Dining Reviews

Sid’s is Smokin’

diningThe inventive team behind Sid’s Smokehouse gets a (delicious) GT grilling

Barbecue is an all-time popular food—think Fourth of July, family get-togethers, casual corporate events, back-yard birthday celebrations—and most people love a tasty piece of meat. Sid’s cooks up all the favorite meats—pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, burgers and turkey—and has just added salmon to the menu as well. Fixin’s include Sid’s Slaw, Smokehouse beans, Smokehouse greens, garlic fries, garlic mashed, beer-battered onion rings, and sweet potato fries.

Some of the heartier appetizers could constitute a little mini meal, especially the Four Smokehouse Sliders—a plate of pork, brisket or chicken served with barbecue sauce and slaw on four slider rolls; or popcorn shrimp with sweet chili or spicy Thai sauce.

Those with hearty appetites might go for the Ultimate BBQ Burger, where $15.99 buys you two half-pound beef patties served up with melted cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce—all topped with an onion ring. And Sid’s wood-fired pizza, using 100 percent wood and nothing else, is some of the best around. 

Owner John Siddall says “it’s pretty unusual” how he came to be running Sid’s. The initial plan of a restaurant partnership ended up with John as sole owner, so he named his restaurant Sid’s as it’s a family nickname. Even his late grandmother was called Grandmother Sid [for Siddall].

“I originally wanted to do more of a bar than a restaurant, but this came up for sale,” Siddall says. The old company that I bought out [SmoQe BBQ] had more of an order counter, but then I built a bar as a place to hang out. We have Happy Hour seven days a week and all day Tuesdays, so people just come in for a beer or a glass of wine.”

Originally from Portland, Ore., Siddall is a trained electrical engineer and worked in Silicon Valley, but moved to Tahoe and semi-retired. When the restaurant came up for sale he says “This sounded like a fun investment, instead of buying stock,” he laughs. “I’m learning a lot. It’s my first restaurant, but everybody’s a great help.”

Anthony Hughes, 27, is head chef and says he’s extremely happy at Sid’s. “I got on board from day one as a line cook, but got quickly promoted to head chef,” he says. His background includes “working in kitchens doing all kinds of jobs” since the age of 12. He then did three-and- a-half years of culinary school, got some experience under his belt and ran two Round Table Pizza restaurants for six years. Married with a six-year-old son, Hughes is a native of this area but recently moved back here from Tuolumne County a year and a half ago and now lives in Santa Cruz.

“This is what I wanted to do—run a kitchen, Hughes says. “I like the place to run smoothly. I don’t like a divide between the front and the back, so that we’re all close, tight-knit people and one big happy family. When I bring in new people, I want them to get along with everybody. It’s a stressful business, but I go home happy every day.”

 Sid’s uses only high-grade meat and poultry. Beef brisket and 100-percent Black Angus choice meat comes from Harris Ranch, chicken from Smart Chicken is 100-percent certified organic, and pork from Midwest Kansas is the best quality.

“We smoke our pork for 12 to 15 hours until the meat just falls of the bone,” says Hughes. “Then the fat just melts like butter and the meat just falls apart. Hughes says he makes great ribs, too. “People come here for my ribs,” he says with pride. They soak in brine overnight and then they’re smoked with a dry rub.

“I’m not in this to be a celebrity chef,” Hughes laughs, “but I do enjoy seeing people’s reaction to my food, and it’s worth the hard work when people really enjoy it. I went to culinary school to train to be a five-star chef, but when I found this place, it all came together. We all care about putting quality food out. People come back three and four times a week—so obviously we’re doing something right.” 

Sid’s Smokehouse, 10110 Soquel Drive (on the frontage road between Rio Del Mar and Freedom boulevards), Aptos, 662-2227. Sidssmokehouse.com. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.—or later.

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