If you’re heading northbound toward downtown Oak Bluffs, it’s pretty tough to miss the crimson-red building and 300-pound brass bull stationed alongside Dukes County Avenue – but it’s impossible to miss the smell.

“We use local oak,” Dan Sauer, the Montana-turned–Martha’s Vineyard chef who opened Sea Smoke Barbecue in July of 2017, says while checking on the meat at his Oak Bluffs restaurant.

“I have always been a big fan of barbecue, and I like to open places of things I like to eat.”

Anyone who knows Sauer knows how true this is. In 2011, after a career spent in fine dining in New York and Massachusetts, the Culinary Institute of America–trained chef opened 7a Foods in West Tisbury, a casual take-out spot with really good sandwiches. “My favorite thing in the whole world is the sandwich, and you know, most chefs eat a sandwich of whatever’s left over at the end of the night. I wanted 7a to be a place where I could offer really good ones.”

Sea Smoke does have sandwiches, but it also offers corn pudding fritters, chicken wings, skillets of macaroni and cheese topped with pork belly, and, of course, platters of smoked meat: ribs, chicken, kielbasa, turkey legs, and – the true test of slow smoking – brisket.

“I also really love brisket,” he says.

Sauer’s answer to good brisket is to slow-smoke it until the meat is tender enough to bend all the way over but not fall apart. “Beef brisket is just above the belly, towards the front of the animal, and it’s an extremely tough cut of meat, which is why you generally see it smoked, or brined and smoked, for so long,” he explains.

To craft the perfect texture and taste, Sauer rubs the beef with salt, pepper, and a blend of Mocha Mott’s and Chilmark Coffee Company espresso. “We put it on in late afternoon, between 4:30 and 5 p.m., and it gets smoked for at least five or six hours.” Then it gets taken out, wrapped in butcher paper, and set back in the smoker overnight. The whole process takes about sixteen hours total.

While the brisket cooks, a mellow, sweet aroma seeps out into the air. When the meat is removed from the smoker, that smell is magnified tenfold.

There are several ways to enjoy Sea Smoke brisket: you can order it sliced (by the pound if it’s to-go, on a tray with two sides and cornbread if it’s for dine-in) or chopped and sauced (tossed with homemade barbecue sauce).

But if you want to eat like a chef, order the brisket sandwich, made with cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeños, and barbecue sauce.

“It’s my favorite sandwich, for sure,” Sauer says. And that’s saying a lot.