay until The Powers That Be closed it pending the construction of a Sheraton Hotel. Not idle for long, Catanio paired with Scott Rawson to open Smoked BBQ on Airport Road.
Fitted inside what appears to have been a drive-through coffee kiosk (and located next to Dutch Brothers), the restaurant has just three small tables. The meat is smoked on the premises and sides are house-made. The menu is short and sweet and quite reasonably priced. Each item comes with a choice of sides.
Hot pastrami sandwich, $7.99
M. de Joie has long been a pastrami fan – Amico del SIgnore, not so much; he always found it greasy, salty, and fatty. This sandwich converted him; plenty of very lean, mildly spiced pastrami with a pleasant smokiness didn’t have that off-putting greasiness. The sauce was served on the side instead of glopped on, which we approve heartily of – and this sauce is a far cry from the dark brownish-purple sauces that fall off the Sysco Truck by the gallon. A tomato base made tangy with apple cider vinegar and slightly sweet, it complimented the pastrami rather than smothered it. We liked the macaroni salad too – not sweet but slightly mustardy with tiny bits of celery.
Pulled pork sandwich, $7.50
The pulled pork was likewise non-greasy, little niblets of tender smoked pork piled on a bun. Moist and tender, it didn’t need sauce, but we poured it on anyway. The smoked sweet potatoes were wonderful: though they look like plain sliced white potatoes, they are made from yellow sweet potatoes rather than red Garnet yams. M. de Joie has never cared much for yellow sweet potatoes, finding them dry and chalky, but this was delightful, especially when we scraped the bottom of the container to scoop up the caramelized juices that had puddled there.
Combo meal, four pork ribs and sliced tri-tip, $8.99
Tri-tip isn’t an easy cut to cook. Tough sinews and connective tissue riddle it; though it’s flavorful, it can necessitate a yard or two of dental floss afterwards. But at Smoked BBQ the tri-tip was meltingly tender and smoky, luscious and juicy. Pork ribs had a crackly crust and were fall-off-the-bone tender. Alongside, potato salad was not overcooked and mushy (as often happens) and slightly on the tart side. The only disappointment was that the combo meal was not as generous a serving as the sandwiches, so not really a great value.
Smoked Stack (tri-tip. pastrami, pulled pork), $8.99
A terrific combo of the best of Smoked BBQ, this was a most satisfying sandwich. Even though it was heavy on the protein, the smoked meats were trimmed of excess fat so it didn’t have a soporific effect, Scott’s slaw was a winner too: freshly made with, cubes of apple teamed with dried cranberries and thin-sliced cabbage in a light vinegary dressing. If a diner was so inclined, they could certainly pile the slaw on the sandwich.
Even though it’s all the way out on Airport Road. Smoked BBQ is worth a drive. Now that Thanksgiving has been ticked off the list for another year, there may be a few turkey tidbits lurking in the far reaches of the refrigerator. There may well be people who are pointedly ignoring those leftovers, crying for surcease, for something that isn’t turkey, isn’t covering in gravy and cranberry sauce. For them, a trip to Smoked BBQ may be in order. For those still happily snarfing up the ends of that bird, head on out there anyway.
Smoked BBQ, 8540 Airport Road at Rancho Road, Redding, CA 96002. 530-364-2085. Open Monday-Saturday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. Closed Sundays. Very small dining area; better to order take-out. Parking lot. No alcohol. Cards, no checks. Not much for vegetarians to see here except side orders. Follow them on Facebook.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of