Champaign-Urbana has such good barbecue (Black Dog, Lil Porgy’s, Po’ Boys, Wood N’ Hog) that it’s easy to forgot that Savoy has a barbecue restaurant, too. Located on Dunlap Avenue in the same plaza as Star BBQ, the restaurant Smoky’s House BBQ serves classic barbecue, meaty sandwiches, and horseshoes.
I’d never been to Smoky’s House BBQ before this review, but I was excited to try it. On the outside, the restaurant has flame decals on the windows. Inside, the decor has a gas station aesthetic slash Sunday picnic vibe.
We enjoyed the aroma of smoky-sweet barbecue as we perused the menu. Smoky’s House BBQ has brisket, ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, burnt ends, turkey, Polish sausage, and the usual suspects for sides: slaw, potato salad, macaroni, beans, and fried okra. In addition to barbecue sandwiches, the restaurant also has a smoked turkey reuben, a club sandwich, The Longhorn (sliced brisket and pork on Texas toast), and something called a Big Boy, which has brisket, turkey, and sausage topped with beer cheese on a brioche bun.
The dining room was quite spacious and could easily seat big parties. It wasn’t busy when we went for lunch, but while we ate, several people picked up to-go orders.
To start, we ordered an appetizer called Kansas caviar ($7.95). Served on a metal tray with a side of chips, the Kansas caviar had diced red onion, charred corn, black beans, green pepper, and soft tomato in a sweet-sour dressing. The vinegar flavor was nice, but the thin sauce was a bit too sweet. I would have preferred a spicy kick or a more savory note instead of the sugary sweet finish.
Shortly after we ordered, our food arrived: some sides, a burnt ends sandwich, and a brisket horseshoe. While our server was a little surly, he was very quick to bring our food and pour refills.
The burnt ends sandwich ($8.50) was the best dish, hands down. The sandwich was overflowing with thick chunks of brisket ends — and that’s it. The bun was toasted, all the sauces on the table, but the simplicity was everything. The burnt ends were absolutely incredible and needed nothing else because they were insanely delicious as is. The fatty, jelly parts melted into the tender meat for super delicate, fall-apart bites with an excellent smoky flavor.
Smoky’s House burnt ends were so good that we tried to order a platter or a side of just the meat, but the restaurant does not offer that, but, whatever, we ordered a second sandwich just to eat more burnt ends.
We ordered the brisket horseshoe ($13.95), which was ridiculous. The horseshoe originated in Springfield, Illinois, and Smoky’s House BBQ’s version nailed it. An exorbitant amount of steak fries covered a full portion of sliced brisket atop Texas toast, all smothered with beer cheese. Buried under the mountain of cheese fries, the brisket tasted fantastic and was so tender that I couldn’t pick it up with a fork before the brisket crumbled into small pieces scoopable with cheesy fries. The beer cheese was thick and velvety, clinging to the fries as it congealed in the most disgustingly delicious way. The sauce was very cheddar-y, and the garlicky Texas toast still had a crisp edge despite the deluge of cheesy fries and juicy barbecue.
This dish was giving buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwich meets cheese fries with a barbecue touch of tender brisket. If you’re dining in at Smoky’s House BBQ — with absolutely no regard for calories, you must try the horseshoe.
The side of macaroni ($2.50) had soft and peppery noodles in a thin, creamy cheese sauce. It was a good, simple mac.
Because we love coleslaw, we ordered both the creamy slaw ($2.50) and the v&o coleslaw ($2.50). The creamy slaw was good, on the sweeter side, and creamy as expected. The other coleslaw was flecked with black pepper and had a sweet vinegar finish.
We ordered a side of pit beans ($2.50), too. In a syrupy sauce, the beans were soft, sweet, and a fine pit beans side.
On the table, there were six squeeze bottles with labels, thankfully, since all of the sauces looked the same. The simply sweet sauce was exactly that. The root n’que was an awesome root beer-based sauce that was bright and tangy, and the Memphis sweet had a sweet and smoky barbecue flavor. Little heat had an ancho smokiness, but it wasn’t spicy to me. Same with the perfectly hot sauce, sadly; though the paper on the table said the “signature spicy sauce will have you reaching for your drink,” we didn’t taste much heat at all. The spiciest one was a sauce called chipotle mango; it was a little fruity with only a whiff of spiciness.
All in all, the restaurant was pretty good. The actual barbecue we tried was tender, smoky, and very delicious, but the sides were mediocre and the sauces pretty lackluster. I wish everything was just a little less sweet; I expected more smoky flavors from the food at a place called Smoky’s House.
With the barbecue, the restaurant serves Pepsi products, tea, lemonade, and beer including draft pours of Triptych’s Dank Meme, Blind Pig’s U of IPA, and Riggs’ Hefeweizen plus more on draft, in cans, and by the bottle.
Smoky’s House does offer takeout, and I think the barbecue and sides would carry out well, but if you’re hankering for a horseshoe, dine in to eat that mass of cheesy barbecue goodness.
For more information, follow the restaurant on Facebook.
Smoky’s House BBQ
1333 Savoy Plaza Ln
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.