BBQ Joint Review: Smokey Bones – Roanoke, VA

Establishment: Smokey Bones
Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Visit Date: 03/23/2019

We were recently in Roanoke, Virginia for my daughter’s travel volleyball tournament. The Team Mom made reservations for the entire team and parents at Smokey Bones which was in walking distance from our hotel. I had never heard of Smokey Bones before, but I was excited to have our first BBQ restaurant to review on BBQYeti.com.

Background of Smokey Bones

Since I have never heard of Smokey Bones, I did a little research prior to our visit. The first thing I learned is that Smokey Bones is actually a chain of restaurants in the Eastern US. The first Smokey Bones opened in Orlando, Florida in 1999. According to Wikipedia, the Smokey Bones chain currently had 66 locations in the US.

It was good to know going in the Smokey Bones was a chain and not a local Roanoke BBQ joint. I set my expectations accordingly.

The food at Smokey Bones

My Smokey Bones beef brisket meal on March 23rd, 2019 in Roanoke, VA.

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket and selected steamed broccoli and coleslaw as my sides. The meal also came with a piece of toasted garlic bread.

When my plate came out, I immediately noticed how empty it looked. The amount of brisket was fair for the price, but I definitely could used more broccoli to fill out the plate (and my appetite).

The sides were good enough. It’s really difficult to mess up steamed broccoli. The slaw wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was perfectly acceptable. Slaw is such a subjective side. I think every person has a different opinion on what makes the perfect coleslaw, so I won’t dwell on it in a review unless I find it absolutely repulsive. The garlic Texas toast was generic. It’s the same product you will find in any grocer’s freezer case.

So how was the brisket? Disappointing. It was definitely tender and moist, but it was simply missing flavor. Whatever rub had been applied did little to add flavor to the end product. There was little to no smoke flavor on the brisket which was kind of startling for a place with “smoke” in the name. The only real perceptible flavor came from the KC style BBQ sauce that was slathered on top. If this brisket meat had been served with gravy and mashed potatoes at a Cracker Barrel, you could have easily convinced me it was just sliced roast beef and not smoked brisket.

I did hear from some of the other volleyball parents that we dined with that the smoked chicken wings were quite good. If we ever find ourselves at a Smokey Bones again, I will definitely give the wings a try.

The drinks at Smokey Bones

Bourbon is right on the sign out front.

The sign outside of Smokey Bones advertises “Ribs. Quality Meats. Bourbon.” How could I not try some bourbon?

The restaurant has a full bar and an extensive drink menu. There is a whole section of the drink menu dedicated to bourbon. Several different bourbon flights are available.

I chose the Kentucky Bourbon Flight. Bourbon flights come served in four tiny Mason jar style glasses. The Kentucky flight includes selections from Angel’s Envy, Makers 46, Evan Williams and Woodford Reserve. The Angel’s Envy was the standout of the bunch. It was smooth and sweet. At the other end of the taste spectrum was the Evan Williams selection. It just tasted like cheap, harsh booze. Not good.

Kentucky bourbon flight at Smokey Bones in Roanoke, Virginia.

My wife prefers the sweeter, fruity drinks. She chose the Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea. Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea is Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace Bourbon + Aperol Liqueur + peach purée + hand squeezed lemon juice + house brewed sweet tea and topped with a peach skewer and fresh rosemary. She told me she really enjoyed her drink. I tasted it myself, but it was just too sweet for me.

Sweet Bourbon Peach Tea at Smokey Bones in Roanoke, Virginia.

The service at Smokey Bones

We showed up as a large party of about 25. Our reservations had been made in advance for 5PM. Two sets of tables had been pushed together to accommodate our group. One set of tables was for the team and the other set was for the parents. We were all seated promptly upon our arrival.

The food preparation took a acceptable amount of time for a group our size. Food was served to the team’s table first and then the parent’s table a few minutes later. I thought that service tactic was a good idea. It allowed everyone at each table to eat together at the same time. Nothing is more annoying than being the only one at your table without your meal.

The wait staff was friendly and attentive. They never let my soft drink run out. It was impressive how they were able to provide such great service to our large party.

Another group at our hotel said that their service was much slower. However, their reservation wasn’t until 6PM which I think put them right into the dinner rush. My pro-tip would be to make your reservations for 5PM (or earlier) if you are expecting Smokey Bones to accommodate a large group.

Summary of our visit to Smokey Bones in Roanoke, Virginia

The food at Smokey Bones in Roanoke, Virginia was just okay. Nothing I had was ostensibly bad, it was all just unremarkable. Smokey Bones has a large drink selection and the bar service was very good.

I was impressed with the overall service and the way that the staff accommodated our large party. If you have a large party, you should book in advance and plan to eat earlier to avoid dinner crowds.

Based on the service we received, I would at least try a Smokey Bones again if the opportunity arises. However, I’ll definitely avoid the beef brisket and try another BBQ entree to see if they can redeem themselves.

Weekend in Roanoke, Virginia

We are Roanoke, Virginia this weekend for a travel volleyball tournament. Word has it that the Team Mom has scheduled a team dinner at a local BBQ place called Smokey Bones. I’m stoked! Smokey Bones will likely be the very first BBQ restaurant we review on BBQYeti.com. Hopefully the first of many!

The Good Hurt Fuego Whiskey Habanero Hot Sauce Review

The Good Hurt Fuego Whiskey Habanero sauce.

The Good Hurt Fuego’s Whiskey Habanero Hot Sauce is one of seven sauces that I received in the The Good Hurt Fuego Sampler Gift pack.

Flavor of The Good Hurt Fuego’s Whiskey Habanero Hot Sauce

This sauce has a great flavor. The heat is not overpowering, but definitely noticeable. This sauce is definitely great on thing like eggs. I added it to a California omelet and it was fantastic. I’ve noticed that these Fuego sauce have a bit of tanginess to them. This is especially noticeable in the Whiskey Habanero sauce. The whiskey part of the flavor is extremely subtle. If it didn’t have “whiskey” on the label I would have never guessed there was supposed to be a whiskey flavor.

California omelet with The Good Hurt Fuego Mango Habanero sauce.

Presentation of The Good Hurt Fuego’s Whiskey Habanero Hot Sauce

A big part of hot sauce marketing is in the presentation. Creating innovative packaging and an eye-catching label helps your sauce stand out on the crowded store shelves.

The Good Hurt Fuego absolutely killed it when it came to the design and packaging of their sauce sampler pack. The gift pack comes bundled like a pack of TNT. Very clever. Inside each stick of TNT, the bottle label is plain white with black lettering. It is very reminiscent of the old “generic brand” labeling though you saw in grocery stores in the 80’s. Younger folks may recognize it as similar to the Dharma style packaging in ABC’s lost.

A lot of creativity went into the packaging of The Good Hurt Fuego sampler gift pack.

The Smoker Hunt Continues

We’ve been traveling to a lot of volleyball tournaments over the last few weekends. That hasn’t left much time for smoking or grilling. However, the volleyball season is starting to wind down so I’m looking forward to some much needed BBQ time.

In the meantime, my search for a dedicated charcoal smoker continues. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and reviewing the Bronco Drum Smoker from Oklahoma Joe’s. This smoker really caught my eye at Lowes because of its unique profile. I like almost everything about the Bronco, but during my research I did learn that some early adopters are reporting a manufacturing defect. I will need to see how Oklahoma Joe’s responds to these reports before I consider buying a Bronco. You can read my detailed review of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker here.

The next smoker that I’m going to focus on is the Char-Griller AKORN 20-in Kamado grill. Right from the start, I’m not convinced the AKORN is is going to be a real option for me. The cook space just seems too limited. I know the Kamado style grills are super-popular and I want to know why.

How To Use A Charcoal Grill As A Smoker

When most people think of cooking on a charcoal grill they are usually are thinking about grilling burgers, dogs or steaks. However, with a few minor modifications, many charcoal grills can double as a smoker. Learning how to smoke on a charcoal grill is actually pretty easy once you understand the basics.

The difference between grilling and smoking

Grilling, by definition, is cooking directly over high heat for a relatively short period of time. Smoking is all about applying a lower temperature indirect heat to your food for a longer period of time. If you try to grill a cut of meat that should be smoked, you will up with something dry and tough.

The key to smoking is indirect heat

Most charcoal grills are designed so that the bed of hot charcoal is directly below the cooking surface. The first modification we need to make to the charcoal grill is to find away to separate the hot coals from the cooking area.

