Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 21, 2014

Get your butts to Off the Grill II

River City Roundabout

To find Off the Grill II, look for the telltale trail of smoke as you drive down Taft Highway. - (Photo by David Laprad)

Off the Grill II’s secret smoking process gives its barbecue something extra that brings people back.

I take hearsay with a grain of salt. So when positive word of mouth about Off the Grill II, a new smokehouse on Taft Highway in Signal Mountain, reached me, I decided to try the food for myself.

Getting there was going to be a bit of a drive, but it was one of those crisp fall days that makes being out of the house a pleasure, so I grabbed my wallet, keys, and appetite, and hit the road.

Before I knew it, I was turning right onto the road that runs parallel with Taft Highway and provides access to Off the Grill II. (If you visited Gin Gin’s while that place was in business, then you know where to go.)

Although I was trying to keep my hopes in check, I couldn’t help but get excited when I asked the man in the parking lot if he liked the food at Off the Grill II. “You’ve got to try the beef brisket,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

By the time I reached the door, I was more than ready to eat. There was just one problem: I had a decision to make.

Off the Grill makes ordering look easy, but that’s not how it goes down. Their menu is divided into a handful of categories, including sandwiches, all-beef hot dogs, stuffed potatoes, dinner plates, and salads. There are also sides. What could be easier?

Well, things get complicated when you start perusing the meats under each category. Off the Grill II might be a smokehouse, but it doesn’t stop at ribs, brisket, and burgers. No, sir. How does smoked chicken, smoked chicken salad, smoked turkey, and beef sausage sound?

It sounded good to me, but I’d come to a smokehouse, so I felt I had a duty to try the ribs. I had just one more obstacle to overcome before ordering: the manager.

He must have seen the indecision on my face as he walked up to take my order. Instead of asking me what I wanted, he said, “We serve an incredible burger. It’s a half pound of chuck, and we grill it to perfection.”

That’s when I realized one of the most important things about ordering at Off the Grill II: show no fear.

I swallowed, and said I was thinking about getting the rib sandwich. Then I realized that wasn’t decisive enough, so I said, as convincingly as I could, “One rib sandwich. With fries, please.”

“Good choice,” he said. “Chef Q uses a secret grilling process, and his sauce is incredible. You’re gonna love this sandwich.”

While I waited for my food, I looked closer at the menu. In addition to smoke meats and hot dogs, Off the Grill II offers a grilled chicken club, a New York strip steak sandwich, a grilled salmon fillet, jumbo fried shrimp, and center cut pork chops. Fresh sides include broccoli salad, fried okra, ranch baked beans, and more.

Although I was impressed with the food, I was in awe of the prices: my sandwich and fries were going to cost a mere $7. None of the sandwiches are priced higher than $7.50, and the hot dogs average $5 apiece. The dinners are also affordable. I recently dropped nearly twenty bucks for an entrée at a chain restaurant, so my hat is off to Chef Q for offering great food that’s within the means of the average income.

Just as I was wishing I’d opted for corn on the cob instead of fries, my sandwich arrived. And, oh, what a sight it was. Stuffed between two halves of a branded Kaiser bun (see the photo on page 2) was a pile of ribs topped with crunchy cole slaw and dripping with sauce. I couldn’t wait to take a bite.

Then I saw something odd: the meat was still on the bones. I looked up at the manager and said, “I don’t know how to eat this.”

“Just pull the meat off the bone,” he said. Then he pointed at the roll of paper towels on my table. “You’re going to need those.”

I did as instructed, though I will admit to wishing I’d ordered the rib tip sandwich; the chef removes the meat from the bones for you, and gives you a 50 cent discount for his trouble.

All was forgiven the moment I bit into that tender meat, and the saucy, smoky goodness hit my palette. I don’t know what Chef Q does to his ribs, but the manager was right: they are incredible.

As I ate, I gazed at the white plumes curling out of the smoker located next to the Off the Grill II sign by the road. Relaxed by the tranquility of the moment, I realized there had been no need for me to sweat my decision regarding what to order; I could come back, and I knew I would.

While at the cash register paying for my order, a trio of customers offered the best possible testimony of the quality of the food Chef Q prepares. His previous restaurant, Off the Grill (without the “II”) had been located on Highway 58, a 30-minute drive from his new place on Signal Mountain. The hungry threesome had come all that way to eat their favorite Chef Q dishes.

“You’ve got to try the beef sausage,” one of them said.

“I’m glad I didn’t run into you on the way in,” I said. “I had a hard enough time deciding what to order.”

The man laughed and nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean,” he said. “This is one of those places you come back to again and again until you’ve tried everything. It’s all good.”

Endorsements don’t come better than that. So, if you don’t mind a short drive up the mountain, give Off the Grill II a shot. You might even run into me. I’ll be the one telling you to try the rib tips.   

For more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.