A little place called Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs quietly opened on West Colonial Drive about four months ago. It’s in the same spot that held Italian Beefstro, which quietly closed some time before that.
SSF&R is a neat and tidy place. Guests order their food at the counter and then have a seat at one of the (not very comfy) booths in the compact dining area or at a picnic table outside.
Because of the restaurant’s name, I chose the combo platter that would get me both ribs and fish. For the fish, I had my choice of catfish, tilapia or smelt, and because you don’t often see smelt on a menu, I went with that.
The small slab of ribs wasn’t thick, but it had enough meat and it was sufficiently tender and had a good and crusty outside. The serving of smelt would qualify as a school, albeit a breaded and deep-fried school. A container of tartar sauce accompanied, but each time I tried to dip one of the small smelt into the sauce, its breading and some of the meat would come off, exposing the zipper-like skeleton. That’s OK, they were tasty anyway.
The side dishes were a bit mundane, however. The baked beans might have been acceptable if they hadn’t been cold. Not tepid, cold. The dirty rice could have been dirtier, but the okra and tomatoes with black-eyed peas were just fine.
The woman who took my order was polite and smiling, and so was the young man who delivered my food to my table.
The place is surprisingly upscale for a barbecue joint, at least on the ordering side of the room, with brightly lighted menu boards and a granite ordering counter. But make no mistake, this is just a comfortable little place for fish and ribs.
Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs is at 705 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. (As of Tuesday morning, the website was still under construction.) The phone number is 407-745-4538.