Heard on the Street: The smell of barbecue is on its way to northwest Rochester

Construction continues on the Smoak restaurant off of Commerce Drive in Rochester. The barbecue joint is the latest venture by Rochester Rocket Restaurants, which also operates The Loop and Five West. (Traci Westcott /
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Look for oak smoke accompanied by the smell of barbecue to start wafting over northwest Rochester yet this year with the opening a new restaurant.

Smoak, described as "a true barbecue joint," is the latest project for Rochester's Rocket Restaurant Group.

The name comes from the two "massive" meat smokers that will burn only oak wood 18 hours a day to produce smoked beef, pork, chicken, turkey and salmon for the restaurant. The owners say that 80 percent of Smoak's menu will come out of the aromatic smokers.

That means the smell of smoked meat will certainly add to the restaurant's ambiance.

"I'm hoping you smell it coming down the block. That's the goal," said Ryan Brevigof Rochester Restaurant Group.


Rocket, founded by four 1997 John Marshall High Schoolgraduates, created The Loop Bar and Grill and the Five West Kitchen and Bar in Rochester plus more restaurants in the Twin Cities.

Construction on the 5,600-square foot Smoak is entering the final stretch, according to Brevig. It's being built just north of Five West , along West Circle Drive.

"We're targeting opening to the public on the first or second week of December," he said of Smoak.

The restaurant will sprawl across more than an acre of land between the Sleep Number Bedstore and the new Tap House West End pub , which is also under construction.

Competing with Rocket's Five West as well as Tap House West, the Crooked Pintand possibly other restaurants doesn't concern Brevig.

"We're huge believers that a rising tide raises all boats," he said."Plus, we're big believers in the northwest side of Rochester. I think there is still growth to come out there, and we want to be part of that growth."

Smoak will seat about 200, including its outdoor patio. It will also have an indoor-outdoor bar with four "garage doors" to open the restaurant up when Minnesota's weather permits. A team of about 40 will staff the restaurant when it opens.

Smoked prime beef brisket will be a signature Smoak offering, with a $1 donation going to Rochester's Hope Lodgefor every pound sold. In addition to traditional pulled pork and ribs, the menu also includes smoked bacon, Smoak's own burgers, tacos, jalapeno cheddar sausage and special sandwiches such as the Tornado, which features brisket, pork, sausage and haystack onions.


"And it's not all meat. We also have bowls and salads. I think we've checked all of the boxes," Brevig said.

Rocket Restaurant Group is trying something new with Smoak. They will offer catering for the first time.

"We'll have a full catering menu and a fleet of catering vehicles," said Brevig. "The menu leads itself well to catering."

Related Topics: FOOD
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