A Family Affair

Posted On January 8, 2022

Smoked open for business in November after an intensive renovation to three adjoined historic buildings that now house the restaurant.

By Meredith Grace Hawcroft

Sibling duo Greg and Sarah Middleton are the innovators behind one of the newest and most unique fine dining establishments in downtown Columbia. Located on Main Street, their restaurant Smoked features fresh ingredients and bold, unexpected flavor combinations through their oyster dishes, smoked meats, and house-crafted libations, including specialty cocktail creations and beer from the micro-brewery located within the restaurant.

Smoked opened for business in November 2021 after an intensive renovation to three adjoined historic buildings that now house the restaurant. Sarah and Greg acquired the buildings several years ago, uncertain what they’d use them for but aware of their incredible potential.  

One day, Greg and Sarah were sitting in their parent’s backyard discussing the property when Sarah proposed turning it into an oyster restaurant. Greg, however, desired more than oysters. As he glanced at the pork butt they were roasting, inspiration struck, and the concept of Smoked was born.

The siblings already had experience in the restaurant industry; their father, Scott Middleton, owns three restaurants on Main Street himself. That knowledge of the Columbia restaurant scene appears to have provided the Middletons a running start. Despite being open for just a few weeks, Smoked is garnering a positive reputation. Many nights find the restaurant filled with an energetic crowd eager to sample the menu.

Although guests are often initially surprised by the pairing of oysters and smoked meat, they find that the two items combine to create a unique and complementary flavor experience.

Sarah describes the in-house 1,200 square foot micro-brewery, part of their new brand Peak Drift Brewing Co., as the cherry on top of all the other exciting elements offered at the restaurant. The brewery is set in the restaurant’s center and is completely encased in glass, allowing patrons to watch head brewer Ashley Kinard Short at work. Ashley and the rest of the bar team arrive at Smoked early every morning to begin brewing craft beers and preparing custom cocktail syrups and garnishes made from locally sourced fruits and vegetables.

Their signature drink is a smoked old-fashioned made with Old Forester 100 proof bourbon, Angostura, and brandied cherry, all served in a smoked glass with hickory, applewood, cherry, and pecan smoke options.

For Smoked’s owners, it was important for patrons to experience a range of options and have a versatile dining experience.

“As someone who is gluten intolerant,” Sarah said, “I wanted to work with our chefs when developing this menu to ensure that we could have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options, and more. No matter what your diet restrictions or diet preferences are, there’s something on this menu that you’re going to be excited about.”

A visit to Smoked can vary depending on what you’re in the mood for. You can stop in for a cocktail at the bar and some tapas like the crab and avocado salad. Clumps of crab meat, fresh slices of avocado, toasted almonds, and cured egg yolk are served atop local greens and drizzled with house-made green goddess dressing.  

For a heartier experience, the house-smoked meats will not disappoint, especially the A5 Japanese Wagyu steak. The chef cooks the 6-ounce center-cut tableside on a 450-degree salt block for an authentic fine dining experience. For those who feel variety is the spice of life, the ribeye steak flight allows guests to sample one ounce each of the wet-aged ribeye, dry-aged ribeye, and the Wagyu. Patrons sear this selection themselves on the tableside salt block.

Smoked’s char-grilled oysters are also sure to impress. Bold flavor options include the smoked signature topped with smoked pork, vinegar barbecue, and a molten cheese sauce – made in-house like all of Smoked’s sauces. Consider the lemon parmesan oysters served with leek butter, garlic parmesan breadcrumbs, parsley, and lemon for a lighter flavor.

To accompany these main dishes, a variety of sharable sides are available, including golden whipped truffle potatoes, oyster stuffing, creamed jalapeno corn with crab, and honey-glazed carrots.

Although Smoked is just getting its foothold in the Columbia community, the future of the restaurant seems bright under the leadership of Greg and Sarah Middleton. With their commitment to customers and the steadfast goal of creating a fresh, fun fine dining experience, Smoked will undoubtedly continue to experience success in the coming months.

Brunch, lunch, and dinner and bar options are available seven days a week. Visit Smoked’s website, smokedsc.com, to learn more and make reservations.