Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where There's Smoke, There's an Epiphany

How often have you come to love something, only for it to suddenly not be around anymore? 

This has happened to everyone at some point, whether it be as simple as losing your favorite toy, or as heartbreaking as the loss of a loved one.

Too often, also, have businesses closed suddenly, especially with the unstable state of the economy.

During my visit to Smoke in Homestead, I was blown away by how delicious the food was; however, I was overcome with the feeling of “I hope this place actually stays open”.

Smoke is located on 8th Ave., two blocks up from The Waterfront, which is bustling with chain restaurants such as Eat ‘N Park, PF Chang’s, TGI Friday’s, and UNO.  Personally, I know that if I’m looking to go out to eat, that is the first place that I think to go.  Given the history of 8th Ave., I would never think to eat at an establishment on that road.  Parking is mostly metered and on-street, and my parallel parking skills are…well, almost non-existent, given that I didn’t even have to parallel park for my driving test back in the day.

After reading China Millman’s Post-Gazette article, however, I had to try the place out.  I had passed it so many times, and I was feeling especially adventurous on the morning of June 24, 2011.

After an unsuccessful fishing trip to Duck Hollow that morning, where I lost 4 hooks within an hour due to the incredible amount of branches and debris in the Monongahela River (and a complete lack of fishing skills), I needed a pick-me-up.  I went to Old Navy and bought some clothes, and on the way home, I decided to stop at Smoke.

I was afraid that they would not be open yet, since it was only 10:50 in the morning, but upon my first trip around the block of 8th Ave., Ann St., 7th Ave., and Amity St., I saw that the door was wide open and a large “OPEN” sign was in the window.  On my second lap, I parked in a very wide-open metered space (not many parallel parking skills required).

I was overcome by the smoky smell inside the restaurant – it reminded me of the smoky corn tortilla smells in Mexico.  The woman working inside was very friendly and offered me a paper menu from the counter.  I perused it carefully – the first side was entirely breakfast, and the other was tacos and sides.  I was also elated to see that they make their own tortillas and use all-natural ingredients.  After careful deliberation, I settled on the veggie taco, brisket taco, and an agua fresca, which that day was watermelon and mango flavored.

I had a seat at a patio table to wait for my food.  Two older gentlemen were sitting at the other table (not a lot of seating here) and acknowledged me with a nod and a “hello”.  I said hello back and occupied my time with my iPhone, sipping my delicious agua fresca and telling myself, “Slow down, or you’ll have nothing to drink with your tacos.”  It was so tasty, though, that I could have had it gone instantaneously.

My tacos came out wrapped in foil, and I opened both immediately.  I tried the veggie taco first and loved the flavor, mostly because of the cilantro – I love cilantro, and anything with cilantro in it, I will devour.  The brisket taco was also delicious, but I preferred the veggie taco, mainly because of the cilantro flavor. 

After an intelligent conversation with one of the older gentlemen about the tenderness of the brisket and asking the woman at the counter if they take call-in orders (they do!), I left the restaurant with a smile on my face – and the thought of, “I really, REALLY hope this place stays in business.”

My next thought – “What can I do to help keep this place stay in business?”

I had the idea of taking pictures of the menu and posting them on Facebook, ranting and raving about how delicious the place was – so I did.  I got lots of comments on the pictures, and I had no problem commenting back on how great the place was and how everyone needed to try it, in lieu of automatically thinking of places in The Waterfront for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Many of my friends said that they were going to try it, and some had even said that they already had, and loved it.

Then – after the wheels in my head turned, spun, and careened out of control some more – The Epiphany…

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