Downtowners can get down with a taste of down South during lunchtime now that Cook Shack BarBQ has opened up its Long Street branch.

Downtowners can get down with a taste of down South during lunchtime now that Cook Shack BarBQ has opened up its Long Street branch.

Positioned along an alleyway, this short place is modest but clean inside, where the scene could best be described as on the nondescript side. Unless you count the standout scent of wood smoke - and I most certainly do.

With a menu scaled back from Cook's flagship Hilliard shop and limited hours, this new location is clearly geared to accommodate the busy weekday lunch rush. That's no doubt why there's only a few tables and the staff of friendly guys serves up the vittles cafeteria-style.

So if the weather's nice, and it was last Friday, I suggest you load up on Cook's goodies and make the short march to the Statehouse lawn, which affords prime picnic-style perching spots.

There, or even in your suddenly not-dreadful, smoky, meat-filled cubicle, you'll munch on nice-priced, well-executed, face-smearing grub like sandwiches ($5-$6.50) made with meats pre-slathered with the good house sauce - a sweet but very zingy, thick and dark Kansas City style with black molasses and a bit of celery seed. Also available are a honey mustard sauce and a spicier Carolina style I quite like.

Cook's also features salads with or without meat ($4-$8), ribs (my favorite thing here), down-home sides ($1.69) and combo-style platters. In general, as is often the Southern custom, things here are cooked into submission and are finely chopped, making chewing a breeze even for the dentally challenged.

Since I was part of a quartet of hungry picnickers, we went whole hog with the sampler platter ($25) and even tacked on an extra side - and still had a sack full of leftovers.

The generous sampler platter came with two shareable sides and:

* a half-rack of ribs - smoky, bacony, properly chewy and darkly crusted

* half a chicken - hickory smoked so that the woodsy aroma permeated the meat (but didn't overwhelm it) and the skin turned gray

* beef brisket - heavily sauced, chip-chopped, a little greasy and with a jerk-like aspect

* pulled pork - also shiny with fat (it's barbecue, after all) and marrying well with its sauce

The greens were finely minced and not as vinegary as some, but good nonetheless with a pepperiness accented by bacon and onion.

The finely shredded slaw was crunchy and fresh-tasting - peppery and on the sweet side and not too creamy.

Sidewise, Cook's went three for three with its old-fashioned pork-and-beans-style baked beans. They were thick and rich, a tad spicy, strewn with meat and made distinct by a flavoring of green pepper.

With solid and inexpensive pre-prepped picnic fixins like these, I'd definitely hit the Shack up again for a super-easy, on-the-blanket Southern-style lunch.