Smoqehouse's brisket burger.

Before it closed last year, The Oaks Open Pit B-B-Q had been a South Trail source for pulled pork and smoked chicken and ribs for more than four decades. The space is now home to a newish barbecue purveyor that specializes in tasty, creative beef, pork and chicken sandwiches: Smoqehouse.

The first Smoqehouse was opened by Andrew and Heidi Kubes in Minnesota in 2016; the restaurant expanded to Bradenton Beach in 2017 and then to the old Oaks spot earlier this year. The restaurant has been totally made over, with a severe but dapper black and white color scheme and dangling farmhouse lights.

Images of the restaurant's eye-catching sandwiches kept appearing in my Facebook feed, but I was negligent in checking out the new restaurant before the COVID-19 pandemic settled in. Both Florida locations are currently seating people indoors, as well as offering takeout through an online ordering system, plus delivery through Bite Squad. On one recent afternoon, a lone diner was eating at a table, while a handful of customers popped in and out to grab takeout.

The menu is simple—just a handful of sandwiches and sides like fries, potato chips and salads. The sandwich selection includes everything from a burger made with ground brisket ($8) to a classic Cuban ($8), pulled pork ($8) and even a vegetarian option made with smoked squash, red peppers and goat cheese ($7).

The burger is a diner-style classic, with a thin patty that's seared until it's crispy on the outside and dressed with smoked cheddar, caramelized onions and a tangy house condiment called "Smoq'n sauce." The Korean beef sandwich ($8), meanwhile, features thin strips of smoked meat topped with a crunchy, ginger-flavored slaw. A side order of French fries ($3-$5) that you can dip in more Smoq'n sauce is a must. Freshly fried chips ($3 or $5 "loaded") are good, but not as tasty as those fries.

The Bradenton Beach Smoqehouse is located at 1701 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach. The Sarasota Smoqehouse is located at 6112 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Both restaurants are open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. To reach the Bradenton Beach location, call (941) 242-5340. To reach the Sarasota location, call (941) 923-9090. For more info, visit the Smoqehouse website.

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