First, the larger charcoal grill you have, the better. It’s much easier to modify the grill for indirect cooking when the grill is large enough to create some space between the meat and the coals. It’s virtually impossible to try to smoke on a charcoal mini-grill designed for tailgating or a hibachi.

Mini-grills are great for direct heat grilling, but not so much for smoking.

Creating an indirect heat source inside a charcoal grill

To get an indirect heat source in a charcoal grill we need to put the coals behind some material that can act as a heat deflector.

Fire bricks that are made for stoves and pizza ovens make an ideal deflector. Pavers and bricks that you can purchase at your local hardware store appear similar to fire bricks, but they do not have the same thermal properties. These bricks/pavers can contain trapped moisture that causes them to crack and potentially explode when exposed to extreme heat. It’s not worth the risk.

If you have a classic Weber Kettle grills, there is an even more elegant solution for indirect cooking. The Smokenator line of conversion kits are designed to fit perfectly into 21 inch and 26 inch Weber Kettle grills. We have a complete review of the Smokenator conversion kit here.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker Review: A Horse of Different Color


  • Manufacturer: Char-Broil
  • Brand: Oklahoma Joe’s
  • Model: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker
  • Model#: 19202097

Char-Broil has introduced a new smoker to their premium Oklahoma Joe’s line of smokers. The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is now showing up on the sales floors of the big box retailers across the US.

The official marketing video from Oklahoma Joe’s sure makes it look like an attractive new option.

Initial impressions Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

The first thing you notice about the Bronco Drum Smoker is the shape. At distance, you could easily mistake it for a trash can. That doesn’t mean that it is unattractive, it just has the same form factor. In fact, the novel design is pretty eye catching as you get closer and begin to see the engineering that went into the development of this smoker.

One thing that immediately caught my attention however is that there is just a single opening for this smoker – the top. Of course, right away I started wondering how you would maintain your charcoal/wood throughout the cook. We’ll touch on this more a little further down in the review.

The Unique Design of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

I describe the design of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker as unique, but it was clearly inspired by the Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS). UDS’s are revered by DIY folks as a fantastic way to make great BBQ without buying a commercial off-the-shelf smoker. A UDS is basically a 55 gallon steel drum that has been converted to a smoker with a few modifications.

Beauty and the beast?

The UDS is certainly a great option for a cheap drum smoker if you have skill. Although I’ve seen some really nice looking UDSs, it has the name “ugly” for a reason. It’s easy to imagine that an HOA or a significant other might not appreciate the look of a repurposed industrial container on the patio.

With their Bronco Drum Smoker, it appears that Oklahoma Joe’s is trying to fill the market niche for consumers who don’t have the time or skill to build their own UDS and want something a little more aesthetically pleasing.

Key differences between the Bronco Drum Smoker and a DIY Ugly Drum Smoker

The BDS is not a perfect substitute for a UDS. The are two primary differences that should keep in mind.

Cooking area size comparison

A 55 gallon drum UDS will accommodate a 22.5 inch grill grate for 363 inches of cooking space. In comparison, the Bronco Drum Smoker can only take an 18 inch grate which gives you about 254 inches of cooking space. That means you are losing about 30% of the cooking area by with the BDS.

The caveat here is that the Bronco Drum Smoker has two grate positions. One right at the top and another a bit further down in the drum. 18 inch grates are readily available online. So potentially, you could cook on both grates – giving you over 500 inches of cooking space.

The lower grate position is designed to allow grilling in the Bronco Drum Smoker. To grill, you remove the included heat deflector and use the lower grate to cook closer to the coals. If you purchased a second grate for the purpose of two tier smoking, there may be some trial and error involved to make sure food on the lower grate (closer to the coals) is not getting too much direct heat.

One other thing to note is that Oklahoma Joe’s does offer a pricey, but innovative modular add-on grate. The modular design allows sections of the grate to be removed to allow space for hanging meat on the included hooks. If you are considering buying a second grate for your BDS, the modular grate may be with considering.

Oklahoma Joe’s offers a modular grate with removable sections to allow you to hang ribs alongside a pork butt.

Charcoal capacity and cook time

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker advertises that the included charcoal bin will hold eight pounds of briquettes. This is significantly less than what will fit into the bin of a DIY UDS. While Oklahoma Joe’s claims that their smoker is designed for all-day cooks, it is hard to say how many hours of annual cooking you will get out of a full Bronco charcoal bin. There are a number of variables at play – including cook temp and the thermal efficiency of the smoker.

