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Smoke BBQ Taqueria hopes move helps keep up with demand

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
A chicken taco, brisket taco and mac and cheese topped with chorizo are accompanied by a horchata at Smoke BBQ Taqueria in Homestead on March 14, 2014.

It takes a special knack to be individual and successful. Nelda Carranco and Jeff Petruso have that mix of initiative, creativity, dedication and luck. Four years after opening Smoke BBQ Taqueria in Homestead, they're poised to relocate to larger space in Lawrenceville.

“Somehow, it's worked for us. We were really small when we started, just Jeff and me. We wouldn't have been able to handle a bigger place from the beginning,” Carranco says.

Smoke BBQ Taqueria offers “Mexican-inspired American food,” and makes everything in house. From the mustard, mayo and pickles, to the bacon and freshly ground chorizo, everything has individual touches.

“We make our own tortillas — that's what makes us and breaks us,” she says. “We can only produce so many at a time. At first, we made them by hand with a rolling pin. Within six months to a year we got a press, but still form them by hand. It's pretty labor-intensive.”

The restaurant hired its first part-time help a few months after opening. And, although they've needed to have as many as 13 employees at a time, she says they still don't have enough.

The new location at 4115 Butler St. will have a much-needed larger kitchen in a location with pedestrian traffic to increase business. Not to mention a movie theater that will be opening next door.

“Our menu will not change,” Carranco says, “but we will be adding items to it.”

Smoke offers eight varieties of tacos, mostly meat-based. The Veggie, $3.50, contains black beans, roasted poblano and corn relish, crispy potatoes and chile de arbol sauce.

The pork is all Kurobuta Berkshire Pork, which Carranco says has excellent intramuscular marbling, which makes it very tender and tasty. The Wagyu beef the restaurant uses has similar virtues.

Meat tacos range in price from $4 for chicken, with avocado cream, pickled onions and fresno sauce, to $6.75 for brisket, with sauteed onions, hot peppers and mustard sauce.

Avocado cream, pico de gallo and smoked three-pepper hot sauce are 75 cents extra.

Their pico de gallo is made with diced tomatoes, onions, smoked jalapenos, salt, pepper and lime juice. Limes are free on request.

Side dishes include black beans with leeks, hot peppers and pico di gallo, and pinto beans with beer, bacon and hot pepper, each $3.75. The brisket salad, with greens, tomatoes, English cucumbers, red onions, crispy potatoes and gorgonzola dressing, $12, is large enough to be a meal in itself or can be shared as an appetizer.

Wings, smoked and fried with wing sauce and gorgonzola dressing, are served six to an order for $10, but are available only on Thursdays.

Smoke also serves Horchata, $2, which is a rice-water drink with cinnamon, vanilla, organic sugar and lime zest. The restaurant is BYOB, but it offers a fresh margarita mix, $15 a pitcher, for people who bring their own tequila.

Smoke BBQ Taqueria, 225 E. 8th Street, Homestead. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412-205-3039.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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