American BBQ is something of a stubborn mule. As the culinary world continually moves into newer pastures, BBQ in the US sticks to what it knows, refining the science of its process without much in the way of envisioning new concepts. The cuisine has a certain immunity from labels like “fusion”, a flashy word that can signal something disastrously kitschy has been done to a classic. If the stubborn mule called BBQ is to inch forward, it will have to be coaxed by an outsider, someone who is not indoctrinated by unspoken codes of conduct, someone crazy enough to challenge the status quo, yet sensible enough to respect its history. Andy and Heidi Kubes are those crazy outsiders. 

Jet black  interior walls paired with  gleaming black lacquered chairs set a sophisticated edge to this BBQ joint.Photography by Wyatt Kostygan


Owners and operators of Smoqehouse, a fast-casual BBQ sandwich restaurant; they are determined to drag BBQ kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Their most recent location on South Tamiami Trail, where Oaks Open Pit BBQ operated for 40 years, serves as an appropriate venue for their humble attempt at transforming the cuisine. “The first few months we opened, a lot of people actually walked in, looked at our menu and left,” jokes Andy. Other times, guests would come in, fail to read the menu altogether and order a brisket platter out of habit before the Kubes would give them the bad news.

Poutine and Cuban sandwich. Photography by Wyatt Kostygan


“We are not a traditional BBQ restaurant,” he says. What Smoqehouse has retained of tradition, is its use of smoke to slow-roast the three basic food groups: beef, pork and chicken. In this regard, the menu is populated with the expected. The pulled pork sandwich comes with a fistful of 12-hour smoked pork and a pile of sweet-and-cool cabbage apple slaw. An amalgamation of every style of BBQ sauce gives the pork a bit of vinegar, mustard and molasses, while the bread serves as a trusty vessel that maintains its integrity better than most. The same pulled pork also makes its way into the Smoqehouse Cuban, which comes with the usual shaved ham, dill pickles and yellow mustard.

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan


The twist comes from slices of Swiss cheese smoked in-house, and the overall impression is of a very traditional Cuban sandwich that has warmed itself next to a burning pile of wood. A Korean beef sandwich leads diners a little further off the beaten BBQ trail. The thinly sliced beef smokes for between one-and-a-half and two hours—“Smoking meat is not an exact science,” he says—and the final product evokes a traditional roast beef sandwich. In this case, however, a Korean BBQ sauce gives the sandwich a mildly spicy twist that pairs well with a pleasant surprise of ginger lime slaw, and it all comes between two fluffy slices of ciabatta.

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan


 “I’m really fascinated by the way other cultures use smoke,” says Andy, who goes through his vast library of cookbooks the way a literary snob goes through novels. Considering a smoked brisket smashed burger can also be had, the vegetarian sandwich is arguably the hardest sell on the menu. Smoked red pepper, yellow squash and zucchini honor the restaurant’s titular ode to pyrolysis, but the fresh greens and red onion take the wary diner deeper into the suspicion that the Kubes have dishonored the BBQ tradition.

But those who have suspended their judgement are amply rewarded by a tangy mustard BBQ sauce and herbed goat cheese. If it treads into the realm of Mediterranean cuisine, the smokiness and mustard sauce bring it back stateside, as does the sandwich’s heft in both hand and stomach. Notable sides include poutine and hand-cut chips. The poutine is very traditional, in honor of Andy’s Canadian-born father, though smoked brisket drippings are used as the gravy.

With the option of coming fully loaded—adding on blue cheese crumbles and garlic-thyme aioli—the twice-fried chips make for a perfectly starchy accompaniment to any of the sandwiches. Maybe the option of substituting a bed of spring greens for the bread goes a bit too far for BBQ purists, but if the stubborn mule is to budge, all manner of coaxing must be considered. SRQ