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Smoque BBQ - Report

Went to Smoque BBQ on the NW side of the city Saturday night before Xmas.
6:30 pm and most of the tables were taken. Mostly families with kids and the other 1/3 of them were Chicago's finest, and they kept coming and going.

Their website smoquebbq.com was very intriguing, especially the manifesto about why spareribs are better than baby backs and what they learned while touring the central Texas bbq belt.

Was told during the ordering that they were out of the babybacks and the chicken. No problem on the ribs, but wanted to try the chicken. Ended up trying the St Louis spareribs and the brisket.

Both meats had very good texture, soft without falling off the bone too easily. Juicy as well. Good smoking. Only small shortcoming was a relative excess of saltiness in the meats. Almost as if they were brined too long. All in all the meats were done well.

Served on small baking sheets/trays with butcher paper on them.

The sides come in styrofoam bowls or individual foil souffle tins.

Tried the barbecue beans, the cole slaw, peach cobbler, and french fries. The fries were served in a brown paper bag. Skin on and on the "burnt" side. Very tasty. The beans were a little sweet for my taste, but true to a Kansas City style, with molasses and onions.

Cobbler was a cute single serving that was a bit tart, a bit sweet.

Their smoker in the back was shiny and new.
The owners were hard at work trying to keep the orders processed as quickly as possible. Friendly service by all of them behind the counter.

All in all worth another visit. A different breed than typical Chicago style with heavy sauce and such. Better than the random bbq joint I would go to in Houston/Austin (Luther's, Millers), but not yet in the league of a Salt Lick.

Great effort by a team that merits our business.

Smoque BBQ
Pulaski 2 blocks south of Irving Park

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  1. I tried Smoque recently and the chicken is good! I only wish they had a pulled chicken sandwich. Also, get there early, they run out of food all the time!

    1. The only thing with smoke in it is the name and it's not the real thing.

      Very disappointed. Live 2 blocks away and don't consider the walk worth it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: johnchitown

        Ouch.... I will say I've been there twice and have been happy with the sandwiches pulled pork, sliced brisket, and the St. Louis Ribs. I prefer the well done crust on the brisket and the pulled pork was moist. I'm not too attached to the sauce it not that it's bad but not really a stand out.

        I haven't been to Texas for the "real deal" I would be curious Johnchitown what you had there so I can steer clear of it on future visits. Where do you prefer to get your BBQ in Chicago? Prior comming to Smoque I was a Smoke Daddy Fan...

      2. I had a great experience at this place...as some people have mentioned, they were out of a few things (granted, we went late on a tuesday night), but the ribs were awesome, pulled pork sandwich was tasty and tender, and i particularly enjoyed the coleslaw and mac n cheese. not a big fan of the baked beans--too sweet for my taste. service was fast and friendly--one of the owners came around to check on me and my date and make sure we were happy. one more thing--the place was FULL of cops chowing down between shifts--always a good sign. :-)

        oh, and i used to live in texas (i still dream about the 3-meat plate from sammy's bbq in dallas), and this place does a pretty darn good job of standing up to it. definitely worth a visit!

        1. Ribs were ok. Certainly not among the 5 best in the city, probably not even in the top 10 or 15 best. The texture was way, way off.

          Mac and cheese was good, fries had potential but ours were a bit soggy, slaw was fine. The sauce was unremarkable.

          I'll go back to try the brisket and pulled pork, but I'm not particularly impressed so far.

          When I get barbecue, I get it for the meat, not the sides. The meat at Smoque was slightly above average. Go to Honey One, Barbara Ann's, Lem's, or Uncle John's for ribs, any day.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gleam

            Couldn't agree more. I like the place, but it's nothing exceptional.

            Honey 1 gets my vote, hands down.

          2. Finally got to Smoque last night.

            The location is convenient, right off the Kennedy.

            The look is pure Texas BBQ -- too bad they don't have picnic tables -- and more of them.

            Now about the food:
            Baby backs were IMHO just ok. They were meaty and we didn't have a problem with the texture, but they weren't terribly smoky or well-seasoned.

            The sauce didn't help because it was both rather thin and vinegary. We all through it could benefit from being sweeter, hotter and thicker.

            The brisket was amazing -- Tender and moist.-- but again, would would have liked it better with a different bbq sauce.

            As for the sides: Loved the mac and cheese. Good cornbread -- not too sweet -- with kernels of corn in it and a strong baking soda flavor. Baked beans were good, but no match for Smoke Daddy or Fat Willies. Cole Slaw was good but unremarkable. French Fries were on the right track.

            We didn't have the chicken or the peach cobbