Full disclosure – My Other Half and I live in the ‘burbs. We didn’t intend on it, but we fell in love with our house and neighbourhood and now can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Naturally, when our not-so-little suburb (Barrhaven is 100,000 residents strong) gets a new restaurant, we’re pining to check it out. Barrhaven has a few good options, but is mostly overrun by chain and big-box-style spots like Kelsey’s. So it didn’t take us long to check out Capital City Smokehouse.
Located in a strip mall at Woodroffe and Longfields, the location isn’t ideal. It’s next to, well… a driving school and a vet, among other things. But suburbanites don’t discriminate, and it is walking distance for a few communities.
Decor and layout-wise, the restaurant is great – there is a bar area with TVs and a fully-stocked bourbon shelf, all done in untreated wood, which is a good look for a BBQ in my opinion. The “family” side – they boast they’re a family restaurant, which makes sense in the ‘burbs – is open, with some bank seating but mostly free-standing tables and chairs.
Prior to our Friday night visit, I’d done some research and didn’t have high hopes. The reviews I read were just… okay. Nothing special, but not bad. Still, since it was in our back yard, we figured we had to see for ourselves.
We started with some bourbon cocktails, of which they had an excellent and original selection. Our server was bourbon-knowledgable (if that’s a thing), so we were off to a good start. We actually tried several of their cocktails over the evening and they were all good.
Food-wise, we decided to go for the ribs and some sides. Let’s start with the good news – the sides were great. We had Big Bob’s Baked Potato (which is apparently their claim to fame), mac & cheese, baked beans and corn (the seasonal vegetable). They were delicious – no complaints there. If you love a good baked potato, Big Bob’s is where it’s at.
On to the main event – the ribs. This is the bad news – the flavour was very good, but the ribs fell short on texture. They were tough, and really not at all tender. I can appreciate all types of ribs – fall off the bone, slow-cooked, smoked, dry ribs – and realize they come with different levels of tenderness, but this just wasn’t right. It’s as though they weren’t cooked nearly long enough. The meat was hard to get off the bone and there was a considerable amount of chewing involved. Thankfully, the great flavour made up for it. And it didn’t hurt that our server was friendly, attentive and charismatic.
All in all, we left satisfied, but for a BBQ restaurant, it doesn’t really fly to screw up ribs. And I’m sure other restaurant critics wouldn’t be so kind in their reviews. I have heard that the chicken is very good, but the brisket and pulled pork are just okay. Sure, the sides were tasty, but to succeed in an already-saturated smokehouse/southern BBQ market – even in Barrhaven – you just gotta get the meat right. Nevertheless, this type of restaurant is trendy, so Capital City Smokehouse has some time.