Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
ronnie_suburban

Smoque BBQ - Chicago

Recommended Posts

I've eaten at Chicago's newest BBQ joint, Smoque, which opened back in December 2006, a few times now and it's been quite good each time out. There's been a lot of buzz about it, especially at some other message forums -- and after being featured on WLS TV's Hungry Hound, the crowds descended. For a while, it seemed that the Smoque team wouldn't be able to keep up. On a few occasions, they ran out of food. Of course, in the world of restaurants, running out of food is never pleasant but with authentic BBQ, it's a somewhat common occurence and tends to indicate that things are being done properly. No one wants re-warmed BBQ from a previous day's production, so when good BBQ gets 86'd, it's not necessarily something to lament. Here are some assorted thoughts, based on my few visits to Smoque . . .

Getting there right as they opened at 11 am was a great idea (if I do so say myself :wink:). There was a small line and a few large, carry-out orders being put together but the wait was not long and there was plenty of parking on Pulaski. Needless to say, they were not yet out of anything. There was a short wait for chicken but it was ready -- and brought to our table -- before we'd eaten the rest of our order.

The food is definitely tasty. I especially enjoyed the moist, fatty brisket. My portion of the sliced variety (it's also available chopped) contained thick planks of flat and point. It had a nice, barky exterior and a great, smokey flavor . . . nice smoke ring, too. The pulled pork was also really good -- smokey and moist. I liked that it had not been drowned in sauce so the smoke and the pork really came through.

The ribs were also very nice. I like that Smoque serves them dry (light glaze of sauce which becomes a delicious, thin crust). The flavor was great and a well-defined smoke ring was evident. I tried both the spare ribs and the baby backs and fell into my usual preference for baby backs. I thought the amount of cooking, as indicated by bite resistance, was right on, too. The meat was very smokey and came away from the bone with a healthy tug but it was not falling off the bone. The only negative was that the rib meat was a bit dry. I'm not sure if this was a style choice, an abberation or if it represented a problem that might need to be addressed. Still, I'm nitpicking because the ribs were very good and were on a par with just about any (actual BBQ) restauant ribs I've had in town. On subsequent visits, I didn't have the ribs, so I cannot comment further.

The chicken was moist and flavorful with a nicely-salty skin. Sometimes smoked poultry skin can get a bit rubbery but owner Barry Sorkin pointed out to us that the convection fans in the Southern Pride smokers actually produce a very palatable skin. Chalk one up for Southern Pride.

Sides were a mixed bag and just a tiny notch below the meats, I thought. I liked the 'Chicago-style' fries a lot. Cornbread was also very good. The flavorful baked beans, studded with chunks of meat and onion, have varied over my visits but they're always good and last time out they were excellent. Cabbage in the slaw was a bit too crunchy for me (I tend to enjoy slaws made with pre-salted cabbage a bit more) but I did like the dressing. Macaroni and cheese was good. The flavor was nice but I prefer it a bit creamier. I thought that both BBQ sauces, which I used sparingly, were quite tasty. As for the NC-style, I prefer a bit more vinegar and a thinner sauce overall, but again, we're down to nitpicking.

It seems that the Smoque team is holding up pretty well in the wake their initial avalanche of success and that they are not taking lightly the problems that have been brought to their attention. I get the feeling that they'd hoped for a slower ramp-up so that they could have addressed the issues a bit more systematically and patiently, rather than on-the-fly, with the audience 'in their seats,' so to speak. But the waits were not long at any of my visits. During visit #1, at 11:45, I got back in the short line and placed a 2nd, carry-out order to bring back to my office. It was ready within a few minutes. Visits #2 and #3 -- both around mid-day -- were essentially waitless.

If running out of food is the worst thing that can be said about Smoque, I think that the hardest part of their 'birth' is probably behind them. And again, it seemed pretty clear to me that the problems which have been noted are really being taken to heart by Smoque's owners. According to Mr. Sorkin, customers are already making unsolicited suggestions for additional Smoque locations. With that kind of goodwill, they'll likely have enough wiggle room to work out the problems that have accompanied their somewhat unexpected initial rush of success. I definitely plan on returning to Smoque on a regular basis.

=R=

Smoque BBQ

3800 N Pulaski

Chicago, IL 60641

(773) 545-7427


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was with RS on his first visit to Smoque BBQ and here are the images from that meal...

gallery_30892_4582_1033763.jpg

exterior

gallery_30892_4582_164737.jpg

menu

gallery_30892_4582_881303.jpg

ronnie s.'s view of the court on a fastbreak...little did they know what was coming

gallery_30892_4582_363075.jpg

gallery_30892_4582_348848.jpg

Pulled Pork

gallery_30892_4582_1172125.jpg

gallery_30892_4582_206098.jpg

Sliced Brisket

gallery_30892_4582_1016046.jpg

1/2 slab of baby back ribs (on top) and 1/2 slab of St. Louis ribs (bottom)

gallery_30892_4582_641891.jpg

baby back rib

gallery_30892_4582_492640.jpg

1/2 chicken

We had lunch at Smoque and each following day when I thought about where I was going to go for lunch, my thoughts turned to Smoque :wub: . That is an indication of how much I liked Smoque's fare, but for research purposes a return visit was not in the cards. The absolute standouts for me were the pulled pork and sliced brisket...so moist and flavorful as good as I have ever had in Chicago. We really should have ordered the sandwich versions of the brisket and the pork because the rolls looked great.I liked the baby backs a little more than the St Louis ribs but I need to try them again, yea definitely :laugh: . Both BBQ sauces were tasty and served on the side so you can apply to your liking. We came right at the opening so the chicken was ready a little after our order. At that point, I was satisfied after what we had eaten thus far but when RS cut into the chicken, the juices were flowing so I had to dig in. I thought the chicken was outstanding, but we did get it right out of the smoker so I am not sure if that level of juicyness is standard. As far as the sides: the fries were very good, beans and slaw - ok and the mac and cheese had a layer of crumbs on top that I felt should have been mixed in with the pasta and gratineed. We spoke with the owner, Barry. and his commitment to deliver the best product is evident. He told us of his research expedition to K.C., Austin and I think Carolina to check out the various types of "Q" to see what he liked best. Smoque is highly recommended and I seem to have been woowed by the "Q" that Barry and the gang are turning on out there.


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We ate at Smoque last week and thought it was excellent. Our first indication of the seriousness and authenticity was upon stepping out of our car, when we were greeted by that great smokehouse flavor eminating from the building (something I've never smelled walking by Carson's). We went on Thursday at 7:30 and had just a brief wait in line and for our food.

As there were just two of us, I didn't have the opportunity to try everything that I wanted to...I had the baby backs (great smoky flavor, loved the rub & the opportunity to control my sauce level, but like RS thought they might have been slightly dry) and my wife had the very good pulled pork. I thought sides were very good across the board--excellent fries and IMO the best baked beans I've had in ages. Coleslaw was VERY vinegary, which I liked, my wife not so much.

Overall, I think Smoque is by far the best BBQ place in the city...if I worked/lived nearby I would want to eat there multiple times/week.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Smoque has quickly become one of my Chicago favorites and a definite must go when I am in town...the pulled pork and brisket at Smoque haunts me :blush:

gallery_30892_4582_1052743.jpg

Pulled Pork Sandwich

The first time that I went to Smoque, RS did the ordering and must have thought that I was watching my carbs because he ordered the brisket and the pulled pork not in the sandwich form. Since then I had wanted to go back and try both of them in sandwiches and try them I have - a few times! A friend joined for his maiden trip to Smoque and felt not only is it the best Q in Chicago but some of the best he has ever had. Somehow RS let me taste one of his ribs and these were far better than my first taste of them and were dynamite. I STRONGLY recommend Smoque!!


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Somehow RS let me taste one of his ribs and these were far better than my first taste of them and were dynamite.

Molto e is right. The ribs yesterday (and at my last visit to Smoque) were fantastic. Last time, I went with the baby backs. Yesterday, I went with the St. Louis-style (spare ribs), which were out of this world . . .

gallery_3085_4703_62337.jpg

St. Louis-style ribs at Smoque

gallery_3085_4703_117340.jpg

A closer look at the St. Louis-style ribs at Smoque

gallery_3085_4703_117575.jpg

Interior view of the St. Louis-style ribs at Smoque

These ribs were dead-solid perfect. They were piping hot and utterly delicious. The exterior had a great crust and the interior was juicy and smokey. They were tender but not soft, as the meat came away from the bone with a firm tug. It was a pleasure to eat them. I have to say that the ribs I enjoyed at my 2 most recent visits to Smoque have been the best ribs I've ever eaten in a commercial establishment.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more shot from yesterday that I thought might be worth sharing . . .

gallery_3085_4703_118879.jpg

Sliced Brisket Sandwich at Smoque

(proof that I was not low-carbing at Smoque :wink:)

=R=


Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No pics from me, but I wanted to say how glad I am that you guys put up your pics and reviews of the place. I had some friends over a few weekends ago and this was my second to last meal with them. They had wanted to try bbq in Chicago and I searched posts on egullet for help. I don't really know bbq, but my friends said Smoque was amazing.

We ordered separately and all four of us ended up ordering the pulled pork or pulled pork sandwiches. Loved the pork, cole slaw, baked beans, fries, and atmosphere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Last month, for our last large meal, my mother and I had a very late lunch/early dinner at Smoque. Both Ronnie S and molto e recommended it very highly, so we had to go! Good barbecue is impossible to find in Japan, as well as in Winnipeg, and both my mother and I had been having cravings for it.

I was a little worried when we arrived--being 2pm-ish, I didn't think the food would be as fresh, but I think it was just as good as it would have been during prime meal-times.

We wanted to try everything, but we settled on

Pulled pork platter, with baked beans and mac and cheese for our sides (plus the coleslaw)

gallery_11355_1150_28575.jpg

gallery_11355_1150_9858.jpg

gallery_11355_1150_7304.jpg

Beef brisket (sliced) a la carte

gallery_11355_1150_21341.jpg

and a side of St. Louis ribs (4 ribs)

gallery_11355_1150_20055.jpg

gallery_11355_1150_15323.jpg

We both enjoyed the beef brisket. When I first saw it, I didn't think it looked very tender, but it was. This was the only meat dish we agreed upon. I didn't care for the pulled pork, but my mother loved it. I loved the ribs, but my mother didn't think they were very flavourful (I took the two with the fatty layer, and she got the leaner section, so hers may not have been quite as tasty as mine :biggrin: ). I didn't like the baked beans (they were too sweet, I thought, and had too much onion), but my mother really enjoyed them. She also liked the coleslaw--it was her favourite side dish. But the mac and cheese was my favourite--it could have been cheesier, but the crunchy topping is what made it great.

We ordered much too much food (as usual), but luckily, they have to-go containers over by the drink dispensers. We took all our leftovers home, and it was a good thing we did. The next day, our flight going out of ORD was delayed a few hours, so we had some bbq for lunch. Then our delay turned in to a cancellation, which turned in to an overnight stay at ORD on some very uncomfortable cots. Guess what we had for dinner, and for breakfast the next morning? Well, my mother did, combined with some of the leftovers from our b&b.

If I go back to Chicago, Smoque is on my must-eat list. Thanks to Ronnie and Eliot for the rec!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So glad you enjoyed it, Rona.  And great shots, btw! :smile:

I'm long overdue for a return to Smoque.

=R=

easier for you to get there than me :angry:


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I ate here last week. Was pretty excited, but underwhelmed when I ate. te ribs were okay, maybe good, but the pork and the brisket lacked smoke flavor and seasoning. Not worth the wait in line. Too bad. There is better in Chicago.


Terrarich

Crashed and Burned Cook

Current Wannabe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I ate here last week. Was pretty excited, but underwhelmed when I ate. te ribs were okay, maybe good, but the pork and the brisket lacked smoke flavor and seasoning. Not worth the wait in line. Too bad. There is better in Chicago.

That is too bad and not at all representative of any of my visits there. What time of day did you try Smoque out? I can not get any good "Q" out my way and Smoque is a place that I crave.


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went there with a couple of friends for some carry out before a Chicago Fire game on a Saturday evening. They were really humming and the line was out the door.

I am a huge 'cue fan and was hoping for some really good stuff, but was underwhelmed. Again, the ribs were actually very good, but the brisket and pork, maybe cooked properly, were underseasoned. The amount of rub is more crucial than the amount of smoke, especially when the meat doesn't have a lot of bark.

I really miss the N&N smokehouse that used to be on Irving off of Southport. I haven't lived in my hometown for 10 years now and am struggling to find a replacement for my quick visits these days.


Edited by terrarich (log)

Terrarich

Crashed and Burned Cook

Current Wannabe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...