I have just one story for you today in TasteBudz. It’s such a big one, that I wanted to devote ample space to sharing it. Believe me. This is going to be exciting.
WEDDING BELL BREWS: “It’s a marriage made in heaven.” That’s the way Neil Burton, owner and founder of Strangeways Brewing, describes the impending union of the Scott’s Addition edition of his brewery with a small, but outstanding, barbecue restaurant with the somewhat strange name of Smohk. It all came together rather fortuitously.
I first learned about the “marriage’ From Roby Williams. He and business partner Elizabeth Sexton own and operate Smohk at 3112 W. Leigh Street. I’ve been enjoying their fantastic fare virtually since they opened their doors in a rather hidden little space across from the Circuit Arcade Bar.
The problem is that, despite the fact that the little BBQ joint has garnered more than its fair share of awards, the bigger boys with the louder voices were garnering most of the attention in the city’s hottest neighborhood/ playground for grown ups. In fact, there were times I had stopped by the restaurant halfway expecting its doors to be shuttered. On one visit, a few months back, Roby had told me that someone was looking to open a new business in a building adjacent to his. The property in question (3110 W. Leigh St.), Roby speculated, might be turned into a nightclub. Well, not quite. Here’s where Strangeways enters the picture.
I spoke with Neil yesterday. He filled me in on the rest of the story. Seems that he was the unknown party who had been looking into leasing the adjacent space. He admits that because he wasn’t the only person who recognized the potential for this Scott’s Addition property, he was keeping his cards close to his vest.
“I was quietly working on negotiations [for the building],” Neil says, adding that that he had “bumped into” Roby on a couple of occasions while somewhat surreptitiously inspecting the property to determine the feasibility of expanding in to Scott’s Addition.
Roby had his own reasons for trying to discover just who was interested in the building. Perhaps that person might also be interested in taking over the adjacent space, which he was leasing. You see, while his catering business was going gangbusters, the restaurant remained a hidden gem.
During those chance encounters, Neil says, “I was as cryptic as possible.” Of course, once the lease was signed, there was no more need for the secrecy. After picking up the keys and taking occupancy, Neil again runs into Roby. “I was there for no more than five minutes when Roby comes over,” he says. Neil introduces himself and apologizes for having been guarded in previous meetings.
At the time, he says, he knew nothing about the food Roby was serving in Smohk. But, he continues, “We got to talking and I started tasting. I realized that he has something great. It seemed like a natural fit.” One thing led to another and that’s when the two businessmen began to hear those figurative wedding bells. Or were they hearing the sound of happy cash registers.
So bottom line: When Strangeways opens its doors in Scott’s Addition, you’ll see something a little unique for an area brewery. Instead of a host of rotating food trucks, there’ll be one on-site restaurant serving up exceptional barbecue, wings, ribs and more. Roby says he’s working on a new, expanded menu in order to accommodate all tastes. Strangeways will be adding some new products as well, but I’m sure you already expected that.
For guests, the entire experience will be virtually seamless. One server will take your order. Strangeways will provide the drinks, while the folks in Smohk’s kitchen will be preparing your food. You can sit back, take in the fun that’s a hallmark of the Strangeways’ experience and treat your taste buds to some exceptional food and beverages.
I’ve had just a brief sneak peek at the new digs. The place was almost totally gutted and re-created. You’re going to love it – inside and out. Yes, there’ll even be a cool patio.
Acknowledging that this “marriage made in heaven” is a departure from the norm, Neil says, “Strangeways is always trying new things.” Ain’t that the truth?
I had one more question for both men. When? Right now, neither is giving a date. I’m guessing it’s in the not-too-distant future. But keep an eye right here on TasteBudz. Before you know it, the wedding invitation will be in the mail.