N.E. Side bar home to Louisiana-style barbecue

May 16, 2019 GMT

Will Nichols is about to celebrate his first month of business as Lil Joe’s New Orleans Smokehouse. This one-man show out is turning out creative barbecue out of a small kitchen space tucked inside Rod Dog’s Saloon, a strip center bar just outside Loop 410 near Nacogdoches Road. Nichols has the smoker set up behind the building.

Lil Joe’s is a bit of a barbecue outlier. Most smoke joints start in the early morning hours so the meat is ready for lunch service, but Nichols is built to feed the evening bar crowd at Rod Dog’s. He times his meats and sides to be ready when food service begins at 7 p.m. most days.


Nichols honed his barbecue techniques as sous chef at the former Smoke: The Restaurant location in Sonterra. He also recently worked at chef Pieter Sypesteyn’s NOLA Brunch & Beignets restaurant just off the St. Mary’s Strip. Lil Joe’s is his first attempt at running his own restaurant.

“Everybody that I have ever worked for or with, I was quick to let it be known that I was building up to running my own place some day,” said Nichols, a New Orleans native. “There was always a little bit of fear, but this is my chance to do something for myself.”

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Nichols puts a Louisiana spin on his brisket ($10 per half pound), injecting the meat with beef stock and giving it a dry rub made with the chicory coffee New Orleans is known for. He has also makes a jalapeño boudin sausage ($7 per link).

Other meat staples include lemon pepper smoked chicken wings ($7 for five), root beer pork ribs ($7 for four) and pulled pork ($9 per half pound). Plans are in the works to add smoked burgers and maybe even smoked alligator as specials.

Sides include a baked five-cheese mac and cheese ($5), Cajun coleslaw ($3), creole mustard potato salad ($3), brisket red beans and rice ($6) and Cajun smoked elote ($5).

“Response, so far has been incredible,” said Nichols. “I didn’t expect the amount of carryout business we are getting from other area bars nearby that want their late-night barbecue fix, so sell-outs are pretty common.”

Lil Joe’s New Orleans Smokehouse, 2617 Wagon Wheel inside Rod Dog’s Saloon, 504-251-8251. Hours: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Facebook: liljoes504

Chuck Blount is a food writer and columnist covering all things grilled and smoked in the San Antonio area. Find his Chuck’s Food Shack columns on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com, or read his other coverage on our free site, mySA.com. | cblount@express-news.net | Twitter: @chuck_blount   | Instagram: @bbqdiver