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Photo by Emmy Smith.
When Smoke’N Ash Tex-Ethiopian Smokehouse first came on the Arlington scene in 2020, its remarkable concept of combining Ethiopian flavors and spices with traditional Central Texas barbecue techniques quickly drew a crowd. Texas Monthly wrote a beaming article about them within the year, and even The New York Times soon came calling to name them one of the 50 best restaurants in the country.

All of this is commemorated in the form of framed newspaper clippings on the wall of Smoke’N Ash’s newish location (5904 S Cooper St, Arlington, 817-987-7715, Hours: 11am-8pm Tue-Sat, noon-6pm Sun). Upon entering the much larger, breezier space, I looked for a framed Weekly review but came up empty. It turns out that while we’ve interviewed husband-and-wife owners Fasicka and Patrick Hicks for various food stories, we’ve never properly reviewed Smoke’N Ash. So, allow me to remedy that.

While there was nothing wrong with the original location of the ’cue fusion joint, it was apparent that this was more than a lateral move. Located in a strip mall on a bustling section of Cooper Street, the new space has ample parking and seating and a large full bar that was serving margaritas on special when my family and I arrived. Along with the framed clips, traditional Ethiopian décor adorns the walls, and during our visit, ’80s pop provided the soundtrack for the montage of happy diners devouring their meals.

The Jumbo Platter is a smorgasbord of Tex-Ethiopian goodness.
Photo by Emmy Smith.

You order at the counter here, and the woman behind the cash register was patient and helpful as our group tried to narrow down our selections from the large menu. To see what Smoke’N Ash is all about, as my husband and I discovered on a previous visit, it’s best to sample the customizable Tex-Ethiopian Jumbo Platter.

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Being able to create your own sampler platter helps get your less adventurous dining companions on board with Tex-Ethiopian food. The main draw of the platter is decidedly the unique barbecue-infused Ethiopian dishes: tibs (bite-sized pieces of meat) made with fall-off-the-bone pork rib; doro wat amped up with smoked chicken; succulent fall-apart brisket covered in an addicting awaze spice glaze. All this plus four sides of your choice, all to be sopped up with the spongy bread/plate/utensil hybrid known as injera.

The side choices are where you can please everyone. Those who want to stick close to home can opt for traditional fried okra or potato salad, while braver folks can dive into the mac ’n’ cheese with berbere (a traditional African spice that’s like curry powder with a touch of baking spice). Or go full Ethiopian with the various stewed cabbages, lentils, and beans, all of which cut marvelously through the fatty richness of the meat. I should note that although the word “spice” is thrown around a lot, Ethiopian food is big on warm, flavorful seasoning but not much actual heat.

Aside from the sampler, there are plenty of other Tex-Ethiopian menu items, like the bozena shiro (slow-simmered chickpeas and cubes of smoked beef) or fifir (also with smoked beef but also boiled egg and various spices). You can also order regular-old barbecue fare without all the added Ethiopian touches, like brisket, ribs, and sausage, just as you can have traditional Ethiopian dishes with none of the barbecued meat.

Traditional Ethiopian stewed veggies cut marvelously through the richness of Smoke’N Ash’s expertly smoked meats.
Photo by Emmy Smith.

In fact, this may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of a barbecue restaurant, but Smoke’N Ash excels at providing options for alternative diets. The traditional injera bread used to sop up all those delicious curries and sauces is made from a naturally gluten-free flour called teff. Vegan items, of which there are plenty, are clearly marked on the menu as well, like the Smoked Dubba Wat (a pumpkin stew) and most of the Ethiopian-style sides. You can even order an all-vegan sampler plate.

Admittedly, the Jumbo Platter is not something you’d want to share with co-workers or first dates. While you can ask for utensils, traditionally these platters are eaten by scooping up the various meats and stews with the injera and popping the whole thing directly into your mouth. It’s messy. It’s interactive. We would not have said no to a moist towelette.

Although Fort Worth, now the 12th-largest city in the country, did you hear?, should really be able to sustain its own Ethiopian restaurant (R.I.P., Samson’s), we should consider ourselves lucky to have such an establishment just a short drive down I-20. Grab your Wet-Naps and go experience this truly unique dining concept with something to please everyone, from your vegan niece to your gluten-free aunt to your barbecue-loving grandpa. Maybe next time I visit, this review will be framed on the wall with all the other accolades.

 

Smoke’N Ash BBQ
Tex-Ethiopian Jumbo Platter $61.99
Smoked Dubba Wat (pumpkin stew) $13.99
Small Berbere mac ’n’ cheese $4.99
Looks like there’s room for this review on the bottom left of Smoke’N Ash’s accolade wall.
Photo by Emmy Smith.

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