Houston is getting a new dining option, and the word that comes to mind is “salty.” That’s at least one way to describe the legions of Rockets fans who have already given one-star reviews to a restaurant called International Smoke, even though it won’t open until early July.
And just what do these fans have against the place? Well, it’s guilty of being the co-creation of Ayesha Curry, who is married to Stephen Curry, whose Warriors, of course, ousted the Rockets in the Western Conference finals last month.
As of this writing, International Smoke, set to welcome customers July 5, is rated a lowly 2.5 stars on Yelp. It would be worse — and was — but for the five-star reviews that began arriving Tuesday, after word started spreading about what the Warriors haters were up to.
That’s right, a Yelp page for a restaurant that has yet to start serving food is serving, instead, as the site of a proxy war between rival NBA fan bases. And where there was Smoke, there was some fiery-hot trash talk.
The very first reviewer, who naturally gave one star, got things going with this comment: “I will never step foot in this restaurant even if my only other option was a pet food store.”
“I can already taste the blandness of the food,” another reviewer, also listed as being from Houston, opined shortly thereafter. “This establishment might serve us dusty water and moldy lemons. Ayesha, just pack up your restaurant and be going.”
“I don’t know why the servers are walking around with their filthy mouthpieces hanging from their mouth,” a Texas resident wrote, referring to a widely noted on-court practice of Curry’s husband.
It wasn’t long, though, before Warriors fans began weighing in. “Man Houston choke city fans are going to love this,” one five-star reviewer, listed as being from a town near the Bay Area, said before extolling the restaurant’s ice as the same kind “they use to help the swelling” in Chris Paul’s “rickety knees.” He added, “Don’t worry Houston fans unlike the rockets this won’t disappoint you.”
“The best dish on the menu is Curried Crow,” another wrote. “Especially for all those jealous Houston fans, don’t hesitate to ask for seconds.”
One said simply: “Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm. This place is definitely the taste of victory.”
Curry opened her first International Smoke, not surprisingly, in San Francisco last year, and the venture, created with celebrity chef Michael Mina, proved successful enough for them to branch out. In addition to the Houston outpost, versions of the restaurant are planned for Southern California and Florida.
“Grilling is the perfect way to experiment and taste different flavors, cuts of meat and styles of cooking,” Curry is quoted as saying at the restaurant’s website. “They all have one thing in common: That delicious taste is reminiscent of an outdoor family gathering!”
Asked last month by the Houston Chronicle about bringing such a restaurant to Houston, which already “boasts some of the state’s finest barbecue joints,” she replied, “I think what sets International Smoke apart from other barbecue joints is that it’s not just that! We have so much more to offer, and barbecue is not one thing.”
“Houston is America’s mecca of barbecue,” she added. “We would be kicking ourselves if we didn’t bring our global grilling concept to the city. We love our barbecue and think that the city of Houston will fall in love with it and make it a food home for them as well.”
Rockets fans didn’t seem quite as ready to fall in love, and even leaving aside the rivalry with the Warriors, many of them appeared offended by the notion that a San Francisco restaurant could further their barbecue-enjoyment experience. “Garbage, California don’t know anything about BBQ,” one Yelper wrote. “Probably eat a bunch of soy food. Stay out of Houston with that fake BBQ.”
“There are a million great BBQ places in Houston which do not require you to sell your soul,” another said. “Also, when Kevin Durant fills in as butcher, his first cut is a stab in the back.”
That last comment was representative of many in which the reviewer mixed in disdainful Warriors references. Several noted Durant’s widely criticized 2016 defection from Oklahoma City to Golden State, including these:
- “Only way for this restaurant to win is to add a pitmaster from another restaurant. This place certainly won’t be winning on its own.”
- “It’s like this place was really good and then realized they were missing a side dish. So they added a cupcake.”
“The water tastes like a mouthpiece was thrown in it. The restaurant smells like Draymond,” another said. “The food is blander than Klay’s face. The food tastes like snakes. The Greens were charred when they [arrived], and our waiter Kevin D. only cared to do things for his convenience and didn’t care about the customers at all.”
One reviewer really went for it, making a number of cuisine-based analogies to the Warriors and LeBron James. “I ordered the Lobster, and it was pretty good. It came with mashed potatoes and French fries and those were both pretty good complements to the lobster. However, this meal still lost to my 4 time most valuable meal, the steak,” the reviewer claimed. “This is nothing to scoff at, as the steak has been the best meal over the past 12 years. However, after suffering this defeat, the lobster, mashed potatoes and French fries called their friend The Brisket to come join their meal. While this did make the meal way better, I just can’t respect a meal that can’t stand on its own and has to recruit from the other best meals around the kitchen.
“I’d even go out on a limb to say this meal was rigged,” the reviewer said in conclusion. That was a reference to Ayesha Curry’s tweet during Game 6 of the 2016 Finals, which the Warriors lost to James’s Cavaliers, in which she complained that the contest was “rigged for money … or ratings.”
Curry subsequently apologized for those comments, telling People magazine, “I was just a fan in that moment, so I didn’t think about the ramifications.” Of the backlash she quickly received on Twitter, she said, “Since all this hoopla has happened, I have been a victim of reading the comments.”
Meanwhile, Rockets fans are clearly hoping that Curry’s restaurant becomes a victim of a torrent of negative comments on Yelp. To help make International Smoke a success in Houston, she may need a few of the Warriors fans who came to her online defense to show up in person and partake of her global grilling concept. Of course, they’ll first have to wait until the restaurant actually opens.
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