The Hut 2.0, now with smoked meats

Thanks to two families with Santa Clara University roots, the school’s legendary hangout, The Hut, has been reborn — as a restaurant-bar minus the “dive” component.

The college crowd packed the place for the reopening June 11, just a handful of days before commencement.

Now that it’s summer and the campus has quieted down, it’s a perfect time for locals to head over for lunch or dinner and see what co-owners Tim and Claranne Ravizza Long and Casey and Cathy O’Connor have done with the place.

Here’s our first look:

THE VIBE: Not surprisingly, you’ll find a “Cheers”-like “everybody knows your name” vibe, with professors, students, parents and alums all mixing at this SCU hangout. But this barbecue-loving San Jose State University grad was warmly welcomed. And once more folks discover the restaurant and patio here, there should be a wide cross-section of customers.

The dark look that reigned at The Hut for 70 years is gone, as are the dusty dollar bills affixed to the ceiling. Now there’s a bright interior with more light, a tiled bar with 12 beer taps and a patio. The wall of memorabilia is a nostalgic romp through Bronco history, and a neon sign pays tribute to that old tradition of tacking up a dollar bill upon graduation.

The interior seats about 80 at tables and at the bar; that space, with its open-ductwork ceiling, can get noisy when crowded. A quieter option is the patio, with room for nearly 50.

THE FOOD: General manager Jenna Johnson, the Longs’ daughter, brings a deep restaurant background to The Hut; she’s been a baker for Mayfield in Palo Alto, and worked front of house for Boulevard and Foreign Cinema, both in San Francisco. Here she runs a scratch kitchen, with all sauces and dressings made in-house. And she’s hired industry veterans to help pull off the challenging barbecue concept.

The state-of-the-art smoker on the patio turns out medium-rare, lightly smoked slices of beef for the popular Tri-Tip Sandwich ($12) and platter ($10 or $15 with a side dish and garlic bread). Other choices include Baby Back Ribs (by the quarter, half or full rack, $8-$22); Pulled Chicken Sandwiches ($9); Street Tacos with smoked meat ($3.50 each); and Chicken Wings that are smoked, then flash-fried ($7.50 or $13 for a dozen).

Three meal-size salads are offered ($9-$12), and the Fried Buffalo Cauliflower ($6) is an appetizer that will appeal to vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Besides the dozen beers on tap and more in the fridge, there’s wine (including Leese-Fitch cabernet, made by SCU grads) and two fresh-fruit Slushies of the Moment ($11). One’s a peachy sangria and the other a strawberry-jalapeño-tequila concoction.

DON’T MISS: The Pulled Pork Sandwich ($9) is a super smoky, flavorful version topped with crunchy coleslaw. Housemade pickles and pickled onions are served on the side.

GOOD TO KNOW: The Hut is now family-friendly, with high chairs and a childrens menu. Kids 10 and under can order chicken drumsticks ($5), quesadillas ($5) and more. The patio is dog-friendly.

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