Finding authentic barbeque in Chicago just got easier
March 2, 2007 (WLS) -- Finding authentic barbeque in Chicago is getting a little easier. While the tradition of cooking slowly over hardwood is more common in Kansas City, Texas and the Carolinas, our food reporter says there is hope. It comes in the form of a new joint in Old Irving Park where they're cooking low and slow everyday.
While most of the old-school barbeque joints reside on the South Side -- places like Lem's and the Rib Joint -- there are two problems: one, it's take-out only, and two, options are limited to ribs, tips and hot links. But the North Side has finally gotten in on the act, with a handful of restaurants where you can sit down, order both ribs and pulled pork, and in the case of our latest entry, dig into the finest smoked brisket in town.
Joining only a handful of like-minded barbeque houses in the city, Smoque aims to deliver a true taste of the American South in the Old Irving Park neighborhood.
"We're not really a North Side-style place, we're not really a South Side-style place. We try to take some of the elements that we like from some of the great barbeque cities in the United States: Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, Carolinas, and bring some of those elements together in one place," said Barry Sorkin, Smoque BBQ.
It is barbeque nirvana. Consider the ribs: either large St. Louis-style, smoked for four hours over hardwood, or the smaller baby backs, smoked for three.
"We like them to have a little but of a tug to them. Our thinking is if you want something that falls off a bone, you should order something that doesn't come on a bone," said Sorkin.
The pulled pork is smoked 14 hours, and is roughly chopped, not shredded. Piled atop sturdy rolls, the homemade sauce is added just before serving.
"Our sauce is very much a western North Carolina, which is a tomato-based sauce with a pretty heavy dose of vinegar in it, not the pure vinegar they do on the eastern part of the state, but more like what you get in the western part," Sorkin said.
Do not pass up the brisket. Dry-rubbed and smoked, it is meltingly tender -- either sliced or chopped and served in a sandwich, it's the best of Kansas City and Texas rolled into one.
"We almost didn't put it on the menu, because we thought people in Chicago really didn't care much about brisket, but we had such good brisket when we went down to Austin, that we said we got to try this here. It has become our number one seller, literally selling out of it," said Sorkin.
Sides are a hallmark for any respectable joint, and Smoque delivers: whether it's cheesy, breadcrumb-topped mac n' cheese, smokey-sweet baked beans studded with bits of pork and brisket, or just the crisp, vinegar-laced coleslaw. Attention has been paid to every detail.
"We wanted to have a more limited menu, but everything on the menu wanted to be a very sincere effort to make that item really special," Sorkin said.
Two other good options for full-service barbeque with more than just ribs include: Fat Willy's in Logan Square and Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park.
3800 N. Pulaski Rd.
2416 W. Schubert
1804 W. Division
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