A block away from the heart of downtown Northampton lies Smokin' Lil's BBQ, a sitdown restaurant that has a full bar and fairly diverse menu. The oversized booths have raised curtain dividers for added privacy. The decor is a bit schizophrenic, with elements of Southwestern and sports bar.
My wife and I started with a giant half sour pickle (at least it was trying to be half sour) that tasted like ocean water. We moved on to fried crawdads, which were lightly breaded and pretty good, with a very tasty chipotle spicy tartar sauce. We also tried the BBQ popovers, a pair of phyllo dough pastries, one stuff with pulled pork, the other with pulled chicken, both drizzled with a sweet honey vinegar syrup. These were fantastic, with a delicious, flaky outside and pretty good filling inside. It would have made a better dessert than an appetizer though, but I highly recommend trying this dish.
There are two kinds of pork ribs here: Memphis (spareribs, mild, unsauced) and St Louis ( St Louis cut, spicier, sauced). BBQ options also include brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken and smoked chicken. The menu has some Cajun influences (2 jambalayas and a Cajun pasta), plus steak and a few seafood options to complement the barbecue. To sample as many options as possible, I ordered the Pig Out ($21), which includes your choice of three meats (I got both ribs and pulled pork) and three sides. They certainly don't skimp on the portions. The pulled pork was a huge mound of good sized strings, though slightly cold, in a neutral brown sauce. The Memphis ribs had a good crust and were very meaty and very juicy. They had a decent flavor, but were tender to the point of being mushy. The caramelized St Louis ribs had just the right amount of meat, a good smoke ring and smoky flavor, and a good kick from the spicy sauce. These were also just a little over tender, but very good.
Sides were mixed: cole slaw was creamy and tart; baked beans were your basic canned variety; collard greens were finely chopped and highly seasoned with garlic and salt. My wife enjoyed her pecan crusted salmon, which was tender and flavorful.
The bottom line: There were some hits and misses, but overall, Smokin' Lil's is good enough to warrant a return visit. The comfortable setting and diverse menu are plusses.