The Smokin' Pug
Bangkok's favorite barbecue specialist moves on to bigger, better things.
The buzz: After closing up its teeny-tiny spot on Surawong, barbecue institution Smokin' Pug is back on Lang Suan Road and it's even bigger, better and badder than before.
The decor: Barbecue shack vibes with a polished edge. The bar is a shabby-chic mishmash, and the corrugated iron and reworked wood of the dining room is softened by flickering tea lights. The space is open and uncluttered, save for a few prints of jazz musicians, food porn and, of course, the namesake pugs Basil and Su.
The food: Giant smokers in the back courtyard cook all the meat low ‘n’ slow. Beef brisket is smoked for up to 12 hours overnight; ribs and lamb for four; even the cheese for the mac ‘n’ cheese sees the inside of the smoker. The result is intense flavor and tender perfection. The baby-back ribs and beef brisket platter (B895/two portions) doesn’t put a foot wrong, even down to the homemade cornbread and slaw. The smoked lamb sandwich (B475) comes in an intimidating quantity, but the Alabama horseradish sauce and three housemade barbecue sauces keep each bite alive down to the last. Calorie-counters stay away—even veggie side dishes like the creamed spinach (B175) come with a decadent helping of cheese. Dessert is a must, even if your waistband is screaming out for you to stop. The bread pudding dessert (B225) is served warm and drenched in an adults-only bourbon sauce—it’s pure bliss.
The drinks: The bar menu proudly steers clear of fancy mixology, and proves its point by hitting the spot with simple-done-right cocktails. The staff aren’t lying when they say they’re generous with the bottle—the Titos Texas Mule (B275) is a fiery combo of vodka and nose-tingling ginger, while Danny’s Choice (B295) emphasizes the G in a G&T. Plus, serious barbecue fanatics can now drink BBQ sauce without fear of being judged thanks to the Smokin’ Mary (B295), a thick and spicy take on a Bloody Mary.
The music: Strictly crooning, foot-tapping jazz and blues.
The crowd: The atmosphere at Smokin’ Pug caters to all, from candlelit date-nighters to lively groups knocking back heady cocktails.
Why we’d go back: Aside from the excellent food and drinks, you really get a sense that the staff wants you to enjoy yourself and experience the best of Southern hospitality. Rowan Usher
BK Food Review ★★★★★
After opening at the start of 2015, Smokin’ Pug didn’t take long to catch the attention of Bangkok’s craft-beer-swilling, industrial-Americana devotees. Even now, on a Tuesday night, we can spot the odd face from Made by Legacy and craft mixology consultants amid the crowd of wizened American expats and affluent-looking office types.
We’re glad, because these people would do well to take a note out of Smokin’ Pug’s cocktail menu, all of which is under B300 without any tax or service added—and as far as taste goes, we don’t see where the compromise is. The whiskey sour (B275) is made with Wild Turkey Kentucky bourbon, poured generously, while Dana’s Choice (B270) mixes Maker’s Mark with fresh ginger and ginger ale. Both taste delicious and match well with the smoky barbecue food.
A full-rack of baby back ribs will set you back B825 (half-rack B575), and believe them when they tell you it’s “enough for two.” The meat is tender without being too fatty, and glides from the bone with a little lubrication from a sweet and smoky, house-made barbecue sauce.
The pulled-pork chili (B365) is equally amazing, and like the ribs comes served with a hefty and delicious chunk of cornbread. The same meat used in the pulled-pork sandwich (B350) doesn’t quite match the tenderness of the ribs, but it’s not bad. Mix in plenty of sauce (of the three options, we recommend sticking to the Kansas City), ’slaw and a good dollop of smoky beans and you’ve got a tasty package, even if the bun is below the standard of this city’s finest.
But there are issues. The macaroni and cheese is a monotonous stodge with little flavor once you’ve skinned the gratin off the top, while our banana cream pie dessert (B295) tastes like someone forgot to add any sugar. None of this would ever stop us going back, however. Compared to neighboring American barbecue places like Roadhouse, Smokin’ Pug is in a different league—tastier, similarly priced and with infinitely more charm.
Special mention has to go to the two owners who, without a spare seat in the house, give each table their personal attention, pour cocktails themselves and ensure dishes fly from the kitchen. For this and many other reasons—the slide-guitar soundtrack, the huge portions, the free-flow homemade potato chips—eating at Smokin’ Pug is a joy.