Russell's Smoke House, Frank Bonanno's new shrine to smoked meats, opened softly on Friday, but on Saturday, the staff was gearing up for a busy night, But first, there was a fantastic food tasting orgy that I was lucky enough to attend, stomaching my way through tender prime rib, sweet lobster, smoked trout wrapped in bacon, plump pigs in a blanket, black beans wafting with smoke, a kick-ass coleslaw, sausage and golden-fried chicken.
Behold the gluttony.
Smoked preserved tuna salad with green beans, potatoes and hard-cooked eggs, dressed with a red-wine vinaigrette. Even a smokehouse takes vegetarians into consideration, and the mushroom dynamite, says Bonanno, has been the restaurant's most popular starter. All of the table at the smokehouse get tumblers full of peanuts -- and no, you can't toss the shells on the floor. It's a health-department thing. Pesto and smoked potted trout with bread. Star bartender Adam Hodak's bloody Mary, made with smoked tomato juice. Several of his cocktails float with smoked ice. Crab cocktail with avocado and a smoked "bloody" sauce. Want a pig in your blanket? You can get them here, sided with a trio of mustards. Beet salad. Bacon-swathed trout with sides of coleslaw and smoky black beans. Smoked kielbasa sausage plate. Fried chicken with gravy, y'all! Smoky lobster roll on brioche. Shaved ten-hour prime rib sandwich with sweet potato fries. Bonanno isn't slathering his meats with sauces -- they're all dry-rubbed -- but each table is graced with three barbecue sauces: Sweet, spicy and vinegar.