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Posts Tagged ‘smoque’

My buddy Nick has been harping on me for a while to check out this rib place next to his apartment. With no real dinner plan last night, combined with my ride home from a haircut, I took advantage of having Honey 1 BBQ in my crosshairs. On a cold night made even colder from having my natural fur hat trimmed back some bone stickin ribs sounded about right.

I walked in the front door and went down the hallway to order up my ribs. Huge menus on the wall, didn’t need to look though, I knew was I was getting.

I ordered 2 full slabs that each came with some cole slaw, french fries (they were underneath the ribs), and two slices of white bread. I also got some baked beans, some fiber to help all moving parts move.

It took about 15 minutes to get my food, and that’s fine because it gave me a chance to read all of the articles written about them on their wall. Seems Robert Adams is a firm believer in the slow food movement, especially with something like tender smoked pork ribs. He only cooks a night’s worth of business each day so nothing sits out. He uses a small glass-walled smoker with a variety of wood chips. The sauce is made fresh as well. He doesn’t used the baby back ribs that are so popular, he uses spare ribs and gets just the right amount of smoke to cut through that fat but still be able to taste all of the juicy morsels of pig.

When I got them home I slathered some of the BBQ sauce all over the ribs. It’s nice, not too spicy, not too vinegary, a nicely balanced sauce. Since the fries got a little greasy from resting under the ribs I put them in the toaster. That crisped them right up. The ribs were outstanding. Being spare ribs and not baby backs they weren’t quite as tender, but they were moist and tasted fantastic. The only real problem I could find is that they are much bigger than I thought they’d be. I figured that two slabs would cover us both for dinner last night and lunch today. Well, lunch was a few hours ago and while Yuki and I each ate more ribs today, I still have a full slab in the fridge. I think I’ll make a pork rib chili or something with them.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying they arer the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, or even the best in Chicago (I think Smoque still has that honor), but they are definitely in the conversation. I would happily fill myself with Honey 1 BBQ ribs and then do it all over again.

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Last night my buddy Nick wanted to meet up for a happy hour drink. In the morning he suggested either grabbing a beer or trying a new taco joint or something, he’s a taco eating freak of nature who would hook La Pasadita up to an IV bag if he could. I had read about Lillie’s Q and was very intrigued by a BBQ place whose chef had logged time at places like Tru and Avenues and who used his grandma’s Memphis In May winning BBQ sauces. When I noticed that they served fried pickles I knew I could get Nick on board as he’s from The Muthaland, better known as Louisville, KY, where a place called Genny’s serves up frickled pickles, a dish near and dear to his tracts.

We got a table quickly as it wasn’t full yet, it did fill up shortly after we got there. The space is nice, simple, and clean. Brick walls and a nice bar, very typical of a Bucktown storefront. On the tables are the various in-house BBQ sauces. There’s the Hot Smokey, Smokey, Carolina, Carolina Gold, and Ivory. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, but we both agreed that they should tell a little about the flavor profiles. We opted to taste little dabs of each. They were all pretty solid sauces.

Of course, we started withe the fried pickles. I’m not a big pickle fan (I think my younger brother and I are the only two Jews in the world who wouldn’t slather ourselves in pickles if it were socially acceptable) but these weren’t too bad. The frickled pickles at Genny’s are thinly sliced while these were big chunks. Having been to Genny’s myself I think I agree with Nick that thin slices are better because you get a better ratio of coating to pickle. Also, these were served with their Ivory Sauce, a variation of Ranch Dressing. The proper sauce for a fried pickle should be a mixture of ranch with ketchup. All in all though, not too bad.

As we looked further into the menu we noticed a 4 bone option for the ribs. Since we wanted to try a bunch of things that seemed like a great second appetizer to share. The ribs were really good. Very tender, moist, nice subtle smokey flavor, and just the right amount of BBQ sauce caramelized on the surface. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are the best ribs I’ve ever had, I will say that they were damn good. Nick claims that Honey 1 has a better rib, but I’ve never tried them so I can’t comment. I will say that the ribs at Smoque are a little better than these. So, the verdict is that these are very good ribs, but not the best ribs.

For the main event we decided to try the pulled pork sandwich, tri-tip sandwich, and seasoned sweet potato fries and split everything. We got the sandwiches with the “Carolina-style” option, which is basically a pile of slaw thrown on top of the meat. The pulled pork was excellent. Very tender and juicy meat. The tri-tip, not the best. The meat was cooked properly, it just didn’t have any flavor. The brioche they use for buns had a much stronger flavor than the meat, something that should never happen with BBQ’d beef. If you take the meat out of the bun and squirt some of the Carolina Gold, a vinegary mustard sauce, all over it the meat becomes a great vessel to enjoy the sauce. Otherwise, it has no real purpose in life. Neither of the sandwiches came sauced, which is nice because you have the option of choosing the sauce that best fits your style. I thought the Smokey on the pulled pork was a great sandwich. As for the sweet potato fries, they were just your regular sweet potato fries. I will say that they were perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

While the food was well above average I kind of expected a little more considering Chef McKenna’s background. I actually think his background was a bit of a hinderance on the food. Real BBQ is not served on brioche, and last night I found out why. The sweetness of the bread was too much for these sandwiches. A regular bun would take these sandwiches from really good all the way up to great on my scale of good to great. What do the French know about southern BBQ anyway?

We didn’t try any of their “Moonshine” cocktails, instead opted for jars of beer. They have a decent little beer list that washed all of the food down nicely.

As for the service, I thought it was fantastic. Timely, professional, not pushy at all. The place is run very smoothly.

Overall, Lillie’s Q is a really good BBQ joint but by no means a must go. If I’m walking around the area and get the craving for some BBQ I have no problems stopping in and filling my belly with their grub. However, if heading to BBQ is something planned ahead of time I’d rather meander over to Smoque. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Lillie’s Q, it’s just not an out-of-this-world BBQ experience.

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My buddy Nimah has been in town and finally made a little time to see Yuki and I Sunday night for dinner. His wife and brother were supposed to join us, but they both backed out. It’s nice to know where we stand on their totem pole (I’ll remember this Lora and Ramin!). At any rate, for the past couple of weeks all he’s been talking about was Smoque. “Yo Twig”. He’s been calling me Twig since high school. “How’s Smoque?” I just kept telling him that it’s hands down the best BBQ in Chicago, maybe even the best BBQ north of Mason-Dixon Line. It’s at least the best BBQ Brisket north of Texas. Honestly, I haven’t even eaten it’s equal in Texas, although I’ve only had a couple of BBQ Briskets there.

So he got there early, which is quite amazing. He’s notoriously late (no, he’s not pregnant, but he does have three testicles…all Iranians have three testicles, just ask him) and I’m notoriously punctual. We were supposed to meet at 7 and he got there at 6:40. I was just about to hop on the highway and he called. “Twig, there’s a friggin line down the street!”. That should have been a sign to him that I’m not the only one who thinks Smoque is the best. That worked well for us since he got to wait in line for us. When we showed up, it wasn’t too bad. They do a pretty good job of keeping the line moving.

He kept asking me what to order, and I kept telling him to get the sliced brisket sandwich. Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever gotten there other than the chili made with their brisket. I have to imagine that their ribs are pretty damn good too, but I’ve never had them. Always skeptical he asked one of the guys who works there. Of course, he said, “Get the brisket”. Just goes to show that I’m always right.

After about a half hour wait, not too bad, we ordered our food and got our seats. Besides sliced brisket they also do a chopped brisket. Yuki and I decided to try the chopped, so we got one of each and split them. I have to say, I think the chopped may even be better! You get more of the charred outside, and that has a ton of flavor. But, the sliced has more of the fat. You really can’t go wrong either way. All sandwiches come with a side of slaw. Theirs is nice because it’s just vinegar, no mayonnaise. That helps keep it light and helps you digest all of the delicious smoked carcass. I’m a mac’n’cheese guy, so I usually get that for my side. They have a great mac’n’cheese. Yuki got the fries. They cut their own potatoes and they keep the oil hot enough to cook them properly. Nimah got the baked beans. Simple BBQ beans, but their sauce makes them stand above the rest.

Oh, I should back up a bit in the story. While we were waiting for our food to be called at our seats one of the owners brought the people next to us some fresh made ginger cookies. I didn’t know why at the time (turns out they wanted some cobbler but Smoque was out, so they brought them some complimentary cookies) but anyone who knows me knows that I’m not shy. I said to the owner, “We have some problems with our food too, do we get cookies?” I was completely joking because we haven’t gotten our food yet. He said, “Sure, I’ll get you some cookies”. I told him I was just kidding, but he said they had more and it was no problem. Moral of that story, it pays to be an obnoxious extrovert with no shame!

Wanting to try their pulled pork, but only having one stomach each, Yuki and I brought a couple of sandwiches home for lunch today. Beautiful! Absolutely lovely. Every bit the brisket’s equal. Well, I think I’d still get the chopped brisket over the pulled pork, but there isn’t a better tasting pig-which in town! The cornbread also held up to a night in the fridge. It was relatively moist all things considered.

All in all, if you haven’t made it to Smoque yet then you really need to. That is unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan. In which case you and I must have a sit down. Vegetarian meals are important, but only on Meatless Monday. Every other day of the week Smoque makes a tasty and inexpensive option to fill your guts.

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