3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
I stumbled upon Smoque by way of a review via the BBQ Snob. BBQ, like mexican food, is not something I seek out when I’m away from the motherland (Texas) unless I see something that seriously peeks my interest. In this case, it was a 5 star review by The Texas BBQ authority himself (Daniel Vaughn doesn’t just give away 5 star reviews). Add to that the veritable praise from Eater Chicago and I knew this place was a must visit.
I efforted to eat at Smoque during my last trip through Chicago but was thwarted when I showed up to a dark lounge with chairs on top of tables. It was a Monday, and they were closed (This also caused my cab driver to tell me that Smoque “Probably has a website” and that I should “look up the hours before I head somewhere”).
This trip I would not be denied. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t staying in downtown, so I had to drive there myself. After an hour and a half of rush hour Chicago traffic, I strolled in. I was exhausted (5AM flights do that to you), hungry and ready to tear into some good BBQ.
This is what the line looked like when I arrived. About 25 deep on a Wednesday night. This was a great sign to me. I never like eating at restaurants that are dead. You’re just asking for a terrible meal.
After about 20 minutes in line, I made it to the front and ordered. My order was this: Brisket plate with 2 sides (fries and macaroni n cheese), half rack of baby back ribs and a sausage link.
Let’s start with the sides. The fries were really good. Not super crispy and they tasted fresh. The mac ‘n cheese was really good as well, though the difference in portion size between the two was astounding.
On to the meat. As can be seen above, though I asked for all sauces to be on the side, my brisket was sauced anyway. It didn’t end up being too bad of a thing because the word that kept coming to mind while I was eating it was dry. The foundation was there for great BBQ, great seasoning and bark on the meat, though it was oddly lacking a smoke ring. Something was causing this meat to be way too dry.
The next set of meats (sausage and ribs) overwhelmed me with the same feeling. Both could be great, but both were extremely dry. The seasonings seems to be great, but there was no juiciness to the meal.
I’m not sure what caused this. Maybe they were having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the product and were cutting corners some way (heatlamps?). I hope that’s not the case. None of the great BBQ joints (here’s looking at you Franklin’s and Pecan Lodge) sacrifice quality of meat because of demand. Selling out of it is a badge of honor to those guys and they wear it proudly.
Overall, I would definitely like to give this place another shot. The components were all there for a great meal, but it was just a bit off. Reading their BBQ Manifesto, I don’t believe it was up to their high standards.