Sure, Southerners make great barbecue. But let’s not give them all the credit.
The newly opened Northern Smoke in Carmel makes Southern-style barbecue, but with a Yankee twist, and every bite of Chris DeRezza’s cooking comes with a hefty mouthful of smokey hickory flavor.
“People think I’m crazy,” says DeRezza, laughing. “I’ll actually spend the night here smoking meats.”
DeRezza laughs about his dedication, but it’s no joke. Every item on the menu, down to the hand-squeezed lemonade and in-house sauces, are done by hand. And he makes every effort to serve food straight off the smoker— not reheated— which means the pulled pork and brisket go on at 10 or 11 p.m. the night before, and ribs at 4 that morning.
“There’s nothing like something coming right off the smoker,” says DeRezza, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2003 and then went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree for restaurant management.
Northern Smoke is in a space that’s changed hands a few times and was most recently American Burger and Blackboard Bistro before that. But DeRezza is confident that his practical approach, plus leverage from the catering business, will make it last.
The menu is full of satisfyingly authentic for the barbecue snobs out there, and manages to work in some originality, too. Side options come and go on the chalkboard menu, but instant favorites like zesty coleslaw with chipotle, adobo and jalapeno, bacon roasted Brussels sprouts and maple butter for slathering on cornbread are confidently holding their slots.
And as for those in-house barbecue sauces (Carolina Vinegar, Strawberry Lime, Raspberry Chipotle), they’re all the product of a little creative competition in the kitchen. DeRezza says he likes to encourage his team to combine flavors and come up with new sauces. The best ones get bottled and set out, and he’s even had issues with early patrons swiping bottles right off the tables to bring home.
“The apple-bourbon sauce is the most popular, but people don’t seem to understand that we have them for sale!” he says.
A liquor license is pending, and DeRezza plans to serve local microbrews and affordable wine when it comes through. For now, guests can wash down those smokey baby backs with an icy lemonade, iced tea or a Boylan soda. And don’t forget to order a scoop of gelato on your way out— in maple-bacon flavor, naturally.
If you go …
Northern Smoke, 166 Stoneleigh Ave., Carmel, 845-669-8600, nsbbq.com. Hours: closed Monday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Great for: Cheap Eats, Solo Dining, Take Out, Kid Friendly, Outdoor Dining (Patio, Porch, Deck, Sidewalk).