As I mentioned in the initial impressions, there is no access to the charcoal bin through a separate door on the side of the smoker. This means that adding any charcoal or wood throughout the cook will have to be done through the top. That would mean removing the grill and and food, which isn’t really practical or convenient. This may be a non-issue if the Bronco Drum Smoker is capable of sustaining a 250 temperature for 10+ hours. Only time and experience will tell.

Other key features of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

The lid of the Bronco is concave to allow food to be cooked on the uppermost grate position. The edge of the Bronco lid is equipped with high-temperature gasket material to form a seal between the lid and the body lid of the smoker.

Lid gasket

The gasket is a nice addition to ensure that the lid forms a good seal to the body of the Bronco Drum Smoker.

Airflow controls for temperature management

Both the air intake that feeds into the bottom of the Bronco Drum Smoker and the vent at the top have specially designed flanges to control airflow. These adjustable flanges are numerically gauged so that you can document the the precise setting for specific temperatures.

The airflow controls on the Bronco Drum Smoker are gauged.

Built-in thermometer

Like most smokers for the home BBQ enthusiast, Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker includes a built in thermometer. However, the accuracy of built in thermometers tends to be hit or miss. Most users will still want to use a dedicated electronic meat thermometer. Still, the addition of the built-in thermometer is a nice touch.

The Bronco Drum Smoker includes an integrated thermometer.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Reports of manufacturing defects

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few reports that I found about manufacturing defects that have been identified with the Bronco. Apparently, the mount bolt on the tubing used for the air intake is in the wrong location. You can read more about it here and here. I trust that on future production runs, this issue will be resolved. This stuff happens. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is disappointing to hear about this issue with an otherwise impressive new smoker.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Decisions, Decisions

There are a lot of options for charcoal smokers. Deciding on which one I want is going to be difficult!

I stopped in at Lowe’s yesterday to pick up a new ceiling fan and a light switch. You can tell the store is all geared up for spring. It is March and here in West Virginia we are bound to get a few 60°+ days very soon. That will trigger spring fever when everyone heads to the big box home improvement stores.

I also needed to also pick up some seed starting mix, so as I walked toward the lawn and garden section, the prominent display of grills and smokers caught my eye. I wandered over to the smokers “just to look”. My wife Sara was with me. Sara asked me if I wanted to get a new smoker. I told her my Weber equipped with a Smokenator has been working well for me. She hinted that maybe it’s time that I upgrade. Well okay, then!

I purchased the Smokenator 1000 in 2012 when I first became interested in smoking. For me, the Smokenator was the perfect solution for a relatively low cost way to get into smoking. Since that time, it has served me extremely well. I am a big fan of the product.

Justification for a new dedicated smoker

So why would I get a new dedicated smoker? Capacity and convenience. The two main issues I’ve noted over my years with the Smokenator are the limited amount charcoal you can load at a time and limited cook space that you have available.

The Smokenator isn’t going away though. I can still think of circumstances where a large dedicated smoker would be overkill. I’ll keep the Smokenator on hand for those smaller cooks.

The Plan

It sounds like the new smoker will end up being a Father’s day gift for me. That means I have a few months to figure out what I want to purchase. I’ve got my work cut out for me. There are so many styles of charcoal smokers available. I want to make an educated purchasing decision.

Over the coming weeks I will be documenting my smoker research here on BBQYeti.com. My hope is that others will find my research helpful in making their own purchasing decision on choosing a dedicated charcoal smoker.

Brew Review: Sour Monkey by Victory Brewing Company

This was my first ever sour ale. It’s not bad, but really doesn’t taste like beer. The flavor is closer to that of a wine. It reminded me of one of my favorite rieslings. It is entirely possible that I’ve ruined myself for sours after all the bitter IPAs and Double IPAs I’ve had over the last few years.

While Sour Monkey is never going to be a favorite for me, I’m glad I’ve finally got around to trying a sour. I wouldn’t hesitate to try another.

03/30/2019 Update: I had my second Sour Monkey this weekend. This will sound gross, but the flavor reminded me of vomit. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this with the first bottle.

