Dining review: FM Smoke House in Irving

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FM Smoke House

660 Walnut Ridge Drive




Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Saturday

Posted 10:36am on Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013

FM Smoke House, which opened in March in the old Bennigan’s space in Irving, comes from good stock: It’s the sibling of Holy Grail Pub in Plano, opened by husband-and-wife owners Brian and Christi Rudolph in 2009. Holy Grail was a pioneer in the craft beer scene with unusual brews and regular beer events. It has good food, too, of the pub variety, such as wurst plates and fish and chips.

FM Smoke House follows suit, but with a different menu. The Rudolphs call it rural comfort food, inspired by what you’d find at farm-to-market highways across Texas. There are smoked meat plates, burgers, chili, King Ranch casserole, chicken-fried steak and Frito pie — very meat-centric and stick-to-your-ribs. But they elevate it by making everything from scratch, from the coleslaw to the bread pudding dessert.

The Rudolphs were inspired to open a smokehouse after bringing homemade barbecue to special events at the Holy Grail and seeing an enthusiastic response. In addition to a sleek, pale wood decor with community tables and spacious booths, FM has an Ole Hickory smoker that uses gas and wood — here, pecan and mesquite — to cook the meat.

A plate with one meat and two sides is $13, and there’s lots of creativity. Each meat comes with a twist. Brisket, nice and tender, was “injected” with bacon fat. Sausage contained ground sirloin. Turkey was a standout: First smoked, then coated in crumbs and fried, it came with a flavorful brown gravy. Each meat had a different sauce. The brisket had spicy barbecue sauce; beer-can chicken, a “deep red” barbecue sauce; pulled pork, a sauce with mustard.

Sides were divine, especially the unusual warm salad combining beets and Brussels sprouts.

But the knockout on the menu was chicken-fried steak ($15), with mashed potatoes and rich, peppery cream gravy. The steak was a smoked prime rib, nearly an inch thick with a crust that clung to the steak so that every bite was an ideal pairing of crunchy coating and tender meat. The meat’s smoky flavor added tons of personality; watch out for the random chunk of soft fat. Potatoes were thick and substantial, with bits of bacon and skins still on.

Starters were good for sharing, such as four-cheese queso ($7) with house-made chips. No complimentary bread here; if you want it, it’s $8, and we don’t recommend it unless your party is large. A large metal colander lined with a dishtowel came filled with a trio of breads that included good, buttery biscuits; thick, unspectacular squares of doughy focaccia spiked with bacon; and cornmeal waffles — a cool idea, but a bit dry. For our table of two, it was too much bread.

Fried green tomatoes ($7.50) were a classic rendition of a Southern favorite. Six thick slices were sheathed in a crunchy hot crust and served with jalapeño aioli — and even the aioli is smoked here.

The only dish we didn’t love was the dessert, an airy bread pudding ($6.50) whose ice cream was made with Pecan Porter beer. We might’ve liked it better if the ice cream hadn’t melted into a pool of liquid, a tipoff that the dessert sat for a while, ignored. Service was a rough spot: no greeting at the door, no gap between appetizers and entrees, and no knowledge of the beer selection. But like the Holy Grail, FM Smoke House has a beer program that is worth knowing, with 42 good, unusual brews on tap, including many local beers. There’s nothing like it in this part of the Mid-Cities, and it’s worth the trip.

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