The food here — at the Plano location on our most recent visit — goes for a balance between nostalgia and new, respecting the old guard of Texan cuisine while keeping an eye turned toward the trendy culinary world with its pork jowls, arugula and foie gras. Smoke’s ethos is owed to chef and owner Tim Byres. Byres won a James Beard award for his cookbook (which shares its namesake with Smoke), but a recent brunch experience proved less than award-worthy.
If anything, an order of biscuits and spicy sausage gravy ($9.95) might merit a James Weird award. In theory, gravy provides excellent cover for an imperfect biscuit. Just think of the many dishes that utilize some type of sauce to revitalize starches that have seen better days: strata, panzanella, chilaquiles, etc. But Smoke’s poor gravy — or should we say gravies — did little to invigorate the crumbly, dry biscuits. The first gravy was a traditional white, all richness and velvety goodness, while the second consisted of a burnt orange slurry that tasted of barbecue sauce. Any redemption that could have been found by the former was halted by the latter’s sweet and tangy assault.
A side order of the cheddar and bacon hominy casserole ($4.95) did its part to redeem its brethren dishes. Here the hominy were turned into a gooey, cheesy mash the consistency of grits. Spiked with flavors of pimento and bits of bacon before being topped with more cheese, this little addendum had comforting flavor for days.
Smoke, 901 Fort Worth Ave. and 2408 Preston Road, Plano. Brunch is served 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Plano location and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Dallas location.