Well this sucks: Stillwater's beloved BBQ joint Smalley's will close this weekend

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Chef Shawn Smalley -- plus cannon -- in 2008. City Pages file photo

Since 2008, Smalley's Caribbean Barbecue and Pirate Bar has spoiled Stillwater with some of the best jerk chicken, brisket, wings, and sides you'll find anywhere in the country.

So it's a major bummer to learn this morning that Smalley's, the baby of Shawn Smalley and Tim McKee (La Belle Vie, Octo Fishbar), will shutter this weekend. Chef Smalley told the Stillwater Current the closure is due to a "conflict about the lease."

“I didn’t want this to happen,” Smalley said. “I’m fucking pissed off, and I’m really sad. This is not how I wanted it to end.”

Beyond the award-winning meats, Smalley's has been a hit thanks to its heat. Here's how CP's Rachel Hutton described the Scotchie's sauce back in '08:

As the sauce hit my tongue, my first impression was of a tangy, citrus flavor, like tomatillo salsa. My second impression was that I'd just sloughed off a thick layer of skin from the inside of my mouth. I reached for my water glass, but it was too late. The burning sensation started to migrate down the back of my throat. There was no watering of the eyes, no tickle of the nose, no steam spraying from my ears, cartoon-style. Just a pain I'd imagine to be like swallowing a burning coal. Was this the sort of thing covered by workers' comp?

It made Smalley's a standout in the Midwest and beyond -- not that the incongruity of the locale was lost on folks who traveled here to try it. "When it comes to crazy-good barbecue in the Caribbean, nothing beats spicy, smoky jerk chicken. The crack research team at the Food Network found amazing jerk chicken at Smalley's Caribbean Barbecue and Pirate Bar in Stillwater, Minnesota. Yeah. Minnesota," quipped Food Network personality Ted Allen in honoring Smalley's as having the “Best Reggae-Worthy Chicken, Ever.”

But it's no accident, either. Smalley and McKee learned from the best, traveling to Jamaica and plying their favorite cooks with liquor to learn their secrets and bringing them back to Minnesota. It's been a favorite ever since.

“Being a part of this town is so important to me,” Smalley told the Stillwater Current. “Everyone has been so supportive and so cool. Having that stripped away, really sucks.”

Sure does, Shawn.


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