Smoque BBQ (Restaurant, Irving Park)
Ride the Blue line! Take the Irving Park bus! Steal a bike, rent a car from I-GO, hail a cab, hop on a rickshaw; do whatever you need to do to get out to Smoque. I don’t care how out of the way it is to you 95th-to-Howard commuters, make a playdate with your stomach and tastebuds that you wont regret. Smoque is a simple, one-room restaurant with one purpose: bringing the best of southern barbecue straight into the mouth of the Windy City. The service is remarkably fast, but if you’ve been cooking a slab of ribs overnight, they are pretty much ready to go as soon as you walk through the door.
Smoque keeps their menu simple and to the point. Chicken, pork, sausage, brisket, and ribs are all the choices I need to keep me coming back week after week. It has been said they do their brisket as well or better than they do down in ol’ Dixie. If you’re looking for a suggestion, here’s one I got from one of the cooks on my first visit: most people get the baby back ribs because they are familiar, but you should try the St. Louis variety. Since then I’ve never gone back to the babies. The food is offered in full portions or “taste” sizes, small sides of their main courses so you don’t have to make a tough choice. Side dishes at Smoque come in perfect portions, and are priced appropriately as well. Just like their meats, they offer just enough to give you a range of options but not so much that they can’t keep every item top of the line. Their mac and cheese is fantastic, peach cobbler is to die for, and they recently added a fresh, delicious brisket chili as a Hyde to the baked beans’ Jekyll.
Make sure you get some sweet tea to round out the meal with perfection, which happens to be the name of the game at Smoque. Everything they serve up makes my mouth water, down to the side sauces they give you for the meats, from the thick smoky ones to the thinner, tangy variety. Smoque has been lauded by Zagat, The Chicago Reader, the Tribune AND the Sun-Times, and even had a segment on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. They deserve all that and more. They have a book for sale in the store called Slow and Low, which wasn’t written by them but could be their manifesto. As of June 1st, 2010, they have also been operating a stand at U.S. Cellular Field. Smoque is blowing up, but through it all they are sticking to what made them great in the first place — tender, delicious BBQ.
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