Barbecue and more: Smoak BBQ Grill & Meatery serves up delicious specialties

FACTORYVILLE – A new restaurant is opening in the former Lake Road Cafe near Lake Winola.

Owner Robert Bear comes from his hometown of Mehoopany to cook up his barbecue specialties at his dining establishment called Smoak BBQ Grill & Meatery.

Using two large pellet smokers, he prepares his favorite dishes, like brisket cheesesteak, ribs and birria tacos. He loves how the pellets give his dishes their texture. While barbecue is popular right now during the warm summer months, he keeps his dishes eclectic so customers will come back after the season ends.

“I keep a varied menu so I can adapt to the quieter, colder months,” he said. “I try to mix it up a little bit so it’s not the same old barbecue.”

Robert is making Brunswick Stew, which combines brisket, pork and baked beans. He’s creating three different flavors of sauces: Memphis Mojo (which has mustard), Tequila Lime and Cherry Bomb (cherry Coke mixed with bourbon). He plans to make infused sauces. He’ll soon be hosting special dinners on Friday and Saturday nights after work, where he plans to prepare wild and exotic meats.

On the weekends, Robert prepares breakfasts such as corn muffins and breakfast sandwiches. He enjoys interacting with customers and giving them food samples so he can get to know them and what they like.

“I read a book a few years ago called ‘Unreasonable Hospitality’ written by a four-star chef,” he said. “It’s about how he strives to provide a service that most restaurants don’t. I want them (customers) to feel like they’re coming home.”

Robert is open to hosting an acoustic jam night to play guitar with customers. The restaurant also has a radio playing haunting sounds of blues, honky tonk and bluegrass.

The building, which has a rustic, wooded appearance, has housed many types of establishments. It has been a breakfast restaurant, a lunch restaurant and even a regular home. Robert met the former residents of the building when it was a home. They told him that the restaurant’s dining room was once a living room and bedroom.

Before Smoak opened on June 1, 2023, Robert was a jack of all trades. As a teenager, he cooked for The Pink Apple in Tunkhannock. He went on to develop artificial intelligence for virtual tour guides at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, and the Missouri State Museum. He also worked as a news graphic designer in Charleston, South Carolina. He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he did video/audio productions for Graceland, FedEx, and Showtime. He also helped design a production facility for Go Daddy in Scotsdale, Arizona.

Over the past seven years, he has taught subjects including video, storytelling, podcasting and journalism. He also started a school newspaper in Memphis.

Robert always wanted to open a restaurant and he always loved barbecue. Most of his customers come from Clarks Summit as well as Newton Township, Dunmore and Bear Creek. One day, a customer came in with a big fish he had caught in Lake Winola. He traded the fish for a cheesesteak.

“I love serving good food to people,” Robert said. “It can be a long, thankless job because you have to make the sauces in the hot kitchen. It takes me four hours to make a sauce. But then people taste it. They say, ‘That sauce is fantastic,’ and it’s like it was worth it.”

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