***CLOSED*** Up-N-Smoke ~ Keller, Texas

Final visit: December 2012

February 2014 update: Officially closed on January 31, 2014.  That's too bad, as we enjoyed their barbecue and went on an occasional basis. Though we did for certain miss all of 2013. They didn't close because of a lack of business, but rather the owner retired.

I was first introduced to Up-N-Smoke by my former neighbor Mr. SS (who is now a full-time resident of Manhattan and enjoying the culinary delights offered there - lucky guy) in April of 2008, right at the time I started this blog actually. But for whatever reason, I didn't get back to the place until 2010, and have been a few times since. This is our initial post for Up-N-Smoke.

For Mr. and Mrs. RJG, Up-N-Smoke has become our favorite barbecue restaurant in NE Tarrant. We haven't tried them all (though we intend to), but we've done some sampling in the area (Cousins, Red Barn, Big Barn, Feedstore, Spring Creek, Red Hot and Blue, and a few others) and we prefer Up-N-Smoke so far. When it comes to barbecue, I'm not really a "sides" guy, so I tend to weight the ratings all towards the flavor and tenderness of the meat, as well as any sauces on offer. So keep that in mind when evaluating this review. I certainly enjoy the sides - especially if a place offers something unique like dirty rice, but if its the usual heavy stomach items like potato salad and mashed potatoes, then I can easily eschew them for something else. Like extra meat.

With that in mind, I appreciate that Up-N-Smoke has a hearty "meat sampler" (technically it's an appetizer, but big enough for one full meal), something not all 'cue establishments offer up (though I think they should). Up-N-Smoke's variety pack includes sliced brisket, smoked turkey, sausage, pulled pork, and St. Louis ribs. I'm a big fan of pulled pork, and theirs stacks up well with the competition. Tender and flavorful. The dry rub ribs have a wonderful blend of seasonings. The brisket can be cut with a fork. Perhaps most surprising is the turkey. Turkey is usually a somewhat generic throw-in, without much deviation from place to place. But at Up-N-Smoke, the turkey is truly delicious. As for sauces, they do provide a standard mild smoky concoction, as well as a spicy pepper sauce made by Ol' Gringo (Cousins uses the same one).

Worth noting that Up-N-Smoke has a very fine beer selection, including micros and imports.

Not that it's mandatory to gripe about something, but if I did have a beef (yuk, yuk), it's that the place could use a little makeover. But c'mon RJG, you say, it's a barbecue place! It should be a little dilapidated, right? Agreed, but this one might be a bit much. Half the restaurant is smoking - in the bar area, and it very much has that stale cigarette smell. The other half is much easier on the olfactory (and much smaller in space), but the last time we went they had the water buckets out for the leaky roof - and half the tables were closed off. Yea.... I think they could reinvest some of the profits into spiffying the place up. If they did, I think it would be cool to have a view of the railroad which runs along its western edge. Seems no restaurant in the area has ever taken advantage of the antiquated industrial landscape surrounding it. The railroad seems to run non-stop in this area, so it makes an interesting side-show.

Up-N-Smoke is located in Old Town Keller, which is getting nicer and more active by the moment with more restaurants / taverns coming. It's still dominated by antique and car repair shops, but it's slowly becoming a bit more interesting. The issue will always be that the town is divided by the much used US 377, which is a main north/south artery, and until they either build a pedestrian bridge, or provide a by-pass - the area may always struggle to gain the critical mass you need to be successful in the retail world.


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