May 25, 2006
912 Lincoln Avenue
The Steamboat Smokehouse is open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant also offers takeout and delivery and is one of Steamboat Springs’ most popular caterers.
An abundant feast with several extended families gathered around a big table can be one of the most memorable parts of a ski vacation. However, busy ski town restaurants can’t always accommodate a table for 16.
Fritz Aurin of the Steamboat Smokehouse listened to his customers last winter, and by popular demand, family-style dining is back. Aurin has dedicated half of his restaurant, in its own separate room, to family-style dining for parties of eight or more. The family plan offers the same slow-cooked, hickory-smoked meats the restaurant is known for.
Whether you crave a slab of ribs or seek lighter fare, like smoked salmon, this is the place to bring your group. Manager Mark Green says that $16 for adults and $9 for children 12 and younger buys guests all of the succulent barbecue their tummies can tackle. Hungry kids will be dining almost as soon as their own little smoked butts hit the chair – the food server is on the way with a family-style salad and rolls as soon as your party is seated. Decision-making is ultra simple, and you never have to wonder if you’ll get to eat your fill – help yourself to all the comfort food you desire. Family-style dining parties choose three kinds of meat to share. The options include the famous pork ribs, smoked salmon, smoked chicken and sliced brisket. Parties choose two side dishes from among cole slaw, smoky baked beans, and mashed potatoes made from scratch. Younger children are still welcome to order from the children’s menu in family-style dining room. Drinks are extra, and guests are welcome to order appetizers and dessert if they find room.
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Aurin has established a reputation for serving genuine honest-to-goodness Texas-style hickory-smoked pit barbecue in Steamboat since opening the Smokehouse at 912 Lincoln Ave. in 1991 (don’t tell anyone, but the hickory is delivered from a secret woodlot in Oklahoma).
You can travel all the way to Fort Worth for barbecue if you want to, but it won’t be any more satisfying than the meal you’ll be served at the Steamboat Smokehouse. And the snow conditions in Fort Worth are marginal at best.
Aurin’s original dining room was an instant hit, serving the best ribs and side dishes in Ski Town USA. The Smokehouse has a casual atmosphere that can’t be replicated, thanks to its 107-year-old building. It has a rustic sandstone interior made of stones that were quarried just above historic Howelsen Hill.
While waiting for their meals and admiring the surroundings, guests are encouraged to dig into an unlimited galvanized steel bucket of peanuts in the shell.
The custom at the Smokehouse is to casually toss the peanut shells on the floor. The food servers don’t mind as long as a food fight doesn’t break out.
With the separate family-style dining room, when hungry groups show up at the door of the Smokehouse, the staff will be able to seat them with relative ease. And the whole process of feeding a crowd is being streamlined. Families can relax and act like families, while smaller adult parties can enjoy the relative calm of the original dining room.
Aurin’s pedigree in barbecue can be traced to childhood dining experiences at Angelo’s in Fort Worth. It was the kind of barbecue joint that had sawdust on the floor and a line out the door.
“You had to stand in line to get in there,” Aurin said. “That’s where I acquired the taste for ribs. They also served beef sausage and smoked ring bologna.”
Aurin has exported an abiding love for barbecue done right to Colorado. He smokes his meats on the premises and knows how to place different cuts at different levels in the big smoker to cook them to perfection at low heat.
“Our big sellers are ribs, sliced brisket and pulled pork,” Aurin said. “We use bone-in shoulders for the pork and cook it for 12 to 15 hours until you can just pull the meat apart.”
Aurin is compulsive about experimenting with southern comfort food. As you read this, he’s preparing a new smoked pork loin with a mango salsa entree. The crew is preparing a batch of sweet-potato fries seasoned with desert rub, and Aurin is fine-tuning a pulled pork sandwich with genuine collard greens. The lunch crowd can look forward to new gumbos and stews. And for a lighter meal, try the salmon Caesar or smoked chicken salads. If you’re counting carbs, order a plate of dinner meats, sans sandwich bun.
Large parties that prefer to enjoy the Smokehouse menu in the comfort of their condos can call for pickup or delivery of “family packs” at 879-7427 (TRY-RIBS). Old Steamboat hands know to call ahead from the airport. By the time they roll into Steamboat, the taxi driver can just pull up to the delivery entrance and the kitchen staff will hand over a hot dinner for weary travelers. Similar to family-style, the family packs are easy to order by choosing a few meats and sides for a turnkey meal. For example, a party of 10 can get a meal of four different smoked meats such as pork ribs, and four side dishes, including dinner salad, for $109.95.
Customers who enjoy the rustic ambience of the Smokehouse dining room, but have a different menu in mind, can arrange for outside catering through Aurin’s staff.