Saturday, February 18, 2012
Smokey Bear's BBQ House
When I think of the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, I generally think of Korean food or possibly German. What I definitely don't think of is barbecue (unless it is Korean bbq). Having said that, I decided to go to a byob BBQ joint located up there, Smokey Bear's BBQ House, to see what it was about. The first thing that I noticed was that it used a lot of red and orange in it's color scheme. While there is a lot of finished wood on the counter and with the trim, the place is pretty no-frills as are many barbecue places. You generally don't go to a barbecue place expecting white tablecloths and waiters. The place had the very nice smell of smoking meat when I walked in and country music was playing in the background. There was a flat screen television hanging on the wall at the end of the banquette seating that was showing college basketball (the MSU-OSU game when I was there which I was interested in).
Looking at the menu, besides the expected ribs, they had a large number of smoked meat sandwiches, brisket, pulled pork, links, and chicken, and mixtures thereof. They seemed to sell several sandwiches while I was there and they looked both good and enormous so I may have to come back to try one or two (or three). As I have been ordering baby back ribs when I have been going to barbecue joints that is what I ordered here. I ordered a platter which came with two sides in addition to the coleslaw. My ribs were done in kind of a Memphis style with a dry rub and side sauce. While it had a nice smokiness to it, the ends were kind of tough and it took a little work to pull them apart. The meat was better toward the middle of the rack, it wasn't as tough and there was more meat to be had. While I do use the sauce on the side, I tend to go on the light side so I can actually taste the meat and the rub. The sauce was nice. It was the way I like it, thick and a little spicy with a little bit of sweetness and tartness at the end. The coleslaw was interesting and pretty good. It used the typical things that you would find in a coleslaw, mostly cabbage with some carrots and onions, but instead of the usual cream based sauce it used a cider vinegar sauce which brought a nice brightness and tartness to it. My sides were mac and cheese which while fairly standard for barbecue places, was pretty good. The pasta were small shells and the cheese was pretty thick and cheddary. The other side was something different. It was something that they called bear paws which didn't actually contain (nor did I really expect it to) any bear. What they were were mashed potato patties with cheddar cheese and jalapeno that were deep fried. They were nice and crispy and really good as are most things that are deep fried. They were good by themselves but also tasted really good with the sauce.
While the ribs that I had here were not the best, they weren't terrible and I did finish them. While I probably won't order them again, it will be more that I want to try something else than how bad they are. Despite their toughness , they did taste good. I really liked the coleslaw and the bear paws and coming back, I will really have to try some of their sandwiches.