#MeatPorn-Worthy Smoked Meats and KC BBQ at The Smokehouse

By Sophie Steiner, June 11, 2021

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The Place 

It’s The Camel. You all know it. Blacking out at The Camel while watching (fill in the blank) sports match, during quiz night or just on a random Tuesday afternoon is pretty much a Shanghai expat rite of passage. It’s one of the longest standing sports bars and foreigner hangouts in the city – if this is the first you are hearing of it, we’re going to assume it’s because you just got cochlear implants today, so this is the first you are hearing of absolutely anything. 

Image courtesy of Matty Waters

Last year, due to landlord BS (we all know the drill), The Camel was forced to relocate to an arguably better location on the corner of Xiangyang Lu and Changle Lu. After being open for almost a year, Camel Hospitality opted for a massive menu revamp, teaming up with Matty Waters, owner and founder of Smoke KCQ, to launch The Smokehouse

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Surprise, it’s a lot of meats. All the meats. Meat for days. #meatporn. It’s regional agnostic American ‘slow and low’ BBQ (with a strong emphasis on Kansas City, Matty’s hometown) with all the grease-dripping, heart-clogging, finger-lickin’ good fixings that are best enjoyed in Daisy Duke cutoffs or overalls, shotgun in hand. 

The Food 

Matty’s first move at The Camel was to install vertical six-rack smokers – laden with aromatic Apple Wood. This is where the magic happens, and this is what the first page of the menu is all about – secret recipe dry-rubbed, no frills smoked meats done right, clearly impressing even the most casual ‘cue eater.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Smokehouse Platter (RMB388) – a feast meant to feed 3-4 people – includes pork spare ribs, sliced beef brisket, two smoked pork spiral sausages, pulled pork, brioche buns, and four sides – selecting from coleslaw, the best damn onion rings in Shanghai, fries, fried pickles that should win every award that involves pickles everywhere, barbecued baked beans, mac & cheese, roasted corn on the cob, smoked portobello mushrooms with bourbon butter onions and collard greens with house-cured smoked ham. 

It’s a lot of grub chocking up a lot of value. All of the meats are dry-rubbed first with a recipe created and only known by Matty himself, then slathered in an equally secret complimentary BBQ sauce, for the ideal balance of sweet and heat. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The USDA pork spare ribs are KC cut – from the ends of the rack – not the more commonplace St. Louis cut – from the middle of the rack – that you’ll find around town. These dinosaur bones sport meat that just slides right off the bone in one fell swoop, yet is still meat, not mush. 

The ribs are painted with a lick of apple cider vinegar-forward BBQ sauce before being charred again on the grill to intensify the flavor and crisp up the outer flesh. A touch of heat from chili and cayenne catches in the back of your throat in a satisfyingly spicy way. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The brisket is fatty and imbued with smoky flavor, the sausages have that signature snap and the saucy pulled pork is tangy, tender and textbook exceptional. We added a serving of Burnt Ends (RMB58/100g), only available on weekends, but every fatty morsel of that ultra-smoked brisket ends is worth reworking weekend plans for. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Smash Burgers and Barbecue Buns are where it’s at, with every combination of smoked meats, cheese and toppings imaginable, coupled with coleslaw and fries. The Morning Smash (RMB78) is a hangover curing mound of a flattop griddled patty piled high with grilled onions, a shatteringly crisp hash brown fried in beef tallow, a runny fried egg, pickles, ketchup and mustard on a toasted Kaiser bun. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An homage to the KC BBQ classic, the Burnt Ends (RMB98) act as a topping on another single patty smash burger, tucked into a foamy mattress of brioche bun and smothered in a copious drizzle of thick, sweet BBQ sauce. Addicting candied jalapeños add a piquant contrast to the fat-dripping meat.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Classic Combo (RMB98) is a play on one of Matty’s guilty pleasures; a stacked sando layered with thick chunks of smoked brisket, sweet and smoky ham, housemade pickles, bourbon butter onions and more of that KCQ BBQ sauce on a Kaiser roll. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

On the poultry side of things, the Smoked Fried Chicken (RMB78) is slow smoked, battered, then deep fried – sealing in all of the juices to be unleashed with every crunch-filled bite. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A trifecta of fried wonton-esque spring rolls with various fillings in the form of the The Roll on Up (RMB68) comes in flavors including mac & cheese plus brisket, cheeseburger or chicken, ham and cheese. You can also order three rolls of the same flavor for the same price. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Loaded Fries (RMB58-78) are a flavor-bomb of a side, topped with your choice of meat – smoked chicken, pulled pork or chopped brisket – barbecue baked beans, cheese sauce, pickled onions, candied jalapeños, barbecue sauce, house ranch and scallions. Probably best to share these with friends unless your evening plans include laying on your couch with a food baby, a heart attack, diabetes or all of the above. 

Other loaded options topped with BBQ meats include the Hot Mess (RMB58-78) – a heart-stopping combination of mac & cheese, baked beans and your choice of meat – a gluttonous amalgamation of everything BBQ goodness in this world. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Dessert sees some rotating American south specials. Think Peach Cobbler and Skillet Apple Crisp, with more in the works. Brunch is also underway and Matty let us in on a little secret – he’s playing around with an American Southern butter biscuit recipe that sounds like it’s just waiting to be smothered in gravy. (Hint to all the Brits, this ain’t no biscuit cookie like you’re thinking, this is a densely layered, yet light and buttery doughball with crisp edges and a soft, spongy interior. ’Merica!) 

The Vibe 

The Camel is living up to its full potential. This beloved spot will always bring in the crowds, but now there’s damn good food to crush while you come to rep your favorite team. The love for BBQ is evident and sincere, making a meal at The Camel less of an afterthought and more the reason to go there.

While the lively atmosphere will always remain, now it’s just heightened to a new level by a hint of grill smoke and the lingering aroma of roasting meats. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Price: RMB90-200
Who’s going: BBQ connoisseurs, The Camel sports fanatics, meat addicts, #grilling followers, 
Good for: ODing on meat, wearing sweatpants in public as a result of a food baby, satisfying meat cravings

See a listing for The Smokehouse x The Camel. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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