Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Review by Dustin Heller (follow him on Instagram: @eatindywatchindie)
Now that the weather has finally warmed up and we’re just a few weeks from the official start of summer, I figure it’s time for some good ol’ barbecue. Indianapolis definitely isn’t known for its BBQ, but that doesn’t mean Hoosiers don’t love it. There was a gaping hole for a legit BBQ joint in downtown Indy–until now. Sugarfire Smoke House comes to Indy via St. Louis along with all of their award-winning barbecue. Located at 24 W. Washington St., they are nestled between Rock Bottom and The Capital Grille in the Mile Square of downtown.
Chef Mike Johnson traded in his fine-dining apron to become a pitmaster when he opened the first Sugarfire in St. Louis. Once an understudy to both Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter, Chef Mike has opened a number of conceptually different restaurants in the St. Louis area, but seemed to really find his footing in barbecue. So much so that Sugarfire was named Best Barbecue by the Travel Channel, St. Louis Magazine and Feast Magazine. Along with that, Chef Mike has also been featured on a number of television shows such as Pitmasters, Beat Bobby Flay, and Burgers, Brew, and Que. This guy is legit!
Sugarfire has incorporated the best barbecue stylings from all over the United States to create a St. Louis-style barbecue that is entirely unique. Their menu has all of the barbecue staples like pulled pork, brisket, and baby back ribs; but they also have some not-so-typical offerings like salmon, smoked duck, and a Hoosier special fried pork sandwich. They are also known for their creative and borderline insane sandwich creations that step way outside the box at times.
Who says crazy can’t be delicious? When I think of barbecue, the first thing that comes to mind is meat, but not far behind are the accompanying sides. Sugarfire has four permanent sides on the menu and eight additional sides that change daily; you never know what you’re going to get. Now that you know what Sugarfire is all about, let me give you my four “can’t miss” items:
Jalapeño-Cheddar Sausage Link: I’m a carnivore almost to a fault, so choosing which meat option to order is always a daunting task. I’m not going to sit here and say that one meat is necessarily better than the other, but this sausage is the best meat on the menu. All the meat choices are excellent (more on that below), but the jalapeño-cheddar sets itself apart. I guess it’s kind of like choosing your favorite Tarantino film: you can’t go wrong with any of them, but we all have our favorite (easily Pulp Fiction!). The house recipe sausage is made in-house with jalapeños and cheddar cheese being mixed directly into the links. They say the heat kind of sneaks up on you. In my case, I welcome it with open arms.
Big Muddy: I’m not exactly sure of the origin of the name, but I might guess it comes from how messy you get when trying to take down this behemoth. This sandwich isn’t for the faint of heart. They start with a toasted bun and pile it high with brisket and smoked sausage–and by high, I mean like a half a foot. Then they top it with lettuce and pickles and smother it in BBQ and horseradish sauce to complete this tour de force. Your mission is to take it down without having to run to the restroom to wash up. Good luck!
Burger: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well I say a food pic is worth a thousand mouth-waterings. Actually, I don’t say that and I’m not entirely sure it even makes sense, but just have a look at the pic of the burger below and tell me your mouth isn’t watering. Maybe it’s just me, but I can almost taste it just from the pic alone. Anyway, Sugarfire’s burger menu is simple: you either get a single or a double. Point me in the direction of the double line, please. The burger itself is an exclusive blend of chuck, brisket and boneless short rib all coming from grass-fed beef. They make the patties by hand and then sear them on the griddle. Pro tip: adding bacon is almost a no-brainer.
Brisket: I promised I’d touch on another meat above, but don’t think the brisket is just an afterthought. Nobody puts brisket in the corner! If brisket is done right, it is the king of the barbecued meats, it’s just not the easiest meat to perfect. The brisket comes from the superficial and deep pectoral muscles of the cow that can be very tough if cooked improperly. Let me just say that Sugarfire knows how to smoke some brisket! Their brisket has a rich, smoky flavor and is incredibly tender–like melt-in-your-mouth tender. Feel free to eat it as is, or use it as a means to try out Sugarfire’s specialty sauces.
Root Beer BBQ Sauce…Speaking of specialty sauces, make sure to ask about the Root Beer sauce. It’s not readily available on all the tables, but it’s worth seeking out. You’re welcome!