Smokey pipeline

From the specialty styles of South Carolina and Alabama to Kansas City and beyond, you can have barbecue every which way in this town. With the arrival of Smokey Bones BBQ across from Fashion Square, there's another option: Rocky Mountain-style.

The restaurant's origins go back to the late '60s, when the founder built a smoker out of an old section of the Rocky Mountain pipeline. As legend has it, the makeshift cooker produced the best barbecue anyone had ever tasted.

But we found that the menu is less inspired by the Rockies than is the atmosphere: Smokey's looks like a cross between a sports bar and a mountain lodge, with rugged wood furniture and stacked slate walls. Televisions are positioned around the bar, always tuned into a game. In general, the barbecue is the same as what you could find at Sonny's or Fat Boy's. But in some cases, it's better. One thing is certain, this is a great place to get a lot of food for not much money. Barbecue sandwiches start at $4.59, and that includes a mess of fries.

The trick is careful selection. Some items range from generic ("crunchy chicken fingers") to scary ("BBQ chicken pizza toast"). Our cup of beef and bean chili ($1.99) was a good choice. Loaded with tender cubes of beef, it had a rich, aromatic, spicy broth that wasn't the least bit greasy. Try spooning it over a plate full of spicy cheese fries ($2.99) that are already smothered with melted cheddar cheese dotted with pieces of jalapeño peppers.

Even in the higher price ranges, there are good deals. The "50/50" combo ($13.99) made our mouths water: A half rack of baby back ribs were smoked until the meat could barely hang onto the bone. They were teamed up with a slab of meaty spare ribs which were delicately charred on the outside.

Another good choice would be the combo platter which comes with lean cuts of sliced pork and beef that are plenty tender, and a link of flavorful smoked sausage ($9.99).

The only thing that disappointed us was the garlic toast. It was dry and withered, having spent too much time under the broiler. Everything else was up to par, including a creamy slaw and beans that were so thick we ate them with a fork.

The fresh-baked apple cobbler a la mode was an impressive hunk of dessert, so hot and bubbly we had to let it sit for a few minutes. But it tasted like something reclaimed from a deep freeze ($2.79).

Smokey's appeared to be overstaffed, which was a good thing. Open for only a couple of weeks, Smokey Bones is up to a 90-minute wait for tables on Saturday nights. But with plenty of friendly, efficient staff to look after us, we were in and out in less than an hour.

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