The secret is out and now everyone will know the truth: It is time to tell those chain restaurants and overblown franchises to step aside. The X has marked the spot and the prize jewel of barbecue has been found in the heart of Naples.
At the Naples SmokeHouse Deli, one bite can convert non-believers into loyal followers. For ten years the SmokeHouse menu was only offered at farmer’s markets and through catering and wholesale purchases. Then last year the family-owned and run business took a step in a more lucrative direction by opening up a Deli. Since then, even the pickiest of barbecue eaters have bowed down to its home-style greatness.
Co-owner and operator, Monica Kennow, spends seven days a week slow cooking and baking. It all started ten years ago when her dad and co-owner, Bruce Macdonald, bought a massive hickory smoker capable of cooking 500 pounds of meat at a time. The culinary school graduate and retired executive chef began experimenting with different meats and rubs, inspiring his daughter to do the same. Their creations were so good that the two knew they had to open up their own business.
“My dad and I are the only ones that do the cooking,” Kennow said. “Prairie, a close family friend, has been promoted to making the sandwiches and salad, but otherwise all of the food goes through one of us. It isn’t just a piece of meat in a smoker. We make our own rubs and sauces and coleslaw and desserts.”
The most popular menu item at the SmokeHouse is the pulled pork, which is slow smoked for about eight hours overnight. It is then removed from the smoker by the gloved hands of Kennow or her father, who seam it by hand to remove all fat before taking out the bear claws and shredding it by hand. While many barbecue restaurants may use machines to do these tasks, Kennow likes to have everything done by hand.
“We don’t have machines or shredders,” Kennow said. “We personally take out all of the bone and fat so all you have left is the best of the pork. We don’t use anything standard. All of our brine tanks are different and we make our own signature Southern Carolina barbecue sauce to bring the sweet and the kick.”
“We hand-chop the cabbage for the coleslaw ourselves instead of buying the pre-shredded kind, and we cook the potatoes for the potato salad. When you order a turkey sandwich from us, it isn’t going to be like Publix where we just slice the meat up for you, we debone the turkey and slice everything freshly for each order. I’ve always said that if I can make it, I won’t buy it. So we make it all ourselves.”
The extra steps taken to prepare each meal can be tasted in the final product. One bite into the pulled-pork sandwich can take a hungry customer back to the kitchens of the Deep South, unleashing flavors from past generations that can’t be found at the nearest fast food joint.
The Naples SmokeHouse also specializes in smoking pork bellies, entire pigs, chicken, salmon, turkey and sausage. These items are also available prepackaged at the storefront as well as wholesale and catered. Kennow also makes homemade cookies, cake pops and brownies.
“We can do anything from scratch and nothing from a box,” Kennow said.
“It took four months to get my brownie recipe right. They’re perfectly gooey with lots of chocolate, extra chocolate and more sugar.”
Most of the regulars that visit the SmokeHouse work in Commerce Park and stop by for lunch. Kennow also sees a lot of regulars at farmers markets and from the seasonal foodies who grace Naples with their presence during the winter. While the SmokeHouse sees the occasional diner eating at its tables, the majority of the customers typically pick up at the window and go.
The size of the Deli is intimately humble, making it easy to pass by if a customer does not know where to look. While some might find that to be a negative, Kennow embraces it.
“If we go any bigger it won’t be the same family atmosphere,” Kennow said. “We are a bit hidden and I want people to come try us. I see people on Facebook talk about the bigger places because they’ve been around with restaurants longer. Well I’ve been around doing this just as long but you’ve gotta come in and try it.”
“I’ll go into competition against anyone with pulled pork or brisket. Especially during season, we go through a brisket a day, which is an average of 7 pounds or more depending on the cut. We also make a killing on the cinnamon bacon. I sold two slabs in 24 hours last time, and we slice and cure our own bacon as well.”
Located at 1810 J&C Blvd, suite number 4, The Naples SmokeHouse is between Shutter Concepts and JMG Commercial Properties. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information and menu items, visit the Naples SmokeHouse Deli website: http://naplessmokehouse.com/.
The Naples SmokeHouse Deli is a part of the Naples Food Tour, a local program that provides organized tasting tours of unique family-run restaurants and businesses. For more information about the Food Tour, please visit http://naplesfoodtours.com/.
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