Meat And Greet: The Grand Opening Of Smoke

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Check out more photos from the party here in our slideshow.

Best line overheard (well, shouted to our face) at the Smoke grand opening Friday night: "Who cares about resurrecting Deep Ellum when we've got this?!"

The gushing party-goer was referring to the booming Oak Cliff renaissance, of course. Granted, a great big free shindig at a buzz-worthy new restaurant isn't exactly an illustration of solid neighborhood revitalization, but we had to admit he was on to something.

Formerly the Cliff Café, Smoke is the result of a quick turnaround headed by chef and co-owner Tim Byres as well as Chris Zielke and Christopher and Jessica Jeffers of OC darling Bolsa. The concept is simple: smoked, barbecued and grilled comfort food inspired by the American South.

Rumors circling at the debut party had the RSVP list numbering in the high hundreds and the energy that night was amazing, despite intermittent but insistent bursts of rain. We arrived around 7 to an already bustling house, and by 8 folks were lined up outside the front door and the throng at the bar was three deep. But this was no ordinary crowd.

First of all, since when does a party in Dallas get underway on time? Second, it looked more like a family reunion than a Fickle 500 prowling ground. We spied grandparents and babies, affluent young couples and singles in T's and jeans. Punk pixies with horn-rimmed glasses mingled with gorgeous husband-hunters and media-types on the prowl for Monday's story (guilty). In short, it was what you'd find on a busy night in Bishop Arts around the corner--like a block party, only cooler.

That's the feeling throughout the OC these days, and despite the old cliché, we do like a club that'll have us for a member. Let's be honest--Deep Ellum was never what you'd call 'inclusive'. Guess that's what our friend was getting at.

But what about the food? Good question. It sure smelled great, but every time a plate of ribs emerged from the kitchen, the crowd attacked it like Tyrannosauruses on a goat. Never did manage to snag a bite. It was also hard to judge the restaurant's décor, as the space had been cleared for the event.

The overall effect, however, with rain pouring outside and a (faux) fire burning in the hearth, was warm and inviting. We made our way out early (no shame in that in the OC) past a large animal crackling on the grill outside the front door.

Can't wait to return and order a plate of meat just for ourselves. In the meantime, we like what they've done with the place.

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