By Craig Davis, craigslegztravels.com
When I knew Harry Coleman, in 2006, he was a promising young journalist working an internship at the South Florida Sun Sentinel where I was a copy editor on the night sports desk.
A highlight of my week was organizing the Wednesday takeout food run to Tom Jenkins Barbecue, a Fort Lauderdale institution. I’d pass the menu around the newsroom, phone in everyone’s order and pick it up. Coleman was an eager participant.
Although his career path veered away from journalism, he says those weekly barbecue dinners eaten at his desk sparked an infatuation with smoked meats that eventually led to creating his own smokehouse.
And, wow, what a smokehouse. After my latest barbecue run, I can attest that Smoke & Dough, which Coleman and wife Michelle opened in the Miami suburb of West Kendall in January 2022, isn’t just another barbecue joint.
Barbecue with a Hispanic flare
It’s like no other I’ve encountered — gourmet barbecue that incorporates flavors and influences that are distinctly Miami.
Exhibit No. 1 is the brisket, the most challenging meat to barbecue. Coleman’s brisket is coated with a rub containing ground espresso and an assortment of spices, smoked for 15 hours and served with chimichurri sauce.
The result is so tender and juicy it dissolves in your mouth in a burst of complex flavors unlike any I’ve tasted anywhere.
“When we wanted to do barbecue, we saw that everybody [in South Florida] was doing barbecue from somewhere else — Texas, Kansas City, Carolina. We wanted to do something different that was Miami. We wanted to be Miami-style barbecue, which obviously involves Hispanic [influence] because I’m Hispanic,” says Coleman, who was born in Venezuela of Chilean parents.
“That’s why our brisket has cafecito rub — you know, the Cuban coffee. Our sauce has guava. We incorporate mofongo [from Puerto Rico], croquetas [from Cuba], tequenos from Venezuela. The idea was we could create something like what Miami is —a melting pot — and we wanted the influence to show in our barbecue.”
Another distinctive feature of Smoke & Dough is a selection of a dozen tapas that can be combined for a meal of their own or supplement a barbecue dinner of brisket or pork. On our visit, the smoked croquetas and pastrami tequenos were excellent and we look forward to trying the smoked charcuterie duck.
(Scroll below for more details on some of Smoke & Dough’s standout offerings, including pastrami, brisket, cheddar sausage and for dessert, smoked flan).
Marriage of two restaurants
Smoke & Dough is next door to Empanada Harry’s, which the Colemans opened in 2017. The two restaurants are joined to form a common space and benefit from a symbiotic relationship.
Barbecue meats are used in some of the empanadas, while some popular empanada fillings show up in side dishes and tapas at Smoke & Dough. For example, the tasty truffle, bacon, mac and cheese.
The response to Coleman’s vision of Miami-style barbecue has been resoundingly positive. Smoke & Dough recently received rave recommendations from the foodie panel of “Check Please! South Florida” on the local PBS affiliate (view the segment below). The Miami Herald referred to it as “easily one of the best new restaurants in South Florida.”
Journalism’s loss is barbecue’s gain
Earlier this year, the restaurant was one of two invited to participate in a cooking demonstration for the Miami Heat Fan Fest benefiting the team’s charities. Chef Harry shared the stage outside the Heat’s arena with star center Bam Adebayo to make barbecue sauce and put together pulled pork arepas and sandwiches.
“That was a cool moment for me,” Harry says.
When he was an aspiring sports writer, Coleman thought he’d be telling the stories of athletes such as Adebayo.
As it turned out, when Harry and Michelle got their degrees in journalism from Florida International University in 2008, the newspaper industry was beginning a downward spiral of shedding staff. Jobs they coveted were scarce.
Fortunately, there was a fallback option in the family bakery business. Harry’s father, Phillip, has run Moises Bakery in Miami Beach since 1991.
Harry and Michelle agree to take over operation of his grandmother’s Charlotte Bakery, also in Miami Beach, for a year, figuring the job market would improve in journalism. It didn’t, and a year turned into a decade before the couple opened Empanada Harry’s near their home in West Kendall.
Take-home barbecue a hit during pandemic
Meanwhile, Coleman, inspired by those weekly barbecue dinners during his internship, was developing his barbecue skills at home on his Weber smoker, trying different recipes for family and friends. When the space next to Empanada Harry’s became available, he and Michelle decided it was time to introduce their vision of Miami-style barbecue.
The COVID pandemic nearly scuttled the plan even before the restaurant was ready to open. To keep their barbecue dream alive, and to avoid laying off any of Empanada Harry’s staff, they set up smokers outside and offered take-home barbecue on Sundays. Word spread quickly and each week the line was around the block — socially distanced, of course.
“We served barbecue every Sunday from March  through mid-October,” Harry says. “Every weekend we sold out. It was amazing to us. It pushed us to continue with the barbecue idea.”
A creative collaboration
Smoke & Dough is a friendly, intimate place reflective of a mom-and-pop operation. Michelle runs the business side and is the friendly face out front while Harry oversees the kitchen.
Their creativity is evident in the interior design of both restaurants, including wall murals painted by Michelle.
“We really are passionate about what we do,” says Michelle, who is from Puerto Rico. “I love people. So I deal with customers and staff. I really do enjoy talking to people and talking about our food and our story. And Harry is really passionate about what he does in the kitchen.
“We are kindred spirits, we really love working together. I think that’s what makes us different.”
Patience pays for brisket and pastrami
Proof is in the tasting. The key is patience with the process.
“It’s not like a rib eye [steak] you can just throw on the grill and grill it and serve it. A brisket takes 15 hours and then we like to let it rest for four, five hours so all the juices stay in. We have very strict rules on how we want our brisket to come out,” Harry says.
The brisket is known for the cafecito rub, but don’t expect it to have a strong flavor of Cuban coffee. The ground espresso mainly serves to give the brisket a dark outer crust.
Brisket is the best seller at Smoke & Dough, but the most outstanding attraction is pastrami, which Harry calls “a true work of art, a labor of love.” It’s a premium brisket that is placed in brine for eight days before it is smoked, then steamed and left to rest overnight.
“For me, the best pastrami is Katz’s in New York . I wanted to do something that was as good if not better than Katz’s,” Harry says, referring the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City. “It’s not better, but it’s as good, I think. For sure in Florida, it’s the best.”
Harry’s pastrami is as tender and juicy as the brisket and the complex blend of spices is accented by a topping of pickled mustard seed, which is made in-house.
Note: Deli-sliced pastrami on rye and Rueben sandwiches are available every day at Smoke & Dough. Hot sliced pastrami is served only on Saturdays.
More prime choices at Smoke & Dough
Beef cheddar sausage: Chef Harry refers to the blend of brisket, guava and white cheese as timba sausage. The contrast of the smoked beef with a subtle sweetness from the guava is a winning combination.
Pastrami tequenos: Harry likes to put his own twist on every item on the menu, and the dab of pastrami elevates this traditional recipe from his home country of Venezuela. The dough is light and chewy, and a mayo garlic sauce dip enhances the flavor.
Smoked croquetas: The ham and gouda cheese are both smoked in-house for this Cuban favorite.
Mofongo special every Saturday: Harry’s version of the Puerto Rican specialty consists of smashed plantains with smoked pork belly, combined with broth, butter, a blend of spices and topped off with brisket. Very good. And filling.
Smoke & Dough also offers a trifongo with green plantains, sweet plantains and yucca, which has overtaken the mofongo in popularity due to its sweeter, creamier consistency.
Save room for the smoked flan, if you can: The usual way to make flan de leche is to bake it in the oven. Smoke & Dough cooks it in the hot smoker for several hours. The caramel picks up the smoke elements and the result is a wedge of sweetness with a smoky finish that is simply sensational.
Smoke & Dough offers distinctive menu, difficult choices
My overall impression is that Smoke & Dough is a special place that I look forward to revisiting. The 50-minute drive from central Broward County is well worth it.
Unless you reside in West Kendall, you won’t stumble across this place. It’s about as far west as you can go in Miami-Dade County, but not that difficult to find. Take the Florida Turnpike extension south to Bird Road/SW 42nd St. and go west to SW 152nd Ave.
Its reputation is spreading fast, so it is wise to call ahead for a reservation. We visited the week the restaurant was featured on “Check Please! South Florida” and at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon the place was packed and people were waiting for tables.
If you want to experience Miami-style barbecue, this is the place that defines it. The enticing assortment of tapas, many with a smoked element, lends distinction to a menu of difficult choices.
“We’re Smoke & Dough. So a lot of our tapas have dough and also have smoke. That was the idea,” Coleman says. “I’m a baker before I was a chef.
“I’m just really proud that we could say we’re doing something nobody’s doing.”
If you have a group of four, consider the Smokehouse platter featuring a pound each of brisket and pulled pork along with two beef cheddar sausages, assorted sides and cornbread for $99.
If you go to Smoke & Dough
Location: 4013 SW 152nd Ave., West Kendall
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, noon-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon-9:45 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-3:45 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday closed.
Happy Hour: Wednesday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.
Dinner prices: Tapas, $11-$15; meat by the half pound, $14-$18; sides, $4-$9.
More info: Smokeanddough.com
Don’t overlook Empanada Harry’s next door to Smoke & Dough
Harry Coleman injected his own ideas into his family’s baking traditions in his first restaurant, which offers 23 empanadas daily with international influences from Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia.
Naturally, Coleman works in his own creations.
“We do empanadas with bacon, dates and cheese. We do truffle mac and cheese. We’ve done paella empanadas.”
This month’s special is the Messi empanada in honor of the soccer superstar from Argentina who recently joined Inter Miami CF. It has Argentine chili, chimichurri and smoked provolone.
“The Messi has been doing really good, more than your usual Empanada of the Month,” Coleman says. “We try to keep it fun.”
If you go to Empanada Harry’s
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
More info: empanadaharrys.com