Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: IDS Eats Critiques: SmokeWorks offers more than Memphis-Style BBQ and Bourbon

<p>A SmokeWorks meal is pictured March 10. The restaurant is located at 121 N. College Ave. </p>

A SmokeWorks meal is pictured March 10. The restaurant is located at 121 N. College Ave.

If you haven’t been to SmokeWorks, go hungry and ready for a trendy experience.

SmokeWorks, located along College Avenue on the downtown square in Bloomington, opened in February 2019 and prides itself on daily, made from scratch southern foods, smoked meats and an extensive selection of whiskeys and bourbon.

The extensive menu offers a wide variety of hickory-smoked meats including pulled pork, turkey, ribs, brisket, sausage and catfish, and includes southern comfort sides, BBQ trays, sandwiches, soups and salads.

The BBQ nachos appetizer was more than enough food for three, consisting of pulled pork, nacho cheese, jalapeños, crispy fried onions, ranch and house barbecue sauce on top of tortilla chips and garnished with green onions. 

While a lot was happening at once, all the flavors combined into something worth ordering again. The sauce ratio was just right for me, but people with a low tolerance to spice might want to opt out on the peppers as they added quite the kick.

The pulled pork tray came with sides of mac and cheese and green beans, corn bread, deli-style pickles and slices of white onion. 

The pork was flavorful, though I didn’t taste the hickory smoke flavor I was expecting. The Memphis dry rub, however, added the flavor I thought it was lacking.

Their mac and cheese was good but it could’ve used more flavor. The green beans, however, were some of the best I've ever had. The addition of onions and bacon gave the dish everything it needed.

My cornbread came a little dark on one side, but after pulling it away and adding butter, it was sweet and a great addition to the tray.

Those with vegan and vegetarian diets may find the menu a little hard to choose from.

The staff was friendly and did their job well. The host seated our party immediately and our server was there to greet us moments later with water and get any drink order we may have had. We never had to wait on a refill or to place our order.

Within four minutes, my appetizer was in front of me. My main dishes were brought out in a timely manner, but I was also given the perfect amount of time to enjoy my appetizer.

With a look around the restaurant, I could tell other patrons were content and enjoying their time.

During a time when safety and sanitation are more important than ever, SmokeWorks hit the nail on the head.

There was a large hand sanitizer dispenser at the entrance. One party was on their way out the door and a staff member immediately began sanitizing their booth and table. All employees were masked and seated guests had ample distance between them. 

SmokeWorks also utilized a QR digital menu to remove risk of everyone touching the same physical menus, and digital payment options allowed for contactless payment.

The interior designer of SmokeWorks needs to be featured in a magazine. 

It’s a chic and fashionable twist on an old country-themed saloon. Neon signs and wood tastefully cover the walls while turquoise and sand-colored booths add an urban flare to the aesthetic.

The music is just loud enough, and you can expect to hear a variety of pop ballads, country music and granola-type vibes.

Depending on what you order, you can get a fantastic bang for your buck.

At $10, the nachos I ordered were enough to fully fill two people and the value is unmatched.

My $12 pulled pork tray came with an immense amount of food. I’ve paid way more for a simple sandwich in Bloomington.

While most dinner option items will run you anywhere from $9 to $15, the combo meat trays start at $18 and make their way all the way up to $39.

Graphic by Abby Carmichael

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