M Hospitality has officially ventured into St. Augustine this summer. The brother chefs, Matthew and David Medure, have been active in the Jacksonville restaurant scene since 1997 with the opening of their flagship, Matthew’s Restaurant. The creative minds behind MShack opened their first bbq restaurant, MBQue Smoke, August 1st on Anastasia Island. Customers can find some familiar MShack fare included among traditional bbq meats and Southern sides. Like MShack, only quality, homemade ingredients are used, and expect to find delicious, creative twists on classic favorites.
St. Augustine Foodies was invited to attend MBQue’s soft opening recently and we were impressed with the overall experience. MBQue Smoke is located a few blocks south of The Bridge of Lions on the way to the many attractions the island has to offer. In fact, the large windows in the rustic, yet contemporary dining area offer a picturesque view of The Lighthouse. This location is perfectly situated for exploring anything our city has to offer.
Like MShack, MBQue is a quick service restaurant. There is a welcoming bar equipped with a selection of beers, many regional, and wine. At the tables, there are a wide variety of homemade sauces to choose from. At first glance, these sauces seem to be the typical bbq sauces that you can find at most restaurants. However, MBQue has taken a refreshing spin on the traditional. Their original sauce, Que Sauce, has the expected sweet, tangy tomato base but the MBQue spin is a touch of miso paste. The mustard sauce is made with local honey. Sweet Heat is complex with peaches, dried cherries, and chilis. The next sauce on the heat index is Smoke, spicy with local famous St. Augustine Datil Peppers. Tomato Vinegar is a homage to traditional North Carolina bbq. If you are looking for flavor without the heaviness, or calories, of traditional bbq sauce, this is the one. The most unique sauce on the table (for this part of our country) is the white Bama Sauce – creamy and tart with a touch of horseradish.
For myself, the test of any good bbq restaurant is the pulled pork. The smoke ring, the Holy Grail of bbq meats, was evident. This pork did not come from a tub – it is legit. The meat was smoky, flavorful, and not overly greasy. It was the perfect vehicle for sampling the myriad of sauces. My favorite pairing was the Sweet Heat. The fruity notes complimented the pork beautifully. We also sampled the bbq chicken. The meat was succulent and not at all dry. It needed no sauce because it was flavored nicely in kitchen. Overall, the meats were solid. However, the sides are where this restaurant shines.
You can find the usual sides at MBQue: baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, fresh corn, fries, and green beans to name a few. We sampled the sweet corn grits, mac+cheese, and collard greens. The collard greens were excellent. They were not chopped into a soupy mess, but torn, tender, and flavorful. I could order these greens with a cheddar biscuit and be perfectly satisfied. The sweet corn grits were a great take on a classic Southern tradition. They were neither too sweet nor savory and went excellently with our meats. Finally, we tried the mac+cheese. Any respectable bbq restaurant must be able to execute this dish. Many fall short. This mac+cheese was delicious. It was creamy, without being too saucy. It did not taste artificial, nor was it an unnatural shade of orange. The noodles had a light, crispy topping that was just perfect. The cheddar biscuit, which comes with the entrees was excellent. It isn’t the garlic, buttery biscuit that you might be familiar with. It can stand on it’s own.
The restaurant offers a good selection of homemade deserts and shakes, some of which feature bacon. We tried the Marshmallow Brûlée shake. It was a delicate chocolate base, swirled with marshmallow. On the top of the confection, there was a marshmallow brûlée toping that took me back to nights around the campfire.
I predict that MBQue will quickly become part of the fabric of St. Augustine with the restaurant’s focus on quality ingredients, homemade food, and cool atmosphere. MBQue is an improvement on the MShack concept, you can still buy a burger, but I would skip it and go straight for the bbq. MBQue is most definitely worth a visit.
Photos by Cynthia Drown.
Writer Cassie Oborne grew up in the beautiful Gulf Coast city of Naples, Florida. She graduated from Flagler College, where she studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she and her husband made St. Augustine their permanent home. She has spent the last 16 years exploring and eating her way around the ancient city.