ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Bones' Smokehouse's combination platter, at left, includes Texas toast, dry-rubbed St. Louis-style ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork, french fries and fried okra for $12.95. At right, a rib platter comes with a half-rack of dry-rubbed St. Louis-style ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy, spicy red beans and cornbread for $14.95.

Like many on the east side of Hamilton County, I mourned the loss of Bones' Smokehouse to the East Brainerd Road widening project a couple of years ago.

"Progress" had bulldozed one of my favorite sources of dry-rubbed ribs with a little different spin. Over the summer, Bones' reopened closer to the Gunbarrel Road end of East Brainerd Road (and closer to me) in the former space of a sports bar at Stratman Crossing.

Because the interior's so new, I didn't get the telltale whiff of hickory smoke when my wife and I walked in on a recent Tuesday evening.

It smelled of fresh-cut lumber and new paint, but there were some hints of hickory coming from the 12 or so tables of diners who were eating barbecue like they were on a mission.

We united with them in the task.

THE MENU

The last time I reviewed Bones' Smokehouse was on my first visit in September 2011, when the standalone building was on a winding piece of East Brainerd Road about three miles farther east. My family and I visited at least a dozen times before the road project broke my heart. I was elated to hear plans for their return.

If you go

› Where: Bones’ Smokehouse, 7601 East Brainerd Road.

› Phone: 423-710-3382.

› Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

› Price range: $4.25 for a loaded baked potato to $21.99 for a full-rack rib platter with sides.

On this trip back, I noticed the menu is almost identical to what I remember from the former location, though I think there might be some new additions slipped in here and there. The place already had a winning lineup anyway.

Not surprisingly, prices on most dishes have increased over the last half-decade by $1 to $4, but remain comparable to other barbecue joints where you can sit down inside to eat.

There are eight platters ranging from pulled pork ($9.95), to a full slab of wet or dry-rubbed St. Louis-style ribs ($21.95). Bones' ribs are tightly trimmed, and the dry-rubbed variety has a crust of brown sugar on top that makes it special. The other platters include a half-chicken platter ($10.95), beef brisket platter ($14.95), smoked pulled chicken platter ($9.95), combination platter ($12.95), turkey platter ($10.50) and chicken tender platter ($9.50).

Platters come with garlic toast or cornbread and a choice of two sides — calico baked beans, potato salad, mashed potatoes, french fries, sweet potato fries, green beans, dirty rice, spicy red beans, macaroni and cheese, vinegar slaw, fried okra and creamy coleslaw.

A lineup of "favorites" includes chicken potpie packed with corn, carrots, beans, potatoes and peas over mashed potatoes ($8.95); pork tacos made with seasoned pulled pork and smoked corn salsa with sides of spicy red beans and dirty rice ($8.50); smoked chicken enchiladas served with spicy red beans and dirty rice ($10.50); meatloaf served with mashed potatoes and green beans ($8.95); and a loaded baked potato (with butter, sour cream, bacon, chives and cheddar for $4.25, add pork or chicken for $6.25, add turkey for $6.75 and beef brisket $8.50).

Sandwiches include pulled pork (regular $5.50, large $6.50); smoked white-meat turkey on a whole-wheat bun with toppings ($5.95 and $6.95); smoked white-meat chicken on whole wheat ($5.50 and $6.50); Texas-style beef brisket ($8.95, and $9.95); hamburger with lettuce and tomato ($6.95, add cheese or bacon for $1 each); and chicken salad made with smoked, hand-pulled chicken on wheat ($5.95).

Appetizers include smokehouse chili, Brunswick stew, queso dip, fried dill pickle chips with house-made sweet horseradish sauce, and onion rings dipped in buttermilk batter, flash-fried and also served with the horseradish sauce. Prices range from $3.50 to just under $5.

The salad selection consists of a smokehouse salad with pork, chicken or turkey over greens, cheese, bacon and tortilla strips (pork $8.50, pulled chicken $8.50, turkey $8.95, and chicken tenders $8.75); Dixie chicken salad with smoked and hand-pulled chicken salad served over greens ($8.50); and the house salad ($4.75). Dress your salad with Bones' barbecue vinaigrette, blue cheese, honey mustard, ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.

I'm usually so full I can't hold any dessert, but the offerings include Tim's banana pudding ($3.75), cobbler with ice cream ($4.95) and hot fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup ($4.95). I've seen people come in to get only the banana pudding, so it must be good.

THE ORDER

My wife ordered the combination platter with pulled pork, sliced turkey and dry-rubbed ribs teamed with fried okra and fries, while I nearly repeated my first order in 2011 — a half-rack of dry-rubbed ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy — but I got the spicy red beans rather than the smoked corn on the cob I got the first time.

My half-rack of ribs didn't look quite the same as it did at the old location, but the flavor was still there. The half-rack in 2011 and each time at the old place had a thick layer of brown sugar that was very visible on top. The new location's version still has plenty of brown sugar on top; it just wasn't visible.

But pretty brown sugar and the way it's trimmed are really just cosmetics. So the question is: Is it still good?

Oh, [expletive deleted] yes.

The ribs were deeply smoked, with a deep red ring of smoke flavor and a bit of nice bark. The foursome of sauces — mild, hot, sweet mustard and Carolina vinegar — are good for dipping, but the dry rub will stand on its own.

I also found the spicy red beans a surprisingly tasty, zippy addition alongside the Southern standard of mashed potatoes and gravy.

As always, I stole bites of my wife's combination platter. The pulled pork, as usual, was moist and smoky with some good bits of bark and a little pinkish tinge from the smoke. The turkey was smoky but kind of dry. Sauce, and particularly the Carolina vinegar, boosted the turkey nicely. She didn't know it, but I sneaked several fried okras. My wife's sample of ribs, I must assume, were as good as mine. I risked bodily injury if I had tried to sample hers.

My friend and fellow reporter and diner Barry Courter told me he recently tried some burnt ends at Bones' that the owners are thinking of adding in some form. He loved it, so that put the bull's-eye on it for me, too, next time I see it on the specials. Be sure to check Bones' Facebook page for lunch and daily specials that include offerings like barbecue chicken pizza, pork chops, shrimp tacos, catfish, pork loin and smoked prime rib.

THE SERVICE

It's a new place, but we got the same happy, Southern-style service we'd come to expect at the old Bones' spot. We were seated immediately, and our server returned with our drinks and took our orders. We had our meals in no more than 10 minutes, and our server returned a few minutes later to make sure it all tasted as it should. Otherwise, she dutifully refilled our drinks as needed without being asked.

THE SPACE

The decor was reminiscent of the former location with wood-framed, corrugated metal walls and dividers. The walls were adorned with a few antique-like knickknacks and historic black-and-white photos, most of which appear to be of earlier days in Chattanooga. There are plenty of tables and booths that look new, and there's also outdoor seating under the building awning, a change from the old place.

Parking is vastly improved over the former location. Bones' added a drive-through at the side of the building. A traffic light at the main entrance to Stratman Crossing off East Brainerd Road makes it easy to get in and out even during the worst afternoon rush.

THE VERDICT

My wife and I are thrilled that one of our favorite Chattanooga region barbecue destinations has returned in full form. I am enticed by some of the tempting specials shown in photos on Bones' Facebook page and plan to try some. Of course, I'll pick off some ribs at every opportunity.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

ChattanoogaNow Sections

ADVERTISEMENT