Smalley’s Walks the Plank

Kris and Mag from Beer Musings take apart Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue and Pirate Bar of Stillwater in a way that totally squares with reputable reports from other area gourmands. How did such a high-profile launch create such a mediocre restaurant?


  1. Adam Platt

    I think this is a fair question. We rated Smalley’s one of the area’s best new restaurants of 2008, and I’d defend that, but we noted problems with some of the food and uninspiring decor. Smalley’s was re-done on the cheap from the bones of a failed barbecue on the site. It clearly is not as meticulously executed a concept as Barrio, and I don’t know how much day to day involvement in its operation Tim McKee or Josh Thoma have. I did ask Tim, several months ago, about complaints about some of the food, that the jerk was too salty, etc., and he was quite defensive about the authenticity and did not betray any sense it was a work in progress. Clearly, a different set of standards are governing this place, because it is very much a hit or miss operation in every respect–not a standard that would be acceptable at Solera, Barrio, or Belle Vie. –Adam Platt, restaurants editor, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

  2. James Norton

    All interesting information. I got the feeling that Smalley’s bent over backwards to do “authentic” Caribbean food without worrying too much about price or even objective flavor/texture concerns in some cases.

    I ate at Smalley’s shortly after it opened, and was surprised by under-powered rum drinks (at a “pirate” bar!) and $17 sugarcane shrimp skewers that may have been one of the worst food values I’ve encountered in the metro area. Other stuff was hit or miss, but the level of talent involved in the restaurant — and the prices on the menu — demand results like Barrio. Kris and Mag’s review caught my eye because much of what they’d observed squared with my experience at Smalley’s months and months ago… but I’d kind of assumed those were start-up issues, not intrinsic faults.

  3. Aylissa

    Clearly smalley’s is a compeletely different atmosphere then Barrio, Solera and obviously La Belle Vie, But I think that is what makes Smalley’s so unique and fun. If you have a problem with the prices you should go to Burger King. They have many different rums all pretty affordable and fun to play around with. All the drinks are like what I have had when in the caribbean, very strong but refreshing. The food is very original and flavorfull, the portions have been very generous as well.

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