Smokin’ Oak heats things up in downtown Vancouver

Owners say their recipes are what makes them stand apart, in addition to restaurant experience

The Smokin' Oak
Everything on the menu at Smokin’ Oak includes items that are made-from-scratch fresh each day, including brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, smoked sausage and more. Courtesy of Brooke Strickland

Texas meets Vancouver at Smokin’ Oak, and the result is a culinary combustion that can’t be beat.

The downtown Vancouver barbecue restaurant opened in November 2017 and the menu is drawing people from all over Clark County. Erick Gill, co-owner of the restaurant, shares that he and his partners, Kimba Gill and Bryan Rogers, had a long-time dream to open this business.

“While this business has been a dream on the back burner for about 15 years, we found ourselves at a place in our professional lives where we couldn’t go much further without branching out on our own,” Gill said. “We figured we were still young enough to take a shot and recover from a miss, and old enough now to actually have a chance at doing this thing right.”

Smokin Oak exterior
Courtesy of Brooke Strickland

Today, Smokin’ Oak employs 41 people and after initially selling out nightly, they couldn’t cook enough food to support the service. They have worked hard to get the restaurant to where it is now, and they recently expanded to include lunch service. Everything on the menu includes items that are made-from-scratch fresh each day, including brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, smoked sausage and much more. The recipes and techniques come from Rogers’ family that date back to central and east Texas for nearly four generations. No charcoal, gas or electric assistance is used to craft their menu items.

“We don’t serve yesterday’s smoke,” Gill said. “We cook outside on two custom offset barrel cookers that we designed and built ourselves. That allows us to create clean smoke from burning wood as opposed to smoldering wood. When the wood is combusting fully, the smoke produced carries much less soot. This results in a light, clean smoke profile rather than an acrid, sometimes sour, flavor associated with pellet and gas fired smokers. So, basically we take painstaking measures to create the best possible barbecue that we can.”

Gill goes on to share that though they haven’t invented anything new in the world of barbecue, their recipes are what makes them stand apart, in addition to the ownership team’s more than 50 years of cumulative restaurant experience. He explains that it was important for them to create a space that they wanted to hang out in.

“It’s the food we like, the drinks we like, the music we like, the atmosphere we like … all put together with hopes that other people might like it as well,” he said.

The future looks promising for Smokin’ Oak, and Gill explains that they’re now starting to put an emphasis on a catering program. They’re also working on developing some daily special items and hope to roll those out by summertime.

“We love Vancouver, we love living here and we love eating here,” Gill said. “We believe that we have fit into a niche downtown that wasn’t filled before, and we are extremely proud to be a part of building Vancouver’s food scene and giving people more quality options without needing to head south across the bridge.”

Smokin’ Oak is located at 501 Columbia St., in Vancouver.

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