Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kloby's Smokehouse

Photography by Fitz
We have been to Kloby's Smokehouse on two occasions. The first time it was fantastic, and the second time it was less than fantastic. Ever the optimist, I'm going to assume the kitchen was just having an "off-day" that second time. Located in Laurel, Maryland, Kloby's promises "great comfort food with a casual environment at an affordable price". As far as I'm concerned, you just can't beat good BBQ. There's really nothing better. And Kloby's offers just about anything that I could ask for from a BBQ joint. They've got brisket, Carolina style pulled pork, ribs, smoked wings, BBQ chicken, and made-from-scratch sides like collard greens, mac & cheese, and baked beans. All the meats are slow roasted in a wood pit, and they make their own sauces as well (which are very good). The sides, compared to the typical BBQ establishment, are definitely in the B+ range. And if you're not quite hungry enough for a big old platter, the sandwich selection at Kloby's is pretty immense.

The environment at Kloby's is indeed casual. It's got a roadhouse meets sports bar type vibe to it, and the staff is friendly and welcoming. It can feel a little crowded given the space limitations versus the number of tables. But, you know, a crowded restaurant is usually a sign that the food is good! I'm a chili freak, and I like that Kloby's makes several versions of chili. I've had two types of chili there, and both times it was meaty, nicely spiced, and overall tremendous. Tami and I are big fans of the smoked whole chicken wings, which we tried on both of our visits. The first time we went, Tami had a pork belly, lettuce, and tomato sandwich off the special menu - and she thought it was completely fantastic. I had the brisket, which I found to be well above average. And brisket, when it's not done right, can be very dry and bland. My sides - collard greens and BBQ brisket beans - were really good too. Having been so impressed with our selections, we wanted to go back and try the baby back ribs. Unfortunately, our ribs were severely overcooked to the point of being charred. They were meaty, and the flavor was quite nice. But they were just too burnt for our tastes, and not quite as tender as they should have been.

Given the totality of our Kloby's experience, we'd still give the place good marks. From an atmosphere/dining experience point of view, it's hard to find much fault. And I don't think I've ever seen a better craft beer selection at a casual restaurant. The beer list is constantly changing, but it always features lots of high quality selections from the Baltimore/D.C./Virginia region. There are so many tremendous beers being produced in the Mid-Atlantic right now, and I think it's cool that Kloby's is showcasing them.

On to the FABS scale: 

Food- I feel bad docking points for the overcooked ribs, but that is kind of a dealbreaker.

Atmosphere- I wish the place were a little less cramped, but that's a minor complaint. 22/25

Beer- This place is a beer lover's dream. 25/25

Service- The only deduction here is that we've noticed that Kloby's may be a little understaffed. The servers really hustle, and the food comes out fast. But the servers are so overworked that we sometimes got "forgotten" after our food came. And a man should never have to wait ten minutes for a beer. 20/25

Overall: 86 (out of 100) 

I would like to go back again at some point and give the ribs another shot. It would please me to revise that food score. The chili and wings are so good....

And a word of advice: if you see the Carolina pig dip on the special menu, do note that it's an appetizer. If you order this item as your meal, as my dad did, you are bound to be disappointed. Who looks over a menu full of delectable slow roasted meats and decides to order a dip?


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Troegs Brewing Company

Photography by Fitz
While not a brew pub per se, the Troegs brewery in Hershey does now serve food. It's quite an amazing complex. Upon entering the brewery, you can shop at the general store, grab a beer at the Tasting Room bar, and purchase food at the snack bar. They have a large open area of tables where you can seat yourself. And afterwards, you can take yourself on a self guided tour of the brewery.

When you think "snack bar", gourmet food usually doesn't come to mind. But the food at Troegs is most definitely gourmet - and quite good! So even though there's no table service, you do get a brew pub type experience. The menu is constantly changing, and they offer specials that are indeed quite special. On our most recent visit, we started with the giant pretzel with barley and sea salt, hand cut fries with hop oil, and grilled pork belly. We didn't necessarily care for the hop oil on the fries (it was a little heavy handed, and it drenched the fries). But the pretzel was out of this world, and the pork belly was fatty and delicious. Can you ever go wrong with a big old soft pretzel?! I ordered from the special board and got a pork belly Reuben that was insanely good. Tami ordered chicken pot pie in a pan, which she liked very much. My parents joined us on this occasion, with my mom getting grilled cheese and tomato soup and my dad getting pork soft tacos. I don't think they were disappointed - although my dad wasn't particularly hungry since he'd just eaten breakfast an hour-and-a-half prior. We should have given him another 20 minutes.

Looking at the latest Troegs snack bar menu, I see lots of items that are new. They're currently serving such items as a maple glazed pork belly with poached egg and brioche crumbles, duck confit with dry rub lentils and orange marmalade, braised lamb shepherd's pie with peas and duck fat mashed potatoes, Mad Elf fondue, meatloaf on brioche, and an oyster po'boy. No, this is not the place to go for burgers, wings, or nachos. It's not traditional pub fare, and by no means is it cheap. I think Tami and I spent $42 on our share of the meal - not including beer. But to be honest, we'd pay just as much or more at almost any brew pub. The food is worth the price, and Troegs' beer is up there with Victory Brewing as the very best craft beer in the state. I had a pint of Troegenator - one of my favorite beers - for just $5. Sometimes they offer experimental "scratch" beers - which cannot be bought in stores. They're usually really good. And I always look forward to their seasonals. We'll need to go back this spring so I can have a Sunshine Pils on draught!

Let's go to the FABS scale:

Food - We deducted points for the soggy, heavily oiled fries. But still, quite good! 20/25

Atmosphere- Befitting an establishment so close to Hersheypark, the tasting room/snack bar is casual and family friendly. There's lots of room, a friendly vibe, and adequate parking outside. 22/25

Beer- Come on: it's Troegs! 25/25

Service- Bartenders are very attentive and know how to work a crowded bar. We didn't have to wait long for our food after ordering at the snack bar.  If you don't mind the lack of table service, it's a really neat experience. 21/25

Total: 88 (out of 100)