So, in a casual conversation about food and all that good stuff, a breddrin of ours by the name of Kenson Quash mentioned a place called The Smoke Shed. After his best attempts to aptly describe this heaven of a place, Baidawi pulled up the Smoke Shed website. It was all over after dat! Next thing yuh know, we were heading Rio Claro at the prescribed 80km/hr (well… mostly), to see if this place was real or an elaborate, early April fools’ joke from Kenson. Conclusion: This place is no joke!
As expected, we met some good people with a passion for food and a desire to produce a great BBQ experience. The man with the plan, Matthew Pompey, embodies all that. A machine shop owner, food lover and straight up cool fella, Matthew’s influence is in everything you see at the spot on and off menu. In other words, he literally built the place. Laying tiles, doing metal work, designing furniture, everything…
Including the 4 grills he uses at the place. Sorry to be so hyped about this, but look at it! He made that!
Complete with accurate, built in thermometers so he can practice his precise science of flavor creation.
The rustic decor is nothing to scoff at either. It’s a clean, welcoming, efficiently laid out work space.
And quite frankly, much more than we expected from a random bbq joint in Rio Claro.
Nice outdoor dining space, surrounded by greenery and so forth…
As well as a nice indoor dining area. Comfortable for large families and groups.
Nice stuff, but we didn’t go all that way to relax and take in the scenery. Food we dey bout! And food we got. Instantly noticeable is the fact that they serve their food in paper-lined trays. Real get-yuh-hands-in-it BBQ style. We sampled some of the offerings.
Everything you need your pulled pork to be. Full of flavor, balanced spices that don’t overpower the meat, tender, succulent and begging to jump into a sandwich with some slaw and some love.
We were thankful that they recently added brisket to the menu. This is beef treated right. Just the right fat content to give it that rich beef flavor and spices that just mildly compliment. Right texture. Real taste.
Well, yuh can’t be a smoke house without ribs, right? So they have ribs. Tender. Flavorful. And featuring the smoke ring that lets you know dis is low and slow business.
Here is where things get interesting (as if things aren’t interesting already). They have 5 styles of chicken. We had the spicy smoked chicken (above). Not blazing hot. Just a spicy kick to compliment the smoke.
The garlic smoked chicken. Adds a different dimension to the smoke flavor. Very tasty.
And the honey mustard smoked chicken. We discovered that mustard really enhances and compliments the smoke flavor. This was a favorite across the board. When you add to this line up a standard smoked chicken with no additions and an open flame barbeque chicken, you realize Matthew was serious about getting chicken right. And it really is a challenging meat to smoke right. They do a good job of it at the The Smoke Shed.
Another impressive fact is, they didn’t rely on the meats to do all the work. They also put that much effort into the sides. Sure you can get your usual fries, fresh salad and potato/pasta salad, but wait… there’s more!
They offer some unique sides that really up the game.
Sweet potato and plantain pie. Nice portion size. Sweet and savory. A fun side.
They also offer the opportunity to give your meal that American twist with a rich golden cornbread. By the way, all these are made from scratch.
Instead of mac & cheese, they swing it a lil more Trinbagonian with a spaghetti muffin. The idea here is that every portion is essentially like the crispy corner piece of the macaroni pie everyone wants.
Grilled cassava is a big favorite here. Grilled with a special basting liquid and dusted with a lil cinnamon and other spices hot off the grill. Versatile enough to compliment any of the meats.
The biggest wow of the trip was generated by the simple smoked potato. Stuffed with veggies and cheese, it’s totally unexpected, but a pleasant surprise and a simple but effective way to upgrade meat and potatoes.
Thanks to Kenson for turning giving us this new reason to go Rio Claro. And thanks to Matthew and team Smoke Shed for the good food, good conversation and good time at this cool spot.
Hear more from Matthew about his food and his grills in the video below.