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Dining out: Holy Smoke BBQ and Grill

LAYTON — If the Barenaked Ladies got Western and opened a barbecue joint, it would be a lot like Layton's Holy Smoke BBQ and Grill.

For those of you who might not know, the Barenaked Ladies is a great Canadian alt-rock band whose strong musicality and lyricism are wedded to a wry, sometimes wacky, sense of humor.

In much the same way, the proprietors of Holy Smoke (who sign their mission statement, "Kinda-Famous Dan" and "Not-so-Famous Jeff") have wedded the fundamental methods that produce excellent barbecue with a sensibility that's creative, refreshing and fun.

Walking into the place, visitors will see a big sandwich board out front proudly advertising the fact that Holy Smoke has won absolutely no national awards for its food. And that's a puzzler, because we didn't have a single thing that wasn't homemade and delicious when we visited for a weeknight family dinner.

My husband ordered the Holy Smoke Round-Up sampler, a huge platter containing pulled pork, a quarter chicken, sliced brisket and two St. Louis rib bones, plus a corn muffin, three sides and a little pot of green Jell-O for each diner.

I saw the Jell-O as an homage to Utah, and I'm sure it is, but readers Bill and Faith Watson, who recommended Holy Smoke to me, pointed out that it also makes a great palate refresher, helping diners taste the differences between the many meats and sauces offered.

I had one of the (slightly) smaller platters, a selection of three meats plus two sides, corn muffin and Jell-O. From those platters, plus a few extra sides, we were able to feed our family of six and have a bit to take home for leftovers.

We tried all six of the platter meats, and all were excellent: mellow sausage sliced in a sweet-and-tangy sauce; juicy pulled pork that was more strongly flavored than most pork I've tried; unusual, tender and flavorful pulled chicken; roasted-quartered chicken that made supermarket rotisserie birds seem limp and bland; and lean, dark and strongly flavored brisket that was pulled rather than sliced.

All of those were good alone, and even better dipped in one of Holy Smoke's whimsically named sauces. There's Sweeter Than Your First Kiss, a familiarly flavored sauce that's sweet but strongly seasoned with a punchy, vinegary finish. There's Chili Berry, dark and sweet and just a bit spicy, with a smooth finish; probably my favorite. But the spicier, sweet-and-peppery mango-mango, and the flat-out hot chipotle varieties also were delicious.

Even if meat isn't your thing, you could eat well at Holy Smoke, thanks to the bountiful offering of house-made sides. We tried seven of the dozen or so on offer, and there wasn't a dud among them.

I loved the coleslaw, perfectly balanced between cabbage and carrots and a sweet, seedy dressing; and the unusual applesauce, chunky with apples and ripe pears, and just a hint of lemon.

We fought over who would finish off the cut corn, a sublime rendering of creamed corn with sweet kernels finished with butter, cream and pepper, and we passed around and around the gooey Circleville mac and cheese, elbow noodles cooked with three cheeses.

I always think that, besides the meat and sauce, a barbecue joint's real test is its beans, and Holy Smoke passes beautifully with its piquant, veggie-filled version. We liked the fresh, just-sweet corn muffins, as well, but adored the browned-crisp crust and tender seasoned insides of the hush puppies.

In true picnic fashion, there's ice cream and bars for dessert, in this case Spotted Dog Creamery's smooth and delicious products, plus dense, cakey frosted brownies and lemon bars with a light crust, sweet beginning and tart finish.

Barbecue platters $6.99-$15.95, sandwiches and grilled items $2.99-$7.59, sides 89 cents-$1.59, full rack of ribs $16.99, meats by the pound $12.99, desserts $1.49-$4.25.

Rating: *** 1/2

Where: 855 Heritage Park Blvd., Layton

Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 614-5011


Wheelchair access: Easy

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: