A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


Tastes buds conspire in Pomona for all BBQ desires – Smoke & Fire Social Eatery

Barbecue tastes so good it makes you want to slap your momma
Robbie Doctor
In an unsuspecting building located on the corner of Foothill Blvd and Sumner Ave is the best barbecue you’ll ever taste.

It was all a dream, I used to eat Applebee’s from up the street. So much sauce on the plate and not enough meat. The barbecue wasn’t tender enough to fall off the bone. But, this place in Pomona got it right and it felt just like home.

I made my way down Foothill Boulevard, into a spot hiding in the cut and noticed every parking spot was open as I walked through the doors. No patrons were inside and I was first in line. I glance at the menu and what catches my eye is a brisket burrito for $16.99.

Patiently waiting for my order to arrive, Biggie Smalls’ lyrical high puts me in a vibe. It’s comforting, a second home where I can watch sports, invite the fellas to chill out and let the time pass by. As my food arrives and I take my first bite – pure ecstasy. Every bite I take, every sip I make – blissfully forgetting my momma’s home cooking and pure ascension into culinary heaven.

This is Smoke & Fire – Social Eatery.


If perfection were a burrito, it would be Smoke & Fire’s brisket burrito loaded with crispy and tender brisket, waffle fries, mac ‘n cheese, melted cheese and cilantro. (Robbie Doctor)


What started as a far-fetched passion project became a reality in July 2021 for friends and owners Rafael Marroquin, Isaias Hernandez, Juan Hernandez and Russell Lee, who all manage and contribute their specialties to run this booming barbecue business.

Smoke & Fire began as a hospitality associates group for local eateries to billion-dollar restaurant groups. Using common knowledge recipes from years in the industry while combining traditional styles to push the research and development to create a unique and distinct taste to their menu, Smoke & Fire offers a dish for everybody.

With their first location opening in La Habra over a year into the pandemic, Smoke & Fire survived the trials and tribulations of the global outbreak by becoming a staple of the community through quality food at an affordable price. So much so, the main restaurant expanded with two more locations: One in Paramount and another in Pomona.

What makes Smoke & Fire different from other barbecue joints? Their consistency.


Chef Tim Nevárez prepares the ribs with a mustard base to allow the seasoning to bond better with the beef to develop a smoky flavor and a crispy “bark” on the outside of the meat. (Robbie Doctor)


The chefs take pride in what they do: Making sure the brisket is always tender, waiting till the absolute last second to make sure that the slice is perfectly hot right out of the sham and ensuring the customer feels at home like their favorite uncle hooked it up with a hearty portion of savory smoked heaven.

What also separates Smoke & Fire from the competition – the price. Chain restaurants such as Applebee’s or Chili’s charge $20.99 for a rib or steak smokehouse combo with a pitiful amount of protein leaving customers wanting more meat but not bad enough to drop another bill. Even local barbecue eateries such as Joey’s BBQ don’t beat Smoke & Fire’s price point and quality, charging an extra $5-$7 for the exact sandwich or combo plate where the portions don’t match the price.


Oftentimes, Imani Mitchell-Garcia is the first face you’ll see when you walk through the doors of Smoke & Fire welcoming you with a smile and quality customer service. (Robbie Doctor)


Although the menu is Halal-based, meaning they do not offer pork options, Smoke & Fire focuses primarily on four proteins: beef ribs smoked for 7-10 hours, 12-hour slow-cooked brisket, in-house made meatballs and chicken. With every dish, they have the ability to finely prepare and highlight each protein as the focal point of each dish portioned and paired with the proper amount of complimentary ingredients.

Josue Rodriguez, general manager of the Pomona location, explained that most of the proteins and ingredients are in the other menu items, giving customers peace of mind knowing the quality won’t be compromised and allowing the restaurant to sell quality meats for a bargain price.


Various artworks in the restaurant made by Jose Ortiz. Selena watches over you in the women’s restroom while Craig from “Friday,” played by Ice Cube, is across the hall in the men’s restroom. (Robbie Doctor)


Upon entry, one of the initial impressions you’ll encounter is the artwork adorning the walls. Santa Ana urban artist Jose Ortiz, who is close friends with management, created all of the murals and paintings for the other locations. After recreating a mural of Pops from the hood classic “Friday” in his iconic bathroom scene for the first location, Ortiz continued the “Friday” theme by creating the other half of the bathroom scene – Craig, played by Ice Cube, covering his nose as he talks to Pops on the toilet. In the women’s restroom is a mural of the iconic Latin artist, Selena.

To connect with the local community, Rodriguez has opened the Smoke ‘n’ Fire doors to hosting gatherings such as “Pods & Pints Monday Night Magic” every other Monday from 5-10 p.m. where Magic players can congregate, casually compete and chug a few brews with the crew.

“That’s the rewarding part – ingratiating yourself in the community,” Rodriguez said. “We just did a small backyard gathering with about 25 people. They’re the nicest people ever. It’s really nice meeting people. It’s the small locals connections and having an environment where people just have conversations, no arguments, no judgments. They’re just having good times to enjoy good food.”

And yes, they do have beer on tap. A classic pair with contrasting profiles, beer and barbecue are American staples that embody social and regional tradition. Whether you’re from the East Coast, down South, the Midwest or the Westside, a brew and brisket or seltzer and some ribs is mouthwatering in all regions.

“We carry all of the Villains Brewing Company beers – all the staples and most of their IPAs that fluctuate,” Rodriguez said.



Boasting a 4.7-star rating on Yelp, it truly is hard to go wrong ordering on their menu. Smoke & Fire offers an emotional souvenir in every dish.

“We don’t just feed the body; we focus on the soul,” is their motto.

Smoke & Fire exemplifies how when a business runs smoothly, it evolves into more than just a company – it becomes a family. They have transformed from a close-knit family into a thriving restaurant group dedicated to delivering the pinnacle of food experiences through their quick-service format. They aim to uphold the high standards of full-service dining and feeding the soul with fire food.

If you haven’t come by to Smoke & Fire, definitely come with an empty stomach and check it out where they smoke meat every day.

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About the Contributor
Robbie Doctor
Robbie Doctor, Managing Editor
Robbie Asuncion Doctor is the Managing Editor. He has been on staff since Fall 2021 and is an avid Sports and A&E reporter. Some of his favorite hobbies when not watching sports or movies include cooking, martial arts, traveling and wine tasting. A piece of advice he would give to his younger self is never hesitate to ask for help and trust your instincts. His biggest pet peeve is drivers who don’t use their turn signals. Email: [email protected]

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