A few years ago, I visited New Orleans for the first time. One of the prevalent smells in NOLA is that of barbecue and smoke. That particular smell of smoking wood that is both delicious and incredibly anticipatory.
That same smell is the aroma that greets you when you walk in the front door of the Big Smoke Alehouse in Maple Ridge. Big Smoke is the second restaurant of Mike Mulcahy, who also owns Big Feast, just down the street. Big Feast is more of a casual bisto, a little smaller, more open, and with a bit more of a crowded feel. They serve everything there from casual coffee through to brunch, lunch and beyond.
Big Smoke, open just a year, is a more grownup version, and the menu is heavy on BBQ, local brews and, not surprisingly, smoke. Come here for lunch or dinner, and the menu is dominated by burgers, ribs, chicken… basically a lot of meat. And meat that’s been smoked. Seems hard to go wrong.
The brunch menu features, not surprisingly, a lot of meat. There’s andouille sausage (speaking of NOLA), pulled pork, bacon, bacon’s cousin, the lardon, and brisket. There’s chicken and waffles, omelettes, and a breakfast poutine. Yaaas. There’s 4 really interesting and unique different kinds of bennys (one featuring fried green tomatoes). There’s a kid’s menu, too.
My brunch buddy and I were on a vacation of sorts, and it was Saturday morning, so we started with mimosas and beer (which was an Oatmeal stout–seemed appropriate). The brews here are hyper local, and the bubbles in my mimosa were from the Okanagan. One thing Mulcahy is really into is supporting local businesses. Both of his restaurants source their ingredients as closely as they possibly can, and I love that philosophy.
We settled on Chicken and Waffles (because duh) and the Garibaldi Benny.
Only good things can be said about the Chicken and Waffles. I’m a huge fan of this dish, and I’ve had it Emeril’s in New Orleans. One of the main challenges of Chicken and Waffles is keeping the waffle from getting soggy when you put the chicken on top of it, and Big Smoke neatly sidesteps this problem by giving you smallish chicken tenders, rather than huge whole chunks of breast or leg. It also makes it easier to eat. One of the big debates with chicken and waffles is, to debone or not to debone. Bones add flavor to the meat, but they also make it harder to eat. Here, the perfectly crispy bits of chicken were yummy and actually easy to eat. It comes with a light gravy and maple syrup for dipping.
The Garibalidi Benny features a spicy cajun shrimp, pimento cream cheese, and is topped with a crispy, deep-fried onion rings. There’s not a huge amount of bread here, it’s just one large piece, as opposed to two slices of english muffin, but it still comes topped with two eggs. The shrimp were just hot enough, plump and juicy, and the pimento cheese made it creamy, as well. The yolk of the egg just added to the creaminess, but the crispy onions were a nice textural contrast.
I was less than enthusiastic about the potatoes that came with the dish. I loved the cajun seasoning that they were tossed with, but they were basically french fries, and not more traditional breakfast potatoes.
All in all, quite the Brunch treat. I realize it’s a bit of a hike if you live in Vancouver, but if you live in Coquitlam or Maple Ridge, you gotta check this place out some weekend. It’s the real deal.
22641 Lougheed Highway, Maple Ridge
Open for brunch Saturday & Sunday from 10 am