#36 – Eat at Smoque, Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, Smoke Daddy

2010
05.23

Welcome to one of Chicago’s favorite barbecue restaurants, outside the door you’ll find long lines of people waiting to sink their teeth into slow-cooked and smoked slabs of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and beans. On a Tuesday afternoon, Smoque is still booming and bustling with people from all around the city filling up every seat, but at least the line won’t be going out the door. Prominently displayed on the wall is a cutout of Guy Fieri and his books are for sale on the front counter. Friend after friend filled their order quickly and I was next in the firing squad. With so much to choose from, I wanted a taste of everything and called for a half chicken with macaroni and fries as my side and then topped it off with $3 sides of brisket and pulled pork. The total damage was under $20, quite affordable for quality slow-cooked and smoked goods with no extra fees for table service or white tablecloths. The boss made sure everyone had a table and people were seated in an organized fashion unlike the disorganized chaos in some of Chicago’s other popular restaurants.

Using the my black plastic knife and fork, I carved into the half chicken and it tasted like it came right off the grill and onto my platter. Smoked and tender, every bite into the pink meat was satisfying and the crispy skin made it even better than fresh-off-the-grill barbecued chicken. My friends were slicing through their rib platters and were cleaning off the bones while I was still meticulously cutting small pieces of chicken to eat. After awhile, I gave in and submitted to my more primal urges and started ripping into the chicken with my bare hands! The barbecue sauce was tangy with high viscosity and provided a sharp accent to my chicken, but the smokey flavor of the meat didn’t need to be doused in any sauces.

Macaroni and cheese is always a guilty pleasure and work of art. While most people may be content with a Kraft macaroni and cheese or even a Velveeta for extra fanciness, Smoque’s macaroni and cheese was no ordinary fare. The crust on the macaroni and cheese was creative and the side was rich. Other restaurants might try to overload with too many cheeses or extra herbs and spices, but I thought Smoque’s macaroni held just the right degree of richness without making me pull out the stop sign. I’d recommend the mac n cheese as Smoque’s most underestimated dish.

Two sides for $3 apiece was an economical deal and I recognized that this would be the best way to get a little bit of everything. If you’re a fan of tender meat, there’s no way you can escape the giant pieces of brisket. Each piece of brisket smokes for over 15 hours, providing for an all-encompassing injection of smoke flavor with spices rubbed in. While the brisket came with a bit of sauce on top, I hold firm in my belief that this brisket could stand alone and be consumed without extra condiments. The fries were crisp and well-seasoned but with the half chicken consumed, I couldn’t take more than a bite out of the brisket, pulled pork, or fries.

I don’t know what Smoque would be like on the weekends but I remember a long line waiting outside who didn’t phone in ahead before the Super Bowl and thinking how good the food must have been for people to be standing outside for so long. My first trip into Smoque was a success and I now have a great BBQ spot right within walking distance!

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