Taking a break from barbecue
I just made what had to be my 20th trip for barbecue this winter, and I’m pretty sure I need a break. I have pulled pork where muscle should be, and sauce pumping where blood once circulated.
My plan is to try to eat vegetables again, if only for a little while, before again throwing myself at the mercy of brisket and baked beans.
Chicago never used to be a barbecue town; at least not when I was growing up. The only place I remember from my youth is Russell’s in Elmwood Park; my grandparents used to take me there all the time. After making a few nostalgia-driven trips there over the past year or so, I discovered that the food doesn’t really live up to the memories (the sauce, while tasty, is thinner than water).
It’s crazy to me that there are now dozens of barbecue choices in the Chicago area. It’s as if the city finally came to its senses and said, “Hey, we’re a fat city, and this style of cooking involves lots of meat slathered in sauce, accompanied by high-calorie side dishes. How could have we ignored this for so long?”
The best barbecue discovery I’ve made over the past year is Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park. It’s been worth the trip up 41 for burnt ends and sides that are as good as, or better than, what you’ll find at most of the BBQ joints in the city.
I still like Smoque, though I haven’t been enjoying the sauce as much lately. Too much of it can kill a meal.
I liked the entrees, but hated the sides, at Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse. It was recently and briefly shut down, but just reopened for business. Not a bad option for the far north side of the city, but the room fills up fast.
And what about Lillie’s Q? Holy crap, those homemade sauces are amazing (the “Smoky” is a killer, pleases-everybody-at-the-table, gotta-buy-some-for-home sauce).
To all the other places I’ve been in and out of, including Smokin’ Woodys, Smoke Daddy, Bub City and Hecky’s … it’s not you; it’s me. I just need a little break from barbecue. I swear I’ll be back.
(Update, 4/28/14-I don’t know who I was kidding. The break didn’t last long at all. I’ve probably had BBQ five times since I posted this last month.)