Bringing a vegetarian to a soul food restaurant is always a risk, one I took on a recent visit to Smokin’ Memphis Style BBQ, located on Brighton Road in Brightwood. And the risk had an unexpected outcome — a conversion.

After sampling the ribs and chicken, my vegetarian counterpart leaned in and whispered, “This place makes me want to eat meat again.”

The food at Smokin’ Memphis speaks for itself. Open since Dec. 1, business has steadily picked up, a trend that chef and co-owner Rita Garmany attributes to word of mouth.

The menu features traditional soul food: smoked ribs and chicken, pulled pork sandwiches and various mouth-watering sides.

The ribs and chicken are prepared with a dry rub and a marinade, and then spend the better part of the day in a wood-fired smoker; no charcoal is used. The slow smoking process leaves the meat so tender that it falls off the bone.

But the stars at Smokin’ Memphis are the sides. According to Garmany, “Everyone’s been eating the greens!”

Soft and tender, they melt in your mouth, with smoked turkey adding the perfect layer of salty flavor. The heart of any soul food dining experience, macaroni and cheese, is taken to new heights at Smokin’ Memphis. They call it “5 Cheese and Mac” for a reason: The cheese comes first in this traditional side dish, making it creamy and absolutely delicious.

Don’t bother asking Garmany what the five cheeses are though. She keeps a tight hold on all her recipes, which have a traditional foundation, but are peppered with personal twists she’s picked up along the way.

In addition to the regular menu, Brightwood’s newest attraction features daily rotating specials. In the past few weeks this has included spaghetti, pepper steak and rice, stuffed chicken breast with gravy, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Not listed on the menu, but prepared upon request, is the Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Garmany’s sister, Francine Gooden, prepares the dish with a secret combination of sixteen spices. Be prepared for the some heat, but it doesn’t overwhelm the more delicate flavors of the chicken.

If there’s something you would like to see on the menu at Smokin’ Memphis, just ask. “I want people to feel that they can come here and suggest what they want, and it might show up on the menu,” Gooden said.

Garmany plans on expanding the menu to include breakfast options. She is planning to offer “The Hungryman Hoagie,” which includes all the breakfast staples: homefries, cheese, a fried egg and ham, bacon or sausage piled on a hoagie bun.

Another option will be “The Color Purple Breakfast:” two hotcakes, grits, eggs, a biscuit and a ham slice.

In addition to a take-out menu, Smokin’ Memphis also offers a “Cater Your Own Event” option. They provide all the food for your event and you pick it up. Also in the works is a senior citizen meal delivery program. This would give senior citizens the ability to have homemade meals delivered five days a week at a monthly price.

The sisters were able to open the business with financial assistance from the Northside Community Development Fund, a federally-certified community development bank tasked with spurring business creation on the Northside.

Smokin’ Memphis is a delectable addition to the Northside. Vegetarians, you have been warned.

 




Smokin’ Memphis Style BBQ
3231 Brighton Road
Pittsburgh, Pa., 15212
412-766-3400
Tuesday-Saturday 12-9 p.m.
Sunday 12-5 p.m.