When chef and owner Max Brody decided to open a smokehouse bar and restaurant in an 18th-century home in Buxton, he wanted it to be a place that the locals could call their own, a place where the prices would be reasonable enough to allow them to come multiple times a week. The site (formerly home to Mustard House antique shop) is gorgeous, featuring reclaimed beams in the ceiling, intimate rooms throughout the space and, as of next spring, a large outdoor deck.
My drinking companion and I settled in at the bar, where we immediately fell in love with the selection of $11 cocktails. I chose the Mazunte Margarita (a basic margarita with the addition of grapefruit juice and jalapeno); my friend ordered the rosemary Old Fashioned made with rye, rosemary honey and bitters. When the friendly and attentive bartender asked what we thought of our drinks, I replied that mine was good but that I couldn’t really taste the grapefruit. He asked if he could taste it, then asked if I’d like for him to add some more grapefruit. He did, and it worked beautifully – the exact right way to handle a drink that isn’t what someone had hoped. My friend’s rosemary Old Fashioned was exquisite – one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted, and that’s saying something.
For our second round, my friend ordered the herby Blueberry Thicket (vodka, lime and muddled blueberries), and I got the $10 happy hour special featuring blackberries, rye, lemon and simple syrup. In a word, mine was phenomenal. If it’s ever on the menu again, I’d be hard-pressed to decide between it and the rosemary Old Fashioned.
There was no way that this Tex-pat was going to be in a smokehouse without ordering food, so we started by splitting the $8 cheddar jalapeno hush puppies with side sauces of buttermilk ranch and maple syrup for dipping. Absolutely perfect. My friend then ordered the $21 shrimp and grits, which she loved; I went for the $14 Fin Board, a generous selection of artistically-plated house-smoked trout, house-cured salmon, blackened shrimp, pickled veggies and grilled bread. We also ordered the market veggies, which that day were a salad of summer squash and red peppers with a lemon basil vinaigrette that I am still trying to recreate at home. Every single bite of both our meals was fantastic. We were also impressed to note that the menu also included a special Roots Board for vegetarians with smoked eggplant hummus, black-eyed pea fritters, pickled veggies, smoked cheese and grilled bread. There’s even have an in-house pastry chef (we ordered the roasted corn panacotta, a special; regular desserts are $8).
The wine list was full of great choices to pair with smoked items, ranging from $7 to $9 a glass; the beer menu ($4 to $8) wasn’t extensive but had a good variety, including local beers on tap and a cider on tap. Happy hour is 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, when you get $2 off cocktails, $1 off drafts and $1 off snacks. Happy hour or not, I’d return in a heartbeat.
WHERE: 1420 Long Plains Road, Buxton
PHONE: (207) 298-9621
HOURS: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
AMENITIES: Do you need any amenities beyond smoked meat and delicious specialty cocktails? Lots of seating, parking lot, outdoor deck coming in spring.
BOTTOM LINE: Rustic atmosphere without being country kitsch. Original cocktails, aesthetically pleasing environment, delicious smoked fare and high-level service. Well worth the 30-minute drive from Portland.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes