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Smoky Jon's #1 BBQ

In a word: Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers.

The specs: #0598  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Magazine, AV Club, Wry Epicures, Suicide Food, Welcome to My Pantry, Eat Drink Madison, Cold Carryouts!!, Popwilleatme, Althouse, Yelp; chatter at The Barbecue Bible; interview at Isthmus; official web site, Facebook fan pageSmoky Jon's #1 BBQ on Urbanspoon

Latest Smoky Jon's #1 BBQ news and reviews

JM, John, Judith, and Nichole got the #6 family dinner (brisket & ribs) with baked beans, butter corn, and fries.
The bill was $52, or $13/person, plus tip.
Nichole and Judith gave Smoky Jon's #1 BBQ an A; JM and John gave Smoky Jon's #1 BBQ an A- (see our grading rubric).

Smoky Jon's is #1.

Smoky Jon's

Beyond that, basically we have nothing to add. BBQ is like religion. The importance of tradition, culture and geography can't be overstated. The details matter, right down to the color of the smoke. The dead (like Bull's, Doug's, Jada's, Kipp's, and Pete's) are canonized. High priests everywhere tend to congregations full of those looking for a little comfortable salvation. Gnostics abound, guarding their secret truths and often criticizing others' (which likely as not they haven't explored). And conversations about it often end up as arguments, especially on the internet.

As for us and our house, we'd rather just eat.

What we will say is that the people at Smoky Jon's are awesome. The man who handed over our carryout dubbed JM "Joe Money," instantly converting an ovine Nichole.

We also can tell you the facts about what we ate. Check out this plate. Baked beans as a side, on the recommendation of the person who took our phone order, were sweet but not treacly. The wet ribs were tender. The meaty chili was stellar over fries but good on its own - thank God it's autumn and chili season again. Not to mention the excellent (vodka/)lemonade and hot green salsa, courtesy our hosts.

BBQ plate



Our little communion did have a disagreement about whether the "butter corn" adhered to rubric with real butter or heretical margarine. The side dish had a tasty pepper/garlic kick, but Nichole contended that the butter-flavor aftertaste was too assertive. John was sure that "butter" in the name has to mean "butter," a literal interpretation of the menu, the Quelle of any BBQ joint. We'd be curious to hear other seekers' opinions.

But it doesn't really matter; to borrow a phrase, for many, Smoky Jon's is food that's "psychologically true." In matters of BBQ, as so often in life, being loving is more important than being right.


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I have nothing to add. This place is superb.

I'm all to willing to make the 20 minute drive from west to east side to get this BBQ. Way better than porky pine petes, which is now closed anyway.

My first trip to Smoky Jon's was only a couple weeks ago (I know!). I'll certainly be back, but I have to admit that I didn't have the Paul on the road to Damascus, Constantine's floating sword kind of experience that seemingly everyone else attributes to this place.

The ribs were so wet, and the pulled pork shoulder was surprisingly dry. I know it's a preference thing, and not a statement on quality, but from the completely non-crusty ribs to the chunks in the sauce, I was unconvinced.

But with Pete's being gone--easily my favorite barbecue in town--I'll have to turn northwards once again and see if the spirit consumes me on the second try.

The brisket is so good, so meltingly tender, smokey and unctuous, that I shall from henceforth ask for the sauce on the side.

I wish I'd gotten the chance to try Pete's, but Smoky Jon's makes the general wasteland of Waunakee dining seem tolerable, by proximity.

@Kyle - the chunky sauce is one of my favorite things about Smoky Jon's, but I'm more coming to realize that the meat doesn't (always) need it. We eat there quite a bit (3-4 times a year, I suppose, maybe more), and there are certainly off-nights, when one dish or another is drier than it should be.

To me, the brisket outshines the ribs, so I've always been surprised that the ribs are more prominent. Perhaps this is one of those times where the competition version differs from the day-in-day-out version. That said, I've seldom not ordered them...

I think the smoked turkey is also incredibly good, and overlooked.

Porky Pine Pete's isn't closed, it relocated. It's now in the strip mall adjacent to Pedro's West. http://porkypinepete.com/

My bad, just saw the updates about PPP. Love love love Smokey Jon's though.

For me, this is one of the best restaurants in Madison. I mean they've won the national bbq contest like 5 times and no one even knows they're there. So they get Timmy points just for being a 'find'. But truly they have spectacular bbq.

I agree with Kovalic, they probably have the best brisket I've ever had anywhere. Phenomenal. I've had ribs perhaps a dozen times, and two or three of the times they were a little too fatty, even though the ribs tasted strongly of slow smoke. That said, the other times the ribs have been (again) amongst the best I've had anywhere.

Their baked beans are just a can of bushes, I hate to report. I saw them making a batch a few visits ago and it was just some sauce and a namesake can poured into a vat (put in yesterday's leftover pork shoulder!). But they absolutely excel with corn, mashed potatoes, and french fries, which may be my favorite french fries in town outside of Sardine and Brasserie V. Not a fan of eating in-restaurant, but they have a robust take-out clientele, so it's a great place to do pick-up.

let us all bow our heads for Purlie's Cafe South, home of Madison's Best Ribs (oh so long ago). But SJ are ok, although I think their portions tend to run small.

Add me to the list of folks who live far west Madison and will drive all the way east for this BBQ! I have tried west side BBQ establishments and no other compares to Smoky Jons!

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