Restaurant review – Smokehouse 21, Portland, OR

There’s no denying it. We are spoiled when it comes to the myriad of dining options just outside our front door. One of the few types of cuisine we’ve been needing to round things out magically appeared around the corner (literally) on 21st Street a month or so ago. BBQ. The addition of this tiny neighborhood BBQ joint is the perfect complement to the even tinier establishment next door – M Bar. Mike, who seems to suffer frequent cravings for BBQ (which is odd since he’s mainly a California and Oregon boy) was also eager to try it out. We have now been there twice.

To me, a good sauce is one of the most important things about BBQ. When I was growing up, there was a public service announcement that featured animated foods and warned kids about “not drowning your food.” I never bought into that doctrine and am a proud and frequent food drowner. So I am very happy to report that Smokehouse 21 rated highly with both of us on the sauce front. And all four of their delightful sauces are perched on every table: classic, spicy, vinegar and mustard. According to Mike (since I won’t touch it), the only sauce not to get top marks was their spicy. And it’ll be interesting to see what our Carolina BBQ-lovin’ friend says about their mustard sauce.

Now for the meats. The pulled pork sandwich is the way to go with their menu. The meat is tender and pairs well with the mustard and the vinegar sauces. It is served on a brioche bun from Ken’s Bakery (across the street). Mike tried the pulled pork platter the second time we visited and he was disappointed by the fact that he paid a bit more for it and there didn’t seem to be any more meat than was on the sandwich. However, you do get a second side when you order the platter. Since we tried a combo platter the first time we visited, we can report on the spare ribs and brisket as well. I thought the spare ribs were nicely smoked but could’ve been a little more tender.  The classic bbq sauce tasted wonderful on them though. The brisket looked tough to me and Mike confirmed my assessment more than once. The second time I visited, I ordered the smoked lamb rib special. They were relatively inexpensive for lamb and it had just the right amount of smoky flavor to it, but Mike observed that the meat wasn’t cleaned of its tough silver skin.

As for the sides, we sampled the mac ‘n cheese, baked beans, and fingerling potato salad. The potato salad was decent but we probably won’t feel compelled to order it again. The baked beans are pretty good with big hunks of meat mixed in. Just be careful in case you chomp down on a bone fragment in the beans like Mike did. Both the beans and the mac ‘n cheese are topped with a sweet crumbled corn bread. I liked this addition to both sides. The mac ‘n cheese really hit the spot with a good blend of cheese and bacon pieces mixed in.

Will we be back? Most definitely, but we’ll go mainly for the pulled pork sandwich, the sauces, the convenience factor, and the neighborhood feel. I’m definitely more excited about the place than Mike is. Mike was disappointed with the ratio of meat to cost for the three platters we tried on our 2 visits as well as the tenderness (or lack thereof) of the brisket and ribs.

Link to Smokehouse 21’s website:


3 Comments to “Restaurant review – Smokehouse 21, Portland, OR”

  1. Great review! We have wanted to try this place and now we will know exactly what to order!!

  2. I may have to check out the new BBQ place around the corner and try the pulled pork, a favorite of mine. Mustard BBQ is popular here in SC, but it is an acquired taste. I was weened on tomato-based sauce in Texas. And I find that the vinegar based BBQ which is very popular in SC is really delicious. Thanks for your new post. Mom

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your review even though I read it on a full pot belly. Too bad they’re not so neighborly close to me. Enjoy the sandwiches slather w/ sauce for me! By the way, next time post pics so we can all salivate.

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