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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Milwaukee Smoked BBQ Arrives on the South Side

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For years, Milwaukeeans who didn't live near the North Side could expect a bit of a drive if they wanted to satisfy their barbecue cravings, but that has started to change recently. Last year, Lo-Cash Live brought Texas-style barbecue to Walker's Point; shortly after, the Smoke Shack drew big crowds after opening in the Third Ward. The latest addition to Milwaukee's expanding barbecue scene brings smoked meats to the city's under-sauced South Side—and like most good barbecue joints, it's a little quirky.

Milwaukee Smoked BBQ opened in April in an unassuming, barely remodeled motorcycle service station at 3902 S. Whitnall Ave., just off of Howard Avenue, and each visit feels like a trip to a mechanic shop, albeit an exceptionally clean, fragrant one. It's a takeout-only operation, staffed by cooks who double as cashiers and quickly prepare your order in the back of the shop.

The small menu is written on a board behind the counter. The specialties are ribs and sandwiches (usually pulled pork, shredded beef and smoked turkey and chicken). Like at the Smoke Shack, the meats are dry-rubbed, so the sauce comes on the side. Diners can choose from a sweet root beer sauce, a tangy Carolina vinegar sauce, a spicier Carolina mustard sauce or a unique Midwest barbecue sauce (a simple but satisfying blend of pepper, brown sugar and vinegar), or just as easily pass on the sauce altogether, since the meat is exceptionally moist on its own. A crispy hoagie roll holds up against the juicy meat, which would render a lesser bread a soggy sponge.

The side offerings rotate a bit, but generally include coleslaw and smoked beans. The coleslaw had a lot of character, with a mustardy bite that cut through the creaminess. It adds a nice crunch to the sandwiches.

Milwaukee Smoked BBQ is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.