Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicagoland BBQ gathering #3 – Smoque


Late last year, Dave Raymond and some other BBQ enthusiasts thought it would be a good idea to get other Chicagoland BBQ freaks together to chat about BBQ, especially during the frigid Chicago winters. After a little thought, it was determined that they’d go to different Chicagoland BBQ establishments around town. The only credentials required for joining this group is to have an interest in BBQ.

The Group consists of folks in the restaurant biz, folk in the meat supply biz, competition cooks, and back yard enthusiasts. The inaugural session was at a place called Honky Tonk BBQ, then the group met just before Christmas at Honey 1 on the west side. This article is about the third session and it was at Smoque. Barry Sorkin, one of the owner/operators volunteered to host the event on a Monday night, a night they’re usually closed.

Smoque – this place, as new as it is, already has a great reputation as a true BBQ stop. Great TV coverage, and some great reviews mean the place is hopping most of the time. This is a great testament to Barry and his partners, because they did their homework on how to do it right and so far so good. As for the reviews, check out their webpage, they do a great job at explaining all that.

The Food

The team at Smoque has a reputation for having great authentic BBQ. Well this could have been their toughest crowd of critics yet, a bunch of know-it-all BBQers coming in to eat their food. They rose to the challenge and performed quite well.

Appetizers – Jalepenos stuffed with sausage, wrapped in bacon, and cooked in the smoker until done. What’s not to like? This modified ABT was a great way to get started.

Pork – Barry gave us a pig picking treat. He cooked about a case of some very special Berkshire pork butts, plopped them in front of everyone, handed out some rubber gloves, loaves of white bread and cole slaw. We were asked to just dig in. This Berkshire pork is richer than anything I’d expected. And what better way to get started than to dig into some awesome pork.

The Platter – They decided to give everyone a “little” sample of everything. Back ribs, Spare ribs, a Texas sausage, brisket, mac-n-cheese, beans. Nobody was going home hungry. All I can say…if you’re in the city, and your hungry, this is a place to take care of that appetite.

The Event

Sitting here now, a couple days afterwards, I’m trying to recall the feeling, and the only thing that comes to mind is festiveness. There were 60 folks who were happy to be with others who were crazy about BBQ. Lots of ideas were exchanged for upcoming events. One theme was definite; this group is primed to take the BBQ word to the people. Now its just answer the question, how to execute that task.

The other theme that’s evolving out of these sessions is that by spreading the word about BBQ as cuisine, all the participants stand to benefit. A collective effort to promote BBQ will help everyone, and it’s a lot easier taking on the “cuisine-in-a-can” places like Applebee’s or Chili’s collectively than individually. Wayne Mueller from Louis Mueller’s in Taylor, TX conveyed a similar message (see earlier Blog about Louis Mueller's). They have an extremely dense collection of BBQ restaurants in a sparsely populated area, yet they all manage to make a go of it…for generations. But this is something they all understand, in order for them to do well, people have to know about BBQ in the first place and each place has an interesting dependence on the success of the other. Sure in Texas, BBQ comes second nature to even the most common folks. Chicago is a little different. Some preaching still needs to be done about this great cuisine. That’s the lesson we all can take away from these sessions. Do not hesitate to get out and spread the word about this fine cuisine.

Barry and his gang at Smoque set a high standard for how to make and serve BBQ as well as how to host such an event. Their great food and hospitality make it easy…and genuine…to recommend to all our friends and families to get out and try their local BBQ place.

The Next One – a date hasn’t been set, but the venue has been chosen…Mr. Mark Link graciously volunteered his place Uncle Bub’s in Westmont to host the next event. I can’t wait!!!


  1. Hope all is well by brother of the Q. Tell MR. Raymond next time you see him I said hello. Good luck in any upcoming contests y'all have coming up. I have one in Sweetwater next weekend. Wish me luck...