Sunday, July 17, 2011
I have mentioned before that I generally prefer not to eat ribs in public. When I go to a barbecue joint, I would normally order the brisket or the pulled pork, but I figured if I was going to talk about a barbecue place, I should at least try their ribs. Smoque has been my favorite barbecue joint because they have the best brisket in Chicago, bar none, and they serve it either chopped or sliced. Started by a group of friends that were home barbecue aficianados that thought they could add something to the lackluster choices that Chicago had for barbecue, they opened their place in the Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago six years ago. Like most barbecue joints, it doesn't look like much. It has cement floors, a chalkboard wall, and an unfinished ceiling. Most of the tables are long picnic tables that are shared between parties and the counter and kitchen are in the back corner. It looks to me as if someone set up a restaurant in their garage but barbecue joints are generally about the barbecue and not the aesthetic of the restaurant.
I assumed that because they do such fantastic brisket and really good pulled pork that their ribs would be the best as well. I assumed this without trying the ribs beforehand. After trying them though, I have to say that while their ribs are really good, they are not the best that I could imagine. The ribs are done in a Memphis style with a dry rub and the sauce on the side. The meat is nicely smoky and has a good smoke ring and the rub is spicy. The sauce has a spicy tang with a little sweetness at the end that really adds well to the smokiness and the spice on the ribs. While you can pull the ribs apart with your hands fairly easily, they have some texture and are not as soft as baby food. Having said all of this, the meat was actually a little dry and there has been a rib joint that I have been to recently whose ribs were meatier and juicier (although not as smoky). As far as sides were concerned, I think that corn bread is one of those things that you have to have and theirs is pretty good, with whole corn kernels in the bread, a slightly grainy texture, and a little sweetness at the end. The mac and cheese is the baked variety with a crumb coating on the top and, I think, multiple cheeses. It is rich and very good. The cole slaw is not so finely cut as some cole slaws and has a nice tang to it.
Smoque is still my favorite barbecue joint around but I do know that there are things that they could do a little better and I am very open to trying other places. There are six that I can think of off the top of my head so I should keep exploring.