It was pretty packed when we got in - apparently this is a really hip place with lots of lively vibe. The large communal tables make for easy mingling, and there's even a stage for a live (banjo) band. It kinda reminds me of a rustic school cafeteria from the mid-west, where there are the "cool kids" table and the "nerds" table. Except at this place, you can basically eat whatever you want, and get your own water (or drinks) on the sidebar.
The drinks section was pretty neat - you can get fresh lemon water in mason jars. The drinks come in big pitchers that remind you of a neighborhood backyard party.
Basically there are only a couple of items on the menu, including pulled pork, BBQ ribs, brisket, smoked salmon, chicken, turkey breast, beef cheeks, etc. There also a couple of sides that you can also order, like biscuits, corn bread, corn salsa, and mac n cheese. Meat is by the pound, so you can order however much you like.
We got the short ribs and turkey, with sides of coleslaw, mac n cheese and corn bread. I liked the way they presented the food on a sheet of paper. It reminds of those eclectic Western smokehouses that's meant to look rustic, but in a refined way.
The ribs were really authentic tasting, like the original version of what BBQ ribs was meant to be. They don't marinate it beforehand (or at least not that much), so you can actually taste the meat. For flavor kicks, they provide extra BBQ sauce or mustard at the side, so you can add whatever you want. Only downside was the meat was a little too fatty.
The turkey was pretty lean, and well smoked at the sides. It was a bit too dry, but well seasoned. Our sides tasted probably better than the actual meat. The coleslaw was creamy and crunchy; the mac n cheese was the cheesiest we've ever tasted, and the corn bread actually tasted like corn (though it too was a bit too try).
I think the food was leaning towards the dry side, but hey, it's a Western cookout, what do you expect?
All and all, a neat neighborhood joint. Prices are not that steep - meat is about $7/portion, and sides are $3/portion. Probably better to come with friends because you can share the sides while enjoying the music and atmosphere.
The Strand Smokehouse
Astoria, NY 11106
(Good for parties)