First Look: Offset Smoker BBQ draws crowds to Mid City with its new Central Texas-inspired joint

Texas-style barbecue in Baton Rouge? Nestled next to Superior Grill on Government Street, Offset Smoker BBQ provides slow-cooked meats, sides and desserts that would make The Lone Star State proud. The barbecue joint soft opened this past weekend and has a grand opening planned for Saturday, June 22. 

Last Saturday, Baton Rouge’s latest food-truck-to-brick-and-mortar concept welcomed a line of eager customers. Some barbecue-loving patrons arrived as early as 8:30 a.m. to be the first in line when the window opened at 11 a.m. By 3 p.m., a sign was taped to the window reading “sold out.”

Tuan Pham and Hue Pham, co-owners of Offset Smoker BBQ

Offset Smoker is the brainchild of longtime friends Tuan Pham and Hue Pham. It all started after Hue took a trip to Austin, Texas, where he tasted the legendary Franklin Barbecue. He says he wanted to bring something similar to Baton Rouge. In 2022, Offset Smoker began with just one small smoker and a food truck, which Tuan and Hue say will be used in the future for big events and festivals. 

“We just want to bring an awesome vibe and Central Texas food here,” Hue says. “A lot of people say ‘I drive four or five hours to get barbecue from Texas.’ Well, hey, we’re here.”

“It’s like how transplants moved to Texas and now we have crawfish all over there. So now we got to steal something back from them,” Tuan jokes. 

The $100 sampler at Offset Smoker. Photo courtesy Offset Smoker
Beans, Collard Greens, Mac-N-Cheese, Coleslaw, Banana Pudding and Potato Salad sides

By participating in events like 225 Fest and Night Market BTR with the food truck, Offset Smoker gained a loyal following. But long smoking times and the small space pushed Tuan and Hue to find a more permanent spot in Mid City. Though the building provided only 552 square feet, they added a front patio for dining and a smokehouse in the back.  

“If you go to Texas, most barbecue joints like this started like this,” Hue says. “Franklin started with a food truck. LeRoy and Lewis started with a food truck.”

Offset Smoker has a walk-up window where guests can order protein-packed options like housemade sausages, 14-hour smoked brisket, chicken, turkey, pork ribs and more. Sides like macaroni and cheese, collard greens and potato salad can be paired with the meaty mains. If you have room, there’s banana pudding and pecan pie for dessert. Can’t decide? Order a sampler with all the meats, sides and fixings for $100.

“When you go to Texas and order barbecue, they literally cut it in front of you,” Tuan says. “Everything (here) is by weight. We have plates and sandwiches, but the majority of meat is a la carte by weight. You just tell me what you want, and we will cut it for you. That’s why we wanted to have a huge window here, so people can see it.”

But what makes this new barbecue option different from other local joints? Tuan and Hue say it’s their technique. It all starts with post oak wood and offset smokers. As pitmaster, Hue took classes with some of the top-ranked Texas barbecue spots to learn the ins and outs of smoking meats. After learning in the Texas heat, he says he’s not worried about smoking meats on Louisiana summer days. 

The duo sourced two smokers from Georgia made from refurbished, 1,000-gallon propane tanks. This type of smoker has a firebox on one end and a smokestack on the other for even temperatures and smoke distribution during the hours-long process. The result? A subtle, smoky flavor. 

Hue says the meat, seasoned with just salt and pepper, tastes great on its own. But, there are two homemade barbecue sauce options for dunking: Original and Spicy Asian, a nod to Hue’s and Tuan’s culture, made with lemongrass, garlic and chili oil. In the future, Hue and Tuan plan to bring in more Asian and Louisiana-inspired touches.

Though Offset Smoker will only be open on the weekends, Hue says getting ready to open is a week-long process. Meats are delivered on Monday. Tuesday is for trimming and protein prep. Wednesday calls for sausage making and prepping the sides. Smoking begins on Thursday as early as 6 a.m. for business on Friday. The process is repeated on Friday and Saturday, ensuring fresh product for the weekend days. 

“Any meat we put (in the smoker), we want to sell out,” Tuan says. “Because I don’t want any meat moving on to the next day.” 

Offset Smoker will be open Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. until sellout, with a limited menu until its grand opening on Saturday, June 22. After that, it will also be open on Fridays at the same hours. The new barbecue spot is at 5335 Government St.