The other evening I found myself in a part of town that I normally do not frequent while attending a theater production. So I jumped online and did a quick search of restaurants near the theater to get a feel for what was around. I came across a restaurant that I had heard of before but never tried so decided to head on over to their Web site and look at their menu to see if there was even a remote possibility of me dining there. I am a huge fan of BBQ. I like northern, northern, southern, and just about everywhere in between types of BBQ. Dry rub…check. Heavily sauced…check. I was over the moon when I saw that Blue Smoke (the restaurant in question) actually had a gluten-free menu (check it out at the end of this post). Yep, those two magical words appeared larger than most in the word cloud on the restaurant’s site. I quickly made a reservation as images of my BBQ sauce stained fingers passed before me.
When the evening we’d be dining there finally rolled around, I was, to say the least, giddy with excitement to sample this new locale. My other half and I had imbibed for an hour or so prior to heading over to the restaurant at one of my all-time favorite bars – The Campbell Apartment. There is just something about that place that has always drawn me to it. Not to mention early evenings on weekends are far less chaotic than during the week or later at night so I always try to pop-in for at least one cocktail when in the neighborhood.
So after tying on a few, my other half and I headed on down to Blue Smoke. What’s nice about this place is that it features a rather good Jazz club on its lower-level (The Jazz Standard) and the restaurant above. So technically you can binge at the restaurant and then roll yourself down the stairs for some smooth Jazz stylings…but I digress.
The restaurant was hopping when we arrived and we finally made our way to the front desk. We were told our table was just being set and within a few minutes were seated at our table. Oh, I forgot to mention that when the host was grabbing the menus I asked for a gluten-free version which first seemed to surprise him but he quickly grabbed a smaller red-framed menu that offered only gluten-free options.
Now I am always a bit leery of restaurants that have a gluten-free menu but are not really gluten-free establishments. I always wonder how many requests does the kitchen actually get and do they really take it seriously. Well, Blue Smoke definitely shines in this area. When ordering I told the waiter that not only was I Celiac, but that I have a severe (read deadly) allergy to shellfish which he repeated to me and noted on the order ticket. Nice. I opted for the Baked Chipotle Wings as a starter. I cannot remember the last time I have anything remotely related to Buffalo wings when dining out. Not only is the gluten-contaminated oil a factor but most places tend to fry shellfish (and anything else) in a communal fryer. Disgusting I know, but I learned the hard way when I reacted not once, but twice to shellfish laced French Fries – fool me once… So the baked wings seemed like such a fantastic option I could not understand why more places don’t offer such an item. The GF menu noted not to have the bleu cheese dressing. I ordered the lean Brisket of beef for my main which came with a side of mashed potatoes (sans fried onion topping) and my other half and I shared a side of beets.
When the pile of rather large-sized wings arrived at the table I nearly squealed like a school girl but something caught my eye – a small cup of blue cheese dressing was next to a larger bucket of Chipotle sauce. I found it strange but simply removed the offending sauce and pretty much inhaled the plate in front of me. When the waiter came back to clear the dishes, I nicely noted that he may want to tell the kitchen about the blue cheese. He stated that when the plates are dressed the runners put both sauces on because some people tend to order them for a table vs. themselves and like to share ;-). Well, me being a greedy guts (I did share two with my partner, who indulged in the bleu cheese, it made perfect sense.
The Brisket arrived next was a HUGE portion. It was cooked to perfection and the table was filled with a variety of sauces and shakers to accommodate a wide-rage of taste preferences (all of which were GF by the way). The mashed potatoes were heavenly and beets cooked to simple perfection. While completely stuffed, I decided to binge even more and have some plain ice cream and coffee for dessert.
When the ice cream arrived, the runner (not the waiter) said “Ooops, sorry, there is a cookie underneath there. I am sorry, let me get you another”. I thought that was incredible that they knew what to look out for before it even hit the table. Also, after we were finished our waiter came by and said he owed me an apology as he heard the first dessert arrived with a cookie. What? Are we still in N.Y.C.? I though that was such a nice move (though unnecessary) on his part because it shows that they take allergies seriously and it is comforting to know you have a line of two or three people looking out for you.
I could not have been happier with the entire experience and highly recommend Blue Smoke to all of my Celiac and non-Celiac friends out there. Oh, and they mix a mean cocktail, which I can personally attest to ;-).