I did some research, and apparently butyric acid is responsible for that vomit taste. If the beer is allowed to continue to ferment the vomit flavor will actually transition into something resembling the flavor of pineapple. However, it seems like Sour Monkey was bottled too soon – locking in puke taste. Gross.

At this point, I’m probably going to have to throw the remaining bottles away. I hate to waste a product that I paid for, but I just don’t think I can stomach another Sour Monkey. The review score will be adjusted accordingly from 6.5 to 1.

BBQ Yeti’s Ultimate Father’s Day 2019 Gift Guide For Millennials

He endured a Wiggles Live stage show for you.


Not once did he pass judgment on you during your “emo” phase.


He opened his basement to you when your Batchelor of Arts with a double major in Anthropology and Sociology degree didn’t exactly lead to an abundance of job offers.

Father’s Day is right around the corner and BBQ Yeti is here with the Ultimate Father’s Day 2019 Gift Guide for the special father that was always there for you.

Father’s Day 2019 will be here on June 16th. It is never too early to start searching for that perfect gift. We have hand selected a list of gift ideas for that father in your life that is passionate about grilling and smoking meals for his family. We here at BBQ Yeti are fathers ourselves, so we can guarantee your Dad is going to love one of these gifts.

1. Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling

Meathead Goldwyn is a BBQ legend. His website, AmazingRibs.com should be a bookmark for anyone wanting to understand about all of the tools and techniques for outdoor cooking. In this book you get a ton of Goldwyn’s knowledge that your Dad can leisurely read around the house. Not content with just creating a book of recipes, Goldwyn’s book also delves into the science involved in outdoor cooking. As an added bonus, this hardcover book looks great on a coffee table.

2. YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler

Let’s face it, grilling burgers and brats over an open flame during those hot summer months can be challenging. The key is to stay hydrated. With this YETI tumbler, your Dad can fill it with an ice cold beverage and be sure it’s going to stay cold – even in the toughest conditions. YETI products are known for their quality and this tumbler is no different.

3. Alpha Grillers Heavy Duty BBQ Grilling Tools Set

Sure your father already has some cheap mismatched grill tools around the house, but he doesn’t have a quality set like these. Forged from high quality stainless steel, these tools are designed to last for decades. Other Dad’s on the block are bound to be jealous when they see your Dad rocking this set of master grade grilling tools.

4. Hudson Professional Grade Chef’s Apron

This is an apron made made for a father who loves to BBQ for his family. This is a heavy duty apron made of thick machine-washable cotton material is built to last. It has four pockets which make it the perfect solution for that age old problem “Now where did I put my meat thermometer!?” Most importantly, this apron available in five colors to complement Dad’s favorite Hawaiian shirt.

5. The Good Hurt Fuego Hot Sauce Sampler Pack

I recieved this gift pack of hot sauces from my parents last Christmas. It was a fantastic gift. The sauces are creatively packaged to look like a bundle of TNT. Very fitting for the explosive flavor contained inside! I haven’t found a sauce in the sampler that I haven’t liked. If your Dad likes to walk on the spicy side from time to time, this sauce gift pack is an absolutely incredible gift.

6. Everyday Barbecue: At Home with America’s Favorite Pitmaster

This book by America’s winningest Pitmaster has a different twist than many of the books on the market. Everyday Barbecue challenges the notion that good homemade BBQ is only something for holidays or special occasions. The book includes techniques and recipes that streamline the process and make BBQ a viable option for your families normal meal planning. If your Dad loves barbecue, but has limited free time, Everyday BBQ will equip him with great BBQ ideas that will fit into his busy schedule.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Yeti Rib Rub

Thanks for stopping by the BBQ Yeti Blog! This is the recipe for our signature rib rub. What make it special? Well, this rub contains ingredients from the rugged Himalayan mountains (original home of BBQ Yeti).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fine ground Himalayan sea salt
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup Hungarian paprika
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a sealable, airtight container.
  2. Shake container to mix thoroughly.
  3. Place ribs on a large cookie sheet.
  4. Apply a light coating of vegetable oil to the surface of ribs.
  5. Apply a generous coating of Yeti Rib Rib to the front and back surface of ribs.
  6. Cover lightly and place ribs into refrigerator for approximately one hour to let the rub set.
  7. After one hour, your ribs are ready for the smoker.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.