The Savory & Sweet Smell of Smoke

Williamsport,MD was owned by Otho Holland Williams. He was an Officer in the American Revolutionary War, and friend of George Washington, and for whom the town is named. It was once surveyed as a possible location our nation’s Capital. Rich in civil war history, every family in Williamsport was ordered to cook and tend to the wounded soldiers who retreated from Gettysburg.

Jeff Seal a.k.a “Toad” is the Owner/SmokeMaster of Smokin’ Toad. Linda MacCauley is the General Manager. Brian, Destani & Emily, along with Linda, run the day to day operations and come up with new delectable smoked delights to keep the fare fresh & intriguing. “Most everything can be cooked in the smoker. We will try most anything.” Linda says with a smile.

While Toad owned a local sub shop, he started some smoking of meats on the side. Customers would come in and say “You need to get a smoker and make more of this”. He found that more and more customers were coming in for the smoked meats. With the customer demand up, and at his Mom’s urging, Toad went with her to Home Depot and bought the smoker. With the sub shop market eventually closing, this left Toad with only some of the market restaurant equipment, $1900.00, and that smoker.

Following his heart and with a lot of support and encouragement from the community, Toad started looking for the right place for his own BBQ restaurant. He knew he wanted to be in his home town, on the main street, along with the other businesses he’s known all his life. He choose the building which was originally a home from the 1900’s, with just recently expanding to the other half of the downstairs. In December, 2016, Smokin’ Toad opened for business.

This is not your typical back yard BBQ. Growing up on Long Island, NY, before today, my idea of BBQ was a grill with my uncle lighting charcoal briquets with starter fluid, and grilling up hamburgers and hot dogs while my Aunt made corn and potato salad on hot August days. Not knowing anything about the process, I asked Toad to show me the smoker and the different compartments. Right outside the kitchen door, is where the magic happens. Although there wasn’t anything cooking, you could smell the tantalizing aroma lingering in the afternoon air. Linda chuckles as she tells me the mail lady always comments that she can recognize the aroma of the meats wafting all down her mail route. There are 2 mains parts to the smoker. The smoker is where meats are cooked at a lower temperature for a longer time. The pit, a smaller compartment, is where the meats cook at a higher temperature, for a shorter time. A nice stack of cherry wood rests by the smoker, ready to go in for the next cook. There is even a burner that is heated by propane, to boil water, since there are no ovens in the restaurant. I was astounded at how many foods can be cooked in the smoker. Toad started with pork and brisket, which smoke at lower temperatures from 8–18 hours. They now also offer pit beef and ham. The beef is top round, which Toad hand trims before cooking. “We don’t do frog legs yet. We are looking into getting gator.” When I asked what alligator tastes like, Toad tells me it tastes like sweet chicken. The burgers, which range from traditional cheeseburgers to being topped with brisket, pit ham, bacon, and house made crab dip are smoked at a higher heat. Ribs are dry rubbed and slow smoked and available on Fridays & Saturdays. I was surprised to hear there is even a smoked Pizza on the menu. The pizza dough is made in-house, from scratch by Brian, a long-time pizza chef. The pizza crust is put on a tray, with diner’s choice of toppings including meats and smoked to perfection. Pizzas usually smoke for 30-45 mins so it’s always best to call ahead. Fruits are even be smoked which results in a delectable sweet smoky flavor. Speaking of fruits, Linda’s Smoked Apple Dumplings are a must! They are offered year- round, to Toad’s delight, as his use for the apple skins is also year round for the Smoked Apple BBQ Sauce, and the dry rub for the ribs. To complete a delicious dinner, sweet treat desserts are even smoked. Destani & Emily make homemade dough for cookies. The cookie dough is placed in cast iron muffin pans, and they cook up like cake in the smoker! Rice Krispy treats are even smoked. Not smoked, but equally tempting are Gram’s Brownies. These are made-from-scratch brownies dotted with dark chocolate chips. They are for sale on the bar counter, but tend to go very fast. Breakfast sandwiches such as Brisket Egg & Cheese, Ham Egg & Cheese and Bacon Egg & Cheese are popular on Saturday mornings, but offered any time of day. Sausage gravy is also a big draw for the breakfast crowd. Like the mail lady, weather does not stop Toad. All the cooking is done outside, rain snow, hail or hot weather. Everything is cooked outside. Any weather, every day.

