Through his own admission and recollection, Brett Lukens has literally grown up in the restaurant business.
Having lived his entire life in north-central Indiana, he also understands the unique sense of Midwestern camaraderie, the open and genial candor of folks when gathered together. And he certainly knows that the beauty and bounty of a well-crafted, sumptuous meal spread can tie an event together unlike anything else.
Now he is poised to forge full-steam ahead with one of his latest culinary ventures, which he calls Smo’que Break. The Rochester-based business is geared up and ready to give customers a taste of savory, saucy barbecued meats, all prepared and primed in-house.
“It’s a culmination of the last eight, nine years,” Lukens says. “We’ve always had a barbecue identity and I’ve always thought that Rochester needed a good barbecue place.”
Located in the former Slappy’s Rib Shack, one of the more whimsical, albeit genuine taglines for the business is, “We love starting fires, smoking meat, and slinging ‘que.” Hence the clever name, and it’s quite a long way from Lukens’s younger years, spent washing dishes for his uncle, who managed a string of Pizza King eateries.
Presently, Smo’que Break features a line of meats and side dishes available through catering. However, for those who would like a dining experience in a traditional restaurant setting, the meats can also be ordered at The Dam Landing on Lake Manitou, as well as Lake Max Beach Bar in Culver, along the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.
Lukens has observed that the most popular selection, and what Smo’que Break has a rapidly rising following for, is their take on brisket. Their barbecue is available in several variations of regional flair such as Texas, St. Louis and Memphis, along with ribs, smoked turkey and other choices. Lukens also takes pride in crafting all of the rubs and sauces that are incorporated into the smoking process. Furthermore, he knew that it would be equally important to bring that same level of exquisite, careful preparation into their additional menu items as well. “We knew that we wanted to have good, fresh sides,” he says. Among the top-tier selections that have become customer favorites are the kale Caesar salad and the roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon jam.
Like so many others who work with the public in the retail sectors, Lukens has seen firsthand how COVID and the subsequent lockdown resulted in a sense of isolation and reduction in patronage for casual dining. And while Smo’que Break is striving to become a formidable force in catering and beyond, Lukens is just as devoted to volunteering in the civic realm, lending his time and talents to worthwhile causes, and helping folks reconnect and strengthen community bonds. One of his recent missions was a fundraising event for The Times Theater, where guests could savor the many flavors of Smo’que Break while watching a retro double feature of “Porky’s” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”
Lukens is very quick to observe that the recent surge of success would never have been possible without a dedicated group of friends and their collective support, including Josh Phillips, Dave Swanson, Trey Voan and Travis Thompson.
Smo’que Break is situated at 614 East 9th Street in Rochester. They can be found on Facebook, and reached via email at email@example.com. Customers may call 574-223-7427 for more info.
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