Restaurant Review: Buckeye Chili & Smokehouse
Buckeye Chili & Smokehouse opened without much fanfare Downtown. It’s a little off the beaten bath, when it comes to eating. You won’t find it on the thoroughfare on Gay Street or Fourth. Instead, it set up shop on Young Street, in a large space that is shockingly appropriate for a classic barbecue restaurant. It boasts a lot of woodwork, not in pale, modern hues, but rather it’s more traditionally woodsy-stained. Perhaps the overall effect is dated, then again, perhaps it’s timeless: it’s hard to decide.
The menu emphasis is on straight-up belly-filling food, combined with zero pretense or navel-gazing artistry. Case in point, the Hickory Smoked Brisket ($10.49). A mouthful of the house brisket provided the introduction to the Buckeye eating experience, and it set the bar impossibly high. An order provided slice after slice of fall-apart savory brisket, fully laden with outdoorsy smoked flavor. It’s brisket so good, and so tender, it’d be a shame to dump sauce all over it and obscure the magic.
The Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork ($8.99), meanwhile, has less smoke flavor. As a smoke-freak, this discovery came as an initial disappointment. That said, after a few bites, the story changes, and the pork’s smoky accents miraculously emerge. It’s in there, but a more subtle part of the pulled pork formula (and, like the beef, quite tender).
Both meats can be served as a sandwich or with cornbread. Cornbread can be the source of lots of controversy regarding authenticity and sweetness. From a personal perspective, “authentic” cornbread is dry and unpleasant. Buckeye’s mildly sweet version is dense and holds enough moisture to be quite likable. Authentic? Maybe not, but totally worth eating.
Chili is half the attraction here, as the restaurant’s moniker might indicate. The item comes in several variations that include regular, spicy, beanless and veggie. Moreover, you can get that chili served on a variety of starchy things, one of which is spaghetti (Chili Spaghetti, $9.99). It’s nothing like Skyline. One, it’s not cinnamon-sweet. Two, Buckeye’s offering is much thicker. It’s a robust, hearty, cowboy chili, dense with beef and tomatoes and beans. The spicy version has enough kick to keep things interesting, but not so much that you have to take water breaks. The spaghetti element just makes the party last longer. Of course, spaghetti is going to lose any contest with French Fries, and you can also get your chili served on crunchy crinkle-cut fries (Chili Cheese Fries, $7.99). For further exploration, there are also options to team the chili with tater tots or a hot dog.
Side options include the aforementioned fries and tots, as well as an appealing Mac and Cheese ($3.99). While not incredibly strong on the cheese flavor, its creaminess is especially winning, teamed with a generous ratio of sauce-to-shells.
The menu features a few salads as well, for vegetable fans. The staff is friendly, the service is prompt. The joint doesn’t seem like it’s trying to build an experience or make an artistic statement. It’s just turning out good food. When it comes to barbecue, that’s quite enough. You can find it at 30 S. Young St.
For more information, visit buckeyecs.com.