Last weekend I checked out KINSmoke, the new "non-denominational" barbecue spot on the plaza in Healdsburg. It opened a month ago to great fanfare.
Beef short ribs are available on Friday and Saturday only, so that was a no-brainer to order. A half rack (two ribs) is $16. Sides are extra. I tried the horseradish-apple coleslaw and the mac & cheese. The coleslaw's the wet, creamy style. Too goopy for me though I liked the fresh taste profile and crisp cabbage. Mac & cheese was diluted by inadequately drained pasta and lacked salt. A shot of the red barbecue sauce improved it considerably.
The pair of short ribs looked pretty good with a nice crust. Overdone, these had lost a lot of moisture and lacked the fatty richness and velvety collagen that makes this cut so luscious. Not bad flavor on their own, but sauce was needed to moisten them.
The overcooking became more evident when I turned over the outside rib. This was cooked until black and charcoal-like in texture. Three different front of the house staff -- server, cashier, busser -- all checked in with me. I told each of them that the kitchen should not send out inedible food, and demonstrated by trying to use the tines of a fork and the point of a knife to pierce through this rib to show that it was now a rock. None of them offered to bring me something else. In hindsight, I see that I was too passive and should have been more direct to the inexperienced employees to explain what the right thing to do would be.
A six-pack of sauces is brought to the table. Perhaps the most unique was the espresso sauce, recommended with beef. The others include a non-sweet Texas red, Alabama white, Carolina vinegar (red), and mustard sauce. I was impressed by the line-up and the restraint with sugar.
I did not like the ordering and service set up here. One orders at the counter, then finds a table where a server takes the drink order, delivers the food, and brings the check. I prefer to order from a beverage menu instead of listening to a server rattle off drink options. Then there was the long wait for the bill and for someone to process the transaction.
The windows overlooking the plaza were flung open on this sunny day. The fresh air made it like eating outdoors, complete with flies buzzing over the food.
KinSmoke is off to a reasonably good start and I think it has potential to be worthwhile. It's already wildly popular with the local crowd. I'll be back to try the other smoked meats when the service staff have had more time in grade.
304 Center Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Daily from 11a.m. – 9p.m.