Smokey O' Grady's is not a barbecue joint, so let's get that out of the way from the outset. It's more of a bar with food, some of which creeps into barbecue territory. But it's a comfy bar, sort of a cross between Irish pub and sports bar (many TVs, equal representation of Red Sox and Yankees). Multiple pool tables offer a diversion to those not watching the game. Most of the seats are along a bar that meanders all the way to the rear of the joint, with a few booths near the front. You can help yourself to all the baskets of free popcorn you can handle.
Ribs are sold by the pound, starting at $7.95, with price breaks on 2-, 3- and 4-lb quantities. But the Smokey O' Grady's menu focuses more on pub fare than on the strictly smokey, with wings, burgers, nachos, poppers, chili, fried mozzarella and fried shrimp leading the way. South of the border specialties include quesadillas, burritos and chimichangas. There's a wide array of sandwiches, including pulled pork, but sadly no brisket or pulled chicken. Ribs and pulled pork can also be ordered as dinners, with the ribs available as full or half racks. Fish and chips, steak and a few different salads round out a something-for-everyone menu.
A $2 Sunday specials menu offers a good assortment of appetizers (8 wings, quesadilla) and entrees (tacos, burritos).
I stopped in with a friend for a Saturday lunch, finding the joint quite busy (and the beer moving very quickly) for such an early hour. A single bartender handled the entire room with skill and grace.
We started and ended with wings, which are proclaimed as one of the specialties of the house. There's a deep list of wing varieties, and you can even customize your wings by combining any of the existing flavors. The wings we sampled were all of good size, with fully crisp skin (sometimes to the detriment of moistness within), and interesting sauces that barely provided coating. I often frown upon oversaucing, but here the wings could have used a little more. Buffalo wings were fairly standard; jerk wings emphasized the nutmeg above all other flavors; Parmesan peppercorn had some great flavor but were very dry; a Cajun/peach custom blend was tasty but needed more peach and more sauce in general. Despite the nitpicking, I found the wings enjoyable overall.
We split a bacon cheeseburger ($7.95 with one side) just to see if that's where the expertise lay. It certainly wasn't in the grilling, as the patty ordered medium rare wound up far beyond well done. The dry roll and very minimal use of bacon didn't further the cause.
The pulled pork sandich ($6.95 with one side) arrived in the same style roll as the burger, only much fresher. Inside were large chunks of mostly light brown, lightly sauced meat that didn't taste smoked or otherwise flavored (the nondescript sauce didn't help much here), but the sandwich wasn't entirely bad when taken as a whole. The texture was tender without being overcooked, moist without being oversauced. Little bits of pink here and there were the only element supporting the claim that a smoker is used in the cooking process, but I didn't get a strong barbecue vibe.
A half rack of ribs ($11.95 with one side) supplied good sized spares with plenty of meat, a well formed crust and good moistness. Like the pork, the ribs didn't present much evidence (aroma, flavor) that smoking was involved other than a faint hint of pink. They did pull apart easily though, offering good texture but not much flavor beyond the light dab of sauce. Well rendered fat provided ample moisture. I'd call these better ribs than you'd get at a national chain restaurant and a good example of competent pub ribs, but compared with other barbecue restaurants these were below average.
Mac and cheese was a rare creamy-but-not-loose style with very orange, very mild cheese. Cole slaw was the store bought variety but pretty good. Onion rings were puffy and crisp, with lots of crunchy bits at the bottom of the pile. For me, the onion rings were the highlight of the visit.
There weren't any choices for barbecue sauce or any sauces provided at the table or with the barbecue items. A generic brown sweet/tangy number wasn't memorable.
The bottom line: The barbecue was marginal, the burger was a disappointment and the wings—though good—can be bettered elsewhere, so even though I liked the overall experience I'm not likely to find myself at Smokey O' Grady's real soon.
Urban Spoon reviews of Smokey O' Grady's