Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kloby's Smokehouse In (Sort-Of) Laurel 2011

Kloby's Smokehouse started as a replacement, and it is steadily transforming into a special place for beer and barbecue.

Kloby's opened about two years ago on the site of a shuttered BBQ joint on Johns Hopkins Road just off Rte 29. It started as takeout, and even the early days came with delicious pork and chicken sandwiches.

But the smoke has spread.  First, Kloby's added a seating area and a bar.  Then, they upgraded to a craft beer program with unique items on tap.  Now, it is expanding to add an ice cream parlor, a bar and a space for live music.

Kloby's stands out because of the smoke.  I have eaten much of the menu by now, and every plate comes with the flavor of the wood fire that they run every day in a hulking smoker in the kitchen.  That starts with strong BBQ staples like pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, then runs to some really unique smoked chicken wings.  Those come in a dozen varieties, but I have to recommend the "dirty" wings that are smoked and then quickly fried.

All the meats at Kloby's taste good enough to start without sauce.  But then you dip.  Right now, I ask for side containers of the spicy barbecue and honey-habenero sauces.  Habeneros are tricky to cook.  I once ruined an entire pot of soup because the habenero inadvertently disintegrated instead of being removed at the end.  Quarts and quarts of soup were inedibly hot.  But Kloby's plays successfully with fire, turning out a sauce that was beautifully spicy and sweet at the same time.

Smoked meat doesn't fall off the bone.  So expect ribs that are cooked through, but not soft.  The pork ribs come in a glazed sheet, cut almost-all-the-way so that you can pull them apart.  That's my style, although people who want soft ribs or standard wings should stay with the pulled pork.  At the same time, there have been days when the meat got a little dry -- pork that was chewy or wings that needed sauce-dunking for flavor.

But I'll take a few dry wings because I love that Kloby's stretches to make exceptional food.  Anyone could open an average BBQ place with reheated ribs and bottled sauce.  Kloby hassles with piles of wood, hours of smoking, and experiments with new sauces and dishes.  The beef ribs are a Flintstone plate of bones.  The side dishes -- like greens and beans -- are house-made, and my only complaint is that they're small.  (Try the "sliders" if you want to sample three sandwiches.)

They're adding craft beers, including beer geek items like firkins.  They're paying attention to food in a way that a publicist and a U Street address could ignite into a food writing frenzy.  If it were owned by an ex-lawyer, Kloby's could be grist for a strained trend story and a lesson about following your "true calling."

Unfortunately, I don't think Howard County spots are allowed to be more than really good restaurants.

(Update: Check out Chris C's comment below.  It's thoughtful and rooting for Kloby's.  He does have a point about the parking.  There are four big restaurants in that shopping center, along with four other places serving food.  The parking lot gets packed.  I know that from nights.  Chris says he skips eating at Kloby's because of the parking during weekdays.  I'm glad that everyone is successful, but I'd love to see the landlord try to fix the problem by working out some overflow parking (maybe after hours only) with one of the nearby buildings that have spaces.)

As I wrote in the original 2008 post, Kloby's offers a rainbow of meat -- BBQ chicken, pulled pork, brisket even turkey and hamburgers. The pork and chicken sandwiches are excellent. The chicken has a perfect charred exterior -- the taste of the grill, but no flavor of burning. Don't worry if your meat looks pink inside. That's a normal look for foods smoked over real wood. (True!)

For a view inside Kloby's smoker, check out this awesome photo on the HoCo360 blog.

Kloby's Smokehouse
7500 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: On Johns Hopkin Road just west of Rte 29. This is really the border of Columbia and Fulton. Kloby's is in a shopping center with a Subway, a liquor store and La Palapa Too just east of the JHU Applied Physics Lab.  That's actually touching Columbia and Fulton, closer to both than it is to Laurel.


K8teebug said...

I love the food here. I have been all over north and south carolina and this place rivals the best of them. Their wings are some of the best I've ever tasted. I cannot talk enough good things about Kloby's and I hope they get more attention!

Anthony said...

Kloby's wings are fantastic when you get them grilled and I think they make the best brisket in the area. Yry out their chili. They use the smoked meat to flavor the chili and they mix it up every now and then.

Kloby's is one of my go to choice when it comes to a night where I just don't want to cook. It also helps that I live 5 minutes away off of 216. I'm actually planning on taking the family there tomorrow night for dinner.

Tim said...

One of the best parts of the 29 commute home. If I know I'm going to miss a home cooked meal with a late day at the office - I am delighted to stop by their carry out! The slider sampler is a ton of food, and great. The turkey cheese steak was innovative and tasty... but the sirloin tri-tip sandwich is FANTASTIC! LOVE IT

Chris C said...

This is an odd restaurant. I find myself rooting for it but it lets me down quite often.

To begin with, parking anywhere in this plaza during working hours Monday through Friday is not someting I find myself wanting to do. I don't blame Kloby's for this though, it just makes me go "'s not really worth it today." They have no idea the amount of business they are losing over this. If I were you I would move locations. Fast. And also figure out what you want to be but I discuss that more below.

I have taken family to this restaurant and I was raving about the food in advance, and then have been seriously disappointed. From what I can tell, they have rather large employee turnover and they have no problem making a random 17 year old high school student the chief cook and bottle washer, and it's just a mixed bag on whether you are going to get an employee who actually knows how to prepare the food.

And then I'm confused about the whole layout and functioning of this place. Is it an icecream stand? Do I order my food at the counter and go sit down? (It used to be but I went in there a week or so back and I tried to do this and they told me, "We have wait staff now go and sit down and they will come to you.")

What's the counter for? I just go there if it's takeout? I feel sad about the bar. It's like they had some room so they threw up a bar. What the heck are they trying to be? Will they be selling gas soon? Slurpees? And why is it always so empty in the restaurant side when I go there? Granted I'm not going Friday at 7pm but why are you even open the rest of the time? Are you making money?

So I went and sat down in a largely empty restaurant on a weekend around noon and about 5 minutes later somebody came to wait on me. And then I did quite a lot of waiting to get an ice tea, and food, and then the check. Why couldn't I use the counter again?

What I like best about this restaurant is the holiday fare. Saint Pats day, New Years Day, Thanksgiving, etc. they always have a very special interesting menu. The rest of the time it's a pain in the ass to park, it's possible you will have a 17 year old cook, and they are now forcing you to sit down and be waited on for some reason?!!? So the high school person can get tips? I have no idea really.

I like this restaurant and I want them to succeed, but I feel like the catering thing is their bread and butter, and the restaurant is just a hobby. If I had any advice it would be:

1. New location. Move to columbia near the mall someplace or just anyplace that had parking that actually didn't piss all your customers off.

2. Hire professional cooks and don't let any high school kids run the show. EVER. I know you are gonna tell me you have professional cooks but there are clearly times where you just got some random dude from the street slinging meat.

3. Consider carrying the cool things from your holiday menu every day. I might fight the traffic just for them.

I'm sorry if this came off negative. I wish you luck and I'm rooting for you.

BeerGuy said...

I think many of those criticisms will be answered when the new expansion is revealed, the ergonomics will make more sense where its a bit more grab-bag of a design right now.

Patience, grasshoppers.

Anonymous said...

Good point about the lack of a eat at the counter option. I liked Urban BBQ near Olney more than Kloby's in part because it was simpler and quicker to order and pay at the counter all at one time. Eat your food and go. But now it's the old hokey-pokey "time to pay, can't find a waiter, finally get your bill, wait for them to process your payment, wait for the change/reciept" dance. Not worth the drive.

Chris C said...

"I think many of those criticisms will be answered when the new expansion is revealed."

This scares me quite a bit. Is this the gas/slurpee expansion? They appear to have been on a non stop expansion of random stuff since I started going there.

They need a plan. Not an expansion.

And step 1 of that plan should be to get the hell out of that horrible plaza.

BeerGuy said...

I don't think there will be a relocation from that plaza.

Maybe I'm wrong but the expansion should help the ergonomics of the place, I believe there will be a central bar and the dining area will make more sense at that point. There will still be an ice cream area but it won't be hemmed in by the narrow entranceway as currently built.

I can't speak for the chef/who's in the kitchen thing but owner Steve is pretty passionate about his BBQ and have to assume his hand guides everything coming out of the kitchen. I've spoken to him before about various food concepts and he's fairly meticulous about his ideas of BBQ and what he'll offer and I can't imagine he's just handing things off to a 17-year-old to screw things up.

My experience is maybe a little bit different, I've never sat down in the dining area, I always head to the bar and order food up there and have a beer or two and have zero problems with that process.

Biketraveller said...

We eat at Kloby's several times a quarter. The BBQ has always been excellent. Some of the other food hit and miss. I had a particularly greasy burger last time. Service usually pleasant and friendly but sometimes young an inexperienced (read inefficient). The strip center parking is busy, but if you park in first spot you find or at Day Care in the evening instead of circling it is way less annoying. After all that yummy BBQ walkind down the lot or across the street is probably a good thing.

Southern BBQ fanatic said...

The last time we went to Kloby's, we were disappointed. The meat was soaked in some sort vinegar sauce to keep it from drying out, I guess. Perhaps that was because it was mid-week.

Anonymous said...

My one visit to Kloby's was underwhelming. Decent food, but intolerably slow service for a joint with so few customers.
I had the brisket, which had substantially more fat than I consider tolerable.
My wife's chicken was so-so.
I doubt I'll return.

David in Highland

Lee Biars said...

I definitely need to get myself over in that direction. It's hard to look around for BBQ when the best pit beef in MD is right around the corner from me (Canopy), but one day soon I need to do a Kloby's menu sampling. I've had some decent BBQ in the area (Red, Hot & Blue for one), but nothing that has knocked my socks off.

As a side note, does anybody remember a BBQ truck that used to set up on Rt. 1 during lunchtime somewhere between Laurel and College Park? This would be around 10 years ago. I used to live for that guy's ribs and haven't found anything nearly as good since. Is he still around? I remember he would always chat his customers up about politics while he was making their food.

Anonymous said...

The truck was run by a Mr. King (Clarence?) IIRC. People would do u-turns on US1 (always a dangerous proposition) around lunch time due to the aroma.

If found his ribs overcooked. However, I've order a platter with ribs and chicken with corn and baked beans as the sided. Then stripped the meat off the bones and stirred the sides and the meat together to form a great stew.

It's been a long time since I've been down that road myself. And he wasn't in the best of health the last time I saw him a decade ago. But an interesting guy. Always had handouts describing his battles with PG County to run a food truck. How times have changed.

Rick B. said...

I've only been there once but I was not impressed. I got the pulled pork sandwich and the meat was dryed out. I would consider trying it again but if I really want great barbecue I will have to make it myself.

EmDee said...

Having started our move to HoCo and after reading about the many eateries reviewed here, we decided to try Kloby's . The best part of my meal were the hush puppies. I ordered a 2 meat platter- ribs & sausage. Taste of smoke was barely discernible. Plus food was lukewarm. It was after 1 on a Sat afternoon and not busy. I tasted my DH's turkey and pulled pork. Turkey was dry and pork was ok. Not sure I will return there.