March 2, 2006 2:14 AM | By Adam Roberts | 7 Comments

What did you do when you went to prison and found out your cellmate's name was Smoke? BLUE SMOKE

Reason why The New York Times will never hire me as a food critic #387: see post title!

On Sunday night, our beloved Lauren (my old roommate) arrived at my apartment with Julie, her girlfriend, and asked me where we could go to dinner. I suggested several places, all of which were rejected, and then I suggested more which I looked up online only to find out they were closed on Sundays (Chennai Gardne, Piriyali.) What was open? Why Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke:


We walked there briskly, in the cold night air, and I grew excited because Blue Smoke was one of those places I've always meant to try but never have and now I was going to. "I'm excited," I said into my scarf. My scarf was indifferent.

"Blue Smoke" reminded me of a Boca Ratonian restaurant: the large, spacious room; the palm tree decor and the wood paneling. [Ok, I have no idea if there was wood paneling: the place was just very woody. See, another reason I can't be a NYT food critic is I don't know how to describe rooms. If there's dark wood everywhere, would you call that wood paneling? No, I imagine you wouldn't unless the wood's actually paneled.)

In the vestibule, Lauren and Julie warmed up and I entered the restaurant proper and waited in line to state how many of us there were in our party. The crowd in that line was really aggressive and I think the scene is a Murray Hill scene. Young, yuppy types dressed nice and eager to get their way. Basically, me 3 years ago when I was in law school. The woman ahead of me was an older woman, very sweet, but very slow and she told the hostess that it was her son's birthday: "We're in a group with two men in military uniform," she said, "but my son is the one NOT in military uniform." She said this very slowly and the hostess carefully wrote it down. People behind me tutted their impatience.

Finally, when we were seated, I enjoyed the spaciousness of the room: our table was roomy and private. Lauren studied the drink list and quickly announced she was going to order a blood orange margarita. "C'mon," she said to me. "Have one too." I obliged and endorsed her request for salt on the rim. Here it is, a blood orange margarita, illuminated by candlelight:


It was tres tasty, and the blood orange helped mask the strength of the tequila.

Now for the food. The menu is priced similarly to R.U.B. (Righteous Urban BBQ) and between the two I think I prefer Blue Smoke if only because it's a cozier environment. Plus, the meat is moister as evidenced in my pulled pork platter served with beans:


I gave my beans to Julie in order to share these sweet potato fries with Lauren:


These were terrific--thick-cut, unlike any other sweet potato fries I've ever had--and the best part is they come with a maple dipping sauce that's creamy and sweet and perfect.

But back to the meat: the meat was plentiful and moist and dressed well with BBQ sauce. I was happy.

Lauren and Julie both went the more traditional root and ordered ribs. Here's Lauren's rack (in front of her rack) (Ha!):


When questioned, both Julie and Lauren nodded their approval as to "How are they?" "Mmhoood," I think one of them said. It was difficult to tell.

When the ribs were taken away, so was Julie, by a cab to the airport: her flight to D.C. left earlier than Lauren's. We bid our farewell and Lauren and I had a deep discussion as to whether we wanted dessert.

"I don't really need it," said Lauren.

"Ya," said I. "Neither do I."

"Guess we'll just get the check," she said.

The waiter approached: "Dessert?"

Before Lauren could get a word in I said: "Banana cream pie." Lauren laughed. No one denies The Amateur Gourmet dessert, even when he denies himself dessert.

Here's the banana cream pie:


I really liked the crust made of graham crackers. And the custard within the pie itself was creamy, rich and decadent. Had me smiling. [Reminds me of this chapter in Bunny Crumpacker's "The Sex Life of Food" which I read in preparation for an interview I was going to do for another website that never happened. She says that soft foods are comforting to us because they take us back to our childhoods. People who like sweet things, incidentally, are immature. Hello, that's me! See my post title.]

Blue Smoke is a fun place to go if you're staying with me and you're in the mood for ribs. If you're not staying with me, I suppose you can check out R.U.B. and you may enjoy those too. Those are dry rub ribs. It all comes down to your preference. For me, my preference is sweet immature baby food to match my post titles. If that's your preference too, give Blue Smoke a chance. It's good grub.


AG - Did you go downstairs to the Jazz Standard? It is a great jazz club!

Oh yes, and Les Halles of Anthony Bourdain fame is just across the street and around the corner, too. (As I am sure you know! - I was just getting excited by some of the places I went to when in the Big Apple.)

those ribs look deeeeelicious. all that's missing is a little southern comfort.

do you ever get self-conscious while taking flash photography inside of a restaurant? especially when more of the shots are directed at the food than at your companions? :)

i am all about the surreptitious no-flash.

I work about this place at a freelancing gig Mondays and Fridays, and everybody's been telling me that it is absolutely amazing, but I haven't had the chance to make it down there myself yet. This definitely provides a great little push towards finally getting down there :-D


I'm not always thrilled with the ribs at Blue Smoke, but the hamburger is relatively inexpensive and terriffic

Great food writing. Just sumbled upon you...

I liked how you wrote: "I'm excited," I said into my scarf. My scarf was indifferent.

BUT... I think you missed a good oppty with the photo of Lauren's rack

You shoulda wrote "Here's Lauren's rack. And the ribs she ordered." (Ha!)

Good times.....

Thanks for the great site!

Hush puppies, burger, Texas Beef ribs, mojito, regular fries, chocoloate icebox cake (with a glass of milk included). Food is excellent. Like a real critic, you owe yourself another couple of trips....


Their macaroni & cheese is an absolute must-try!

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