IF YOU GO
Where: Poppy's Smokehouse, 2102 Taft Highway, Signal Mountain.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: $2.79 (Poppydogs)-$26.99 (full rack of ribs plate).
Directions: Take Signal Mountain Boulevard up Signal Mountain; follow same road (which becomes Ridgeway Avenue, then Taft Highway or U.S. 127) north to address.
Perched along Taft Highway on Signal Mountain, there's a little place -- not quite a shack, more of a cabin. Gravel parking lot. You might pass right by it if you weren't paying attention. Folks who have lived here a long time say this place was several restaurants before the latest incarnation.
Seems like the perfect place for barbecue.
With the restaurant given the name of Poppy's Smokehouse, I hoped to be embraced by the sweet tang of hickory smoke. Considered by most to be the signature of barbecue, it's a telltale sign good things await. Maybe the wind was blowing the wrong way, but there was nary a whiff of smoke. However, reading Poppy's website after our visit revealed they use wood pellets to slow-cook their barbecue.
Since we are somewhat set in our barbecue ways, pork and brisket are part of our standard order. But we decided to branch out and try some of Poppy's appetizers: the Poppy Pork Puppies ($5.79) and the homemade chips ($1.89). The Pork Puppies are finely chopped barbecue pork rolled in batter and ... wait for it ... deep-fried. Perhaps not the healthiest choice but darn tasty and might be better (or smarter) if shared with a group. The chips were homemade (as advertised) and seasoned well.
Like most barbecue restaurants, Poppy's offers sandwiches and plates. We tried both the Bar-B-Q Pork Sliders ($3.29 each) and the large beef brisket sandwich ($6.49). Both came with side dishes; we ordered the collard greens ($1.89) and the Bar-B-Q Beans ($1.89). This marked the first time I'd encountered chopped beef brisket. Traditionally, it is sliced to give the perfect blend of smoky bark and tender meat. The pork, while flavorful, was overcooked and a bit dry.
The greens were deemed good. Full disclosure: I don't, and will never, eat greens, so I must rely upon my lovely bride for her learned opinion. She declared them "good" when asked.
The beans were a bit disappointing. Swimming in a cloyingly sweet sauce, they just missed the mark. Doctoring them with the Carolina Mustard Sauce helped dramatically.
Poppy's also has ribs ($26.99 for a full rack), burgers ($5.99) and quesadillas ($6.89), which we didn't try.
Poppy's is a place-your-order, pick-up-your-order-at-the-counter place. If you want more sweet tea, go get it. Ditto for sauce and condiments.
Nothing wrong with that unless you are hoping for table service.
You'll find Poppy's to be a low-key, casual experience. It's certainly clean and tidy. Not being Signal residents, given the greetings exchanged, we were impressed everyone seemed to know one another. It was a nice note to overhear residents thanking the squad of firefighters -- radios in hand -- as they lunched.
Poppy's is a nice place for lunch or a casual dinner. Reasonable prices, decent 'cue. But if you're in search of barbecue that makes you cry because you've cleaned your plate, keep looking. Meanwhile, co-workers who live on Signal Mountain report business at Poppy's is brisk, and residents there seem genuinely glad to have a popular, sit-down barbecue restaurant back on the mountain.