Warning: the following review features much meat.
Longhorns promised to turn up the heat when it announced last month that it was branching out from its successful Newcastle origins and bringing the brand to Sunderland.
Over the water, its man-versus-food style approach to grub has proved popular thanks to its fuss-free gargantuan portions.
For its Wearside debut, the smokehouse has teamed up with Camerons brewery who operate the city centre’s Dun Cow pub.
It’s a historic watering hole, one that’s not long been brought back to its Edwardian splendour, so I was interested to see how it would gel with the Texan-style of Longhorns.
The two are actually poles-apart and Longhorns bosses have done much to stamp their own identity on the former function room on the pub’s first floor.
Gone are the old theatre posters and traditional British pub decor, to be replaced with black walls, mounted animal skulls, and chunky tables and stools.
What remains, however, are the great views overlooking the Minster and Empire and the purse-friendly drinks prices for tipples which are made downstairs.
Longhorns is also providing the bar food for the pub, but for the full smokehouse experience you need to sample it in the restaurant area. Though the period features of the building mean first floor dining isn’t ideal for wheelchair-users.
As you take your seat you’re met by giant bottles of sauce and kitchen roll on the table for sticky digits - this is a place which encourages you to get stuck right in.
The menu is a meat-lover’s paradise, a veritable feast of ribs, wings, brisket, patties and hotdogs. With menu choices like Memphis Hog Butt, it makes no bones about its love of meat.
It’s no place for weight-watchers, but that’s all part of its charm.
In keeping with the Deep South smokehouse vibe, it’s an informal venue: you can’t reserve a table and you have to order at the bar.
Table service does extend to serving you your food though and ours arrived promptly.
Meat is smoked off site and brought in each day to meet the demands of diners, though maybe the barbecue meat’s proved more popular than they thought. I’d wanted to try the Smokehouse Patty (£9.50), but a fortnight after opening they were all out of burgers.
My second choice was the Smoked Sausage Big Dawg (£7) - hog and beef sausage with fries, topped off with a choice of pit beans, chilli beans or slaw (or coleslaw if you’re British).
Served on one of those canteen trays that seem all the rage these days, it was huge and I certainly couldn’t quibble at the quantity - this is the place to head if you’re hungry.
The delicate sweetness of the brioche bun worked well with the dense flavour of the hotdog and the endless fries were satisfyingly crisp. But the real star of the show was the pit beans. Not your average baked beans, this was a mixture of sweet and tangy beans, piled high around the hotdog. Not quite sure how they’d managed to elevate this most humble of accompaniments, but I couldn’t get enough of them.
The Dun Cow drinks on the menu are cheap as chips compared to other pubs in the city and you can wash the meat down with a choice including a range of premium gins and rums, starting at £2.30 before mixer.