Open since July, cheery barbecue oasis Central Smoke is a departure in concept for restaurateurs Sophie and Eric Banh (of Monsoon, Ba Bar and Central Smoke’s previous incarnation, Seven Beef). Fans of the siblings’ signature Vietnamese flavors—such as fermented black vinegar and aged fish sauce—will find dishes to love here, too, thanks to executive chef Mike Whisenhunt (formerly of Brimmer & Heeltap).
But the sleeper hit is the Texas-style barbecue, which goes shockingly well with the likes of fried rice, papaya salad and sweet-and-sour pickles. Order the smoked pork spareribs ($22 for half rack, $39 for full), rubbed with chili powder, cumin, cayenne and brown sugar, spritzed with apple cider and bourbon, and cooked for hours over a combo of mesquite and post oak woods. Each bite is caramelized and tender, pulling away from the bone without falling off it. Central District, 1305 E Jefferson St.; 206.328.7090