Here is the equation. I’ll let you do the math.
Strip mall + Barbecue Joint + West Ashley + Location that has changed hands more times than the Potato Head family =
Cue Jaws theme song, right?
But nope. It turns out this is some of that new math — the kind that doesn’t make any sense — and happily, Black Wood Smokehouse adds up.
Yes, it’s located in the nondescript South Windermere Center between Barton’s Toys and Rhodes Boutique and everything about that sentence is a little bit worrisome, but fret not. As you cross the parking lot you can smell the smoke, and it only gets better from there.
Once inside, Joseph and Allison Jacobson’s Black Wood is open and airy, with a veritable cornucopia of seating. Tables, booths, communal pub seating, and a long wooden full bar: There’s something for everyone. Once you settle in, service is friendly and efficient.
I started with some smoked Carolina chicken wings ($.75/each). A near-staple most everywhere, these are dry-rubbed, well-priced and imbued with notable smoke flavor. Served with either blue cheese or ranch dressing and some house-made pickles, this is a good way to kick off the looming meat coma.
Less so, the side salad and tomato pie ($9), selected for its role as Token Vegetarian Offering. Now, don’t get me wrong. The pie itself is tasty, but it is so tiny; so very, almost comically tiny. I’m talking Easy Bake Oven tiny. That aside, the buttery crust is filled with cubed fresh tomato ensconced in a heavy cream sauce. Topped with a thick layer of melted cheddar, it’s definitely hedonistic, just in a miserly quantity.
If unadulterated debauchery is more your bag, look no further than The Tasting Board ($25) a sampling of five meats, plus three sides of your choice. It comes with the options of either beef brisket or pastrami, plus pulled pork, turkey and a sausage link. The polygon of protein is rounded out with the chef’s choice, which on this occasion was sliced beef bologna. With notes of garlic and paprika, it tastes like, well, bologna. On the other hand, you don’t often see homemade lunch meat, so points for novelty.
Meanwhile, the sliced beef brisket ($19/lb.) comes in lean or full-bodied variations, and the latter is quite honestly excellent. Tender to the bite and with a visible smoke ring, the slices are surrounded by a flavorful charred edge. Unfortunately, the pastrami ($20/lb.) is so incredibly salty that salt was all I could taste before the thirst set in. I appreciate the effort, and I really wanted to like it, but perhaps it works better in a sandwich than straight?
In contrast, my love for the smoked Carolina turkey ($16/lb.) required no further persuasion beyond the first bite which happens to be my own personal litmus for measuring pitmaster skills. The breast meat is sliced thin, yet tender and juicy. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Similarly, the kielbasa-like smoked sausage ($4/ea.) offers a firm casing with good pop, which then yields to the succulent, well-seasoned meat inside. As well, the pulled pork ($13/lb) offers a perfect balance of supple, smoky meat and bits of crisp, dry-rubbed bark. If you prefer to do your own barbecue sauce application rather than receive your pig pre-moistened, this is your moment.
Speaking of which, Black Smoke offers three sauces. The South Carolina mustard-based version is tangy, with visible chili flakes adding a little heat to the finish. The vinegar-based North Carolina sauce is assertive, providing mouth puckering-levels of piquancy. On the other end of the spectrum, the dark KC-style barbecue sauce is thick and sticky, a sweet contrast to some of the smokier meats.
On that topic, even the Southern fried chicken ($12) was smokey, a first. Perhaps just a contact high, but presumably smoked at a low temperature before being breaded and fried, it’s a novelty. Fried to a dark brown, combined with the wood notes it’s more of an earthy, soul food flavor than your typical fried chicken. And what a chicken it must have been. Possessed of a wing the same size as the breast, that yard bird must have spent some notable time in flight.
The sides ($3/ ¼ lb., $5/ ½ lb., $8/lb.) are equally impressive. The Geechie Boy grits are ‘no full fat spared’ rich, yet an actual corn flavor comes through. The resulting decadence falls somewhere between corn pudding and heavy cream grits.
Similarly, the braised South Carolina greens leave no lily ungilded and feature a 1:1 ratio of greens to pork. Quite frankly, I could do without such large hunks of meat and more of the tender greens with their light vinegar finish, but that’s really just splitting hairs.
Beyond the traditional cucumber slices, the house pickled vegetables included cauliflower, carrots, and green beans, as well as celery, cauliflower, and slices of acorn squash. Tangy and a tiny bit sweet, my only real longing here was for more.
Although it may seem that the last thing Charleston needs is another barbecue joint, along comes Black Wood Smokehouse to render that idea pure hogwash. Location be damned, from the meats to the sides to the accompanying sauces, this is an effort with the chops to go the distance.