Knowing kids can be the hardest to please, there are ample kid’s menu choices from cheese, BBQ or Crabby pizzas to good ole’ P&J sandwiches. Linda shares with me they have a family that comes in every week just because the kids love the burgers here. Sides such as loaded baked potatoes and cheesy ranch potatoes, which are tangy scalloped potatoes compliment the meats so well. Those who want some greens with their BBQ also have their choice of a simple side garden salad to a hearty chef salad type Smoked Meat Salad.

I was impressed that even the 5 BBQ sauces offered are all house made, from scratch. No store bought sauces here. Flavors are Spicy Pepper, Smoked Apple, Honey BBQ, Sweet Jalapeno and Habanero Mango. Toad takes the apple skins from those Apple Dumplings and puts them to good use for the Smoked Apple Sauce.

Boylan soda, a small craft glass bottled soda out of New England is served. Coke, Pepsi & Mountain Dew is also offered in glass bottles.

Smokin’ Toad is BYOB or BYOW. Although the restaurant does not service alcohol, customers are welcome to bring their own libations with no corkage fee. There are local establishments that allow carry out of alcohol or carry in of BBQ. There is a nearby Bed & Breakfast where after a hearty meal, it is a short stroll to a nice relaxing evening. It is a close network of family businesses that support and rally around each other in this tight knit neighborhood.

Linda motions towards Toad and tells me he’s very much the perfectionist. “He works at getting it just right and won’t put something on the menu until he feels it is excellent.”

In addition to offering hand crafted genuine comfort food, Toad and his staff are happy to give back to the community he grew up in and who have been there for them. They offer days where organizations can raise money for their schools, sports, churches, little leagues or other teams where diners who come in will have a generous portion of the day’s proceeds go towards their fundraising goals. Subs & sandwiches are also a popular and tasty fundraiser option. Gift cards to Smokin’ Toad are also generously donated to Quarter Auctions.

“Otho”, the mascot toad statue stands at the ready to greet diners. Everything on the walls of the restaurant has a personal meaning to Toad and his staff. As I look around, Linda shares the history of some of the pieces on the walls. It was heartwarming to me to know many of the pieces were donated by Smokin’ Toad’s customers. “They are proud, proud to be a part of this restaurant and part of us” One of the dining tables is from Toad’s childhood home. Toad runs his hand over the well lacquered wood and points out a coffee ring stain that has been there for decades. There are two red leather bar stools from The Old Mill Inn, where Toad’s Grandmother and Aunt worked. Proudly displayed is a photograph of Toad’s Great-Great Grandfather, a bugler in the Pennsylvania Cavalry flocked by his large family. The wood on the Bar counter is reclaimed from an attic floor in an old house in Maugansville. Wild Turkey whiskey barrels under glass tops welcome diners to a view of the main street while enjoying a leisurely comfort meal.

Customers come from near and far, very far. “We’ve had customers from California, New England, and even New Zealand! We want people to come not only for the food, but for the whole experience.” Many people who dine in often want a picture taken with Toad. Something I’ve never seen before is a Best Wishes Wall. This is a wall created by customers, who sign dollar bills, and hang them on a wall. This is a testament of how much this restaurant means to its customers. There is also a River Rat banner, which is loaded with dated signatures of diners from near and far. Tee-shirts are available for purchase with the Smokin’ Toad logo on them. This is a total BBQ experience!

Smokin’ Toad’s Autumn hours are Thursdays & Fridays, 11AM to 9PM & Saturdays 8AM to 9PM. Delivery is available for lunch orders within 3 miles, with a minimum $25 order. Delivery is available to local offices and businesses, large and small. Catering is also available for large events and weddings. “We go almost anywhere, we cater small and large, from 10 lbs of pork to a 300 lb hog, from Hancock to Clear Spring and beyond.

In this day and age of chain restaurants and ready-packaged flash frozen meals, this BBQ joint is the unique real deal. From the meats down to the BBQ sauces, it’s all made in house daily. This is the ultimate when it comes to stick-to-your-ribs, satisfied-for-the-rest-of-the-day comfort food.

Smokin Toad is located at 24 N Conococheague Street, Williamsport, MD

Phone is (301) 223-3447 You can find them online on FaceBook, Yelp, & Tripadvisor

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