Wednesday, September 15, 2010


3800 N. Pulaski

Chicago, IL 60641

Open Tue-Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-10, Sun 11-9

This is the closest thing to true Texas Style BBQ that I've found outside of Texas. They don't bill themselves that way, but the five friends who started this joint spent some time around Austin trying brisket, and they surely took their tasting lessons to heart. After having the best of what Texas has to offer, I normally cringe at the thought of brisket in any other state. It's like going home to Ohio and having a family member suggest that we go eat Tex-Mex. This brisket changed my mind.

My family and I met two good friends here for lunch, and we ordered nearly the entire meat menu. Both St. Louis and baby back ribs are available, and they both made it on our plate. As expected, the St. Louis ribs were meatier and much more moist. The meat of both had plenty of smoke, and even with sauce, these were exemplary ribs. A link of sausage had good spice and nice black pepper notes. A good sausage for sure, but unremarkable. Pulled pork was plenty moist with a nice mixture of fat, bark and meat, but it needed more smoke and less sauce. Chicken had great smoke, and was plenty moist, but could have used more seasoning below the skin. All meats are smoked in one of their three gas-fired Southern Pride smokers, and the brisket stays in overnight.

The prime cut here was the brisket. I watched it being sliced with great anticipation, and nearly reached across the counter to grab a piece. Luckily I was watching closely, because the sauce ladle was mere inches form the meat before I blurted out a steadfast 'no' that was delivered too sincerely to be ignored. This beautiful meat was spared. After reading the joint's manifesto on their website, I was surprised they would even consider saucing their brisket. I guess you can't change some things in Chicago. The meat lacked a smoke ring, but exuded a deep black crust. No matter, the moist and delicate slices had incredible smokiness and excellent flavor from their thirteen ingredient rub. This was solid eating brisket.

Sides are no afterthought here. Individual servings of baked mac & cheese were creamy and toasty form the buttered bread crumb topping. Beans full of brisket could have made a hearty meal on their own, and the crispy fries were perfect. Cornbread, whihc can be dried out, was nicely moist with corn kernels flecked throughout. On the other hand, cole slaw which is often soggy was crispy and delicious.

The other item here that is unmatched is the service. They didn't know me from Adam, but I asked for a tour and was quickly obliged. The joint was packed (get there before 11:45), and the kitchen was rockin' but one of the owners was happy to take the time and show me around and explain their whole smoking process. After the tour he gave me some ribs straight from the pit, and they were even better than what we'd ordered just a few minutes earlier. With a couple of gratis t-shirts and two racks of freshly smoked ribs in hand, we left the joint plenty full knowing this would be a must-stop for any trip back to the Windy City.

Rating *****
Smoque BBQ on Urbanspoon


3rd Degree Berns said...

I went to Chicago for a wedding a few months back and forced 4 friends to make the trek out to Smoque to check out the barbecue.

In short, it was fantastic. I am legitimately jealous of what the owners have put together over such a short period of time. Glad you enjoyed it as well.

veeral said...

Wish I knew you were headed to Chicago. Just moved from there to Dallas and have a whole long list of my favorites. Hope you hit up Hot Dougs (at the top of that list) tomorrow for the duck fat fries.)

Glad to see you made it to Smoque and Honey 1. Also, be sure to check out Sun Wah BBQ for the best Peking duck you've ever eaten!


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.