Snuggled in a small Cortez Road strip mall between a sun-bleached beach gear shop and an ice cream parlor, Sea Smoke is easy to locate: Just follow the scent. The smell of burning wood hits you in the parking lot and pulls you inside, where the glass cases are loaded with whole smoked fish, homemade bacon and sausages, hand-crafted head cheese, burger patties made out of brisket and a smattering of custom condiments.
It wasn't always this way. Before last winter, the space was a pizzeria. The owners switched to the current smoked-out concept last December and, in addition to its prepared items, started serving crackerjack lunch combos at prices that range from just $7 to $9. The menu shifts weekly, but the offerings typically center around sandwiches, tacos and burritos stuffed with meat that's been—yep—smoked.
Today's standout sando: the brisket bánh mì. Your usual pork 'n' pâté is replaced by beef from the shop's smoker. The meat comes topped with pickled carrot and daikon, branches of cilantro, jalapeño rounds and a drizzle of mayonnaise whipped with Sriracha. The brisket isn't as buttery as true masterpieces of the cut, but it's well-seasoned and smoke-forward, with deeply developed flavors set off by the package's crunchy and fresh ingedients. Smoked chicken tacos follow a similar pattern, with the smoldered meat accented with a spicy red chili sauce.
The sides? Mostly splendid. Lightly pickled cucumber coins brighten up the platters; the cheese grits are thick enough to keep your utensil vertical. The cabbage slaw is a bit bland; the macaroni and cheese is solid.
The smoke doesn't just draw you in. It also follows you home. Packages of Sea Smoke bacon and head cheese make for fantastic fridge-fillers. The bacon is handed over un-sliced, which allows you to cut and cook yard-wide strips. A huge hunk of bacon? Not a bad way to start any day.