Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Honey 1 BBQ

2241 N Western Ave

Chicago, IL 60647


Open Tues-Thur 11-9:30, F-Sat 11-11, Sun 12-8


A trip to Chicago wouldn't have been complete without a BBQ quest, and my buddy Pete, who's a Chicago native, was happy to oblige. He drove us around the city in his new Mini, so we never had a parking problem. Our travels were for the purpose of finding some true Chicago style BBQ, but I didn't really know what that meant. Through some research, specifically in Smokestack Lightning, I knew to look for ribs tips and hot links.

Our first stop for true Chicago Style 'cue was at Honey 1 in the Bucktown neighborhood. A combo of rib tips and hot links was calling my name, and I had to get some spares as well. Everything in Chicago comes with fries and sauce, but they were happy to put the sauce on the side. Of all the Chicago Style joints we visited, this was the one that truly needed no sauce. The meat from the ribs required a little toothe to release from the bone, but the meat was more smoky than I expected. Tender ribs tips took on the smoke even better, and provided some great texture combinations in every bite. Hot links were not seasoned timidly. They packed some real heat, for which the thick and ultra-sweet sauce was a great compliment. The casing was almost brittle with the meat beneath taking on a flavor of smoked breakfast sausage with plenty of herbal notes. This would become a theme.

Robert Adams learned to smoke this way in Arkansas. Here in Chicago he uses the signature aquarium pit. This pit is comprised of a metal fire chamber below a thick grill grate. Meat is cooked over direct heat on this grate which is surrounded by tempered glass. Above the glass is an exhaust hood, and the whole outfit has the look of an aquarium for smoked meat, hence the name. For a great discussion on this Chicago oddity, see this conversation on a Chicago-based food site. Honey 1 has their's made by Belvin J&F Sheet Metal in Chicago.

To regulate the cooking temperature, Robert either adds logs of hickory wood to raise the heat, or dampens things down with a quick spray from a standard garden hose. He kept his post right by the pit watching a Cubs game on a small television. I think I sweated out a 1/2 gallon while we talked for 10 minutes net to the pit, but he was unphased.

Other family members help things run smoothly. A cousin or two can be found in the kitchen, while Robert Jr. makes a great host manning the register. The whole atmosphere was welcoming, and the food was great. If this is what Chicago 'cue is all about, then this city deserves more BBQ cred than it's normally given.

Rating ****
Honey 1 BBQ on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cozy Corner, in Memphis, also has an aquarium-style smoker.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.