If you’re searching for something fancy, it’s best you keep driving. Casual, Southern-style home cooking is what’s on offer at Smokin Joes, and the menu is simple with daily changes. Ribs and smoked brisket are staples, with Cleveland lending his Mississippi hand to the barbecuing of the meat. Choose between a half or full rack of beef or pork ribs, accompanied by the sides of the day. Mac ’n cheese, a green salad and sweet potato fries are on offer during our visit. I am disappointed, however, that collard greens (available when in season), Southern corn bread, dirty fries and black beans aren’t anywhere to be seen during our lunchtime meat fest.
We go with the obvious choice of ribs – a half of both beef and pork – as the brisket isn’t ready for lunch that day. Cleveland and his smoker sit at the back of the guesthouse garden, along with a simmering pot filled with a meaty stock, ready to get the black beans going for dinner service. The ribs arrive with a generous portion of crispy sweet-potato fries and two hunks of mac ’n cheese. Both pork and beef are tender and well basted, but seem to lack any smoky flavour. The sides are decent, but the meat is clearly the drawcard and should deliver.
The dessert of the day, peach cobbler, sticks to the American theme. It sounds tasty, but the combination of rich meat and carbohydrates for the main meal leaves not much room for anything sweet. Sweet-potato pie and Mississippi mud pie are also known to feature.
As for wine, choose from either the house red or white (but what it is, nobody knows). The local favourite of Castle is on offer when it comes to beer, and there are a few spirits to choose from. A variety of soda cans are available for those who prefer to keep things non-alcoholic.
Friendly service with loads of smiles. Manager Mike takes a casual approach to things, pulling out a chair at your table and explaining how things work around here. Cleveland makes an appearance every now and then between the smoker, reliving a tale about his travels in Brazil or a memory from back home in the States.
Remember, we’re in the backyard of a guesthouse. Moody blues wafts out from the stereo under the lapa; plastic tablecloths line tables; melted candles stand tall in wine bottles; and blackboards highlight the menu offerings of the day. Old and foreign number plates hang from a garden wall. There’s also a swimming pool in the middle of it all.
Remember to bring warm clothes on cold days; you’re outside after all. Bookings are essential for evenings and over weekends. Smokin Joe’s shuts up shop by 8pm, so don’t think you can spend all night eating those ribs at a super leisurely pace.
Unfortunately I cannot even rate the food of this place. The owner treated my wife this such disrespect, that I almost feel compelled to report him. She just drove by to pick up takeaways and she was chased away. On principal I am actually not sure how this place gets away with treating people so badly.
After hearing all of the rave reviews about Smokin Joes Rib Shack. I emailed my family and demanded we go, or fear my wrath. I was well informed about the laid back atmosphere.
Our entrance to Smokin Joes left us with wandering eyes as to, 'is this the part of the movie where they make us join their cult and sing kumbaya'. This is because it is set in the back garden of a guesthouse. We were greeted by Louise*, who happens to be one of the coolest people I've met (think of a friendly Scary Spice).
Our booking was made on International Rib Day and that's exactly what we were treated to.
The pork ribs were still smoking away so we had a choice of beef or lamb. The special of the day was a platter of both beef and lamb ribs with a healthy portion of dirty fries.
Our party of five ordered four platters (one for my sister and niece to share).
The food did take some time to come to the table but it gave us time to chat, drink some wine and genuinely enjoy each other's company - something that I feel has become so foreign in the classic, busy Joburg restaurant, who seem very concerned with turning tables as soon as possible.
The time spent waiting was by no means an irritation or inconvenience.
The viking-like feast arrived at our table and we all dug in. My niece, like many six-year-old's, is extremely fussy. What took our party by surprise was her sheer joy and ravenous obsession with the sticky ribs, to the extent, that we ended up ordering her another platter.
The ribs were fall-off-the bone tender but were a little luke warm. The dirty fries were delicious (we even tried to replicate them at home, no success there). Smokey Joes makes their own chilli relish which was satisfyingly spicy and sweet, which helped cut the fattiness of the lamb ribs.
Unfortunately, no dessert was available for the day.
The atmosphere was family orientated, Cleveland (the famous man behind the grill) came to our table to have a chat. He, even offered for my niece to go inside and watch TV on the couch or kick a ball around the yard.
Due to their small size, drinks variety is at a bare minimum, but they are more than happy for you to bring your own booze. Wine, though has a corkage fee.
After stuffing our faces, me and my family were blissfully euphoric and ready to drift into a food coma. Smokin Joes has completely and pleasantly ruined ribs for me, as no others can glimmer in comparison.
I will definitely be returning and would place Smokin Joes food on my 'last meal list'.