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The back room

Another ladies night and another opportunity to flex my food muscles… or another chance for me to explore treacherous culinary offering on someone else’s dime. These brave souls let the singular vegetarian of the group – along with my worthy co-conspirator Michelle N. – pick the locale. After ciphering though many worthy contenders, my brain began to plead for cheese (a frequent occurrence) and then I remembered reading reviews of people preening themselves over the supposed magnificence of the Mac and Cheese at Blue Smoke. Et volia!

This guy folded our napkins every time somone left the table

After the rounds of “Yeah! BBQ sounds great… but wait, what will you eat?!”I assured everybody that haveing extensively reviewed their published vegetarian (and gluten-free and nut-free) menu, I would be a smitten kitten drowning myself in Mac and Cheese. I also held out hope that the Veggie Burger would be stunning since Danny Myer is the birth father of the canonized ‘Shroom Burger. Alas, only the Mac and Cheese would live up to the promises, although not as expected… but the journey would lead me to new egalitarian editable entremets which heavily outweighed the disappointments.

We were thrilled to be seated at a round table for 8 people, the best way to dine in a large group, and we were attended to in professional Union Square Hospitality Group style which was completely unexpected at a restaurant where peanut shell littering the floor would have only enhanced the décor.

We ate a lot of food… A LOT… the skinny waitress kindly warned us that we had ordered too much food, but we flipped our hair at her and demanded that she bring it on.

ROUND 1: APPETIZERS

Grabbing at the warm bucket of chips

Warm BBQ Potato Chips with blue cheese dip ($7.95) – Excellent! Fresh but slightly soft chips doused in powdery BBQ Flavor in a bucket next to the cool ranchy white addictive dip. It can be ordered sans bacon but I had no problem eating around it for the sake of others.

Like yellow helmeted guards protecting the mount

Devilled Eggs with watercress and toasted almonds ($6.95) – Although the serving is measly – 4 halfs, so like lame 2 egg – these are pretty piped peaks of squeaky yellow goodness.  Even the watercress salad, adorning more of the plate then eggs, was good… a fact that the non-vegetable oriented people agreed with! So, if you like devilled eggs you will like these. If you don’t like devilled eggs, I know a really great physiotherapist who can help.

They looked so promising...

Toasted Ravioli “St. Louis Style” with smoked tomato sauce ($12.95) – Scooping one of these plump deep fried squares on to my plate I carefully drizzled it evenly with smoked tomatoes, but as I cut into it, a pink pulpy mess spewed out… they were filled with pork! We had all expected cheese… vegetarian and omnivores alike were disappointed. This was the only dish not licked clean.

Fried corn goodness

Hush Puppies with jalapeño marmalade ($3.95) – First off, the price on these is scandalously low. The nuggets of extra sweet corn, fried to a hard deep golden brown, enveloping warm soft yellow goodness + extra sticky sugary and spicy dipping junk = celebration in my mouth. The southern girl at the table took one bite and grimaced, but in my experience hush puppies tend to err on the bland side. These were hardcore flavor parties not for the faint of heart… so screw the Southern girl, I ate the whole basket!

YES!!!

Jackie’s Fry Bread with chipotle butter ($5.95) – Another bargain! Many nights before, in a conversation having nothing to do with this current dinner, my friend gushed about this the “savory donut-like” Fry Bread at Blue Smoke. So, with great anticipation, I sunk my teeth into the decadently dreamy pillows that must have been formed somewhere between beignet-land and heaven. But as a warning, these prizes are not included on the otherwise very inclusive “Vegetarian Menu,” I am not sure why… I’m not sure I want to know…

ROUND 2: ENTREES

Brussel Sprout Heaven

“Seasonal Vegetable” ($5.95) – Tonight it was Brussel Sprouts, lightly steamed and lightly salted, cooked past the point of sharpness but still crunchy and bright green. Some people thought they were undercooked, but, but to me they were just right… just like mom use to make them! Then again, I prefer my greens closer to nature then to sogginess… but I guess some people prefer sloppy waterlogged vegetables…

It didn't look promising, but it tasted darn good

Mac & Cheese ($7.95) – After all the hype, I was filled with trepidation as I stared into the mushy cradle of pasta, drowning in heavy cream, under a charred speckled top that peeled off like a burn victim’s skin. But, for all of its resemblance to Stoffer’s, this Mac and Cheese is the most luscious and praise worthy Velvetta/Stoffer’s style rip of ever! (Despite my grody skin simile)

The veggie burger is never a winner at a BBQ place

Hickory Smoked Vegetable Burger with frisée, tomato chutney and arugula salad ($14.95) – The unforgivable mush and flavorlessness of most derelict veggies burgers has caused me to ban them from my life (unless there is no other option). I only tried this one in hopes of tasting some of the same inspiration that Myer’s brought to Shake Shack. But alas, Geppetto only brought one puppet to life, and it lives in a Shack across the street in Madison Square Park. This soft (but at least flavorful) grain based patty softly deforms between the yelding bread and the non-insulting sweet tomato chutney. But what is insulting is that the veggie burger is served with an overdressed, verging on wilting, “healthy” salad while the regular burger (in addition to being $3 less) is served with heavenly golden fries.

Creamed Spinach ($5.95) – Bland gruel, avoid avoid!

The pile was monstrous

Other meaty thing people ate and seemed to enjoy: Collard Greens, Fried Chicken or Chicken Fried Sirloin with buttermilk biscuit, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the massive Rib Sampler (memphis baby backs, kansas city spareribs and texas beef ribs)

Rib smiles

Rib Smiles

ROUND 3: DESSERT AND DRINKS

Looks good, but I didn't get to eat any of it

Banana Cream Pie ($7.95) – The pregger next to me devoured it! If it was bad in any way she could have puked it up on the table and we would have dismissed the act and continued prodding her for baby names… but she kept it down, so it must be good …

Standard Key Lime

Key Lime Pie ($7.95) – If you like key lime pie you will like this. If you don’t like key lime pie, I know a really great physiotherapist who can help.

My Fav of the bunch

Sticky Toffee Pudding ($7.95) – Not really a pudding, more of a cake… a good cake… a really really good cake!

So much pie, I don't even remember what this one was

My big girl's Sweet Tea

Along with dinner I drank four Mekong Sweet Teas (Sweet Tea spiked with Thai Spiced Rum) which is no longer on the menu, poor you. But my friend said “Make sure you tell people in your review that the Love for Sale (Absolut Mandarin, Passoa Liqueur, Orange and Pineapple Juice) is excellent!” Now you know!

Blue Smoke
116 E 27th St at Park Ave
New York 10016
(212) 447-7733
www.bluesmoke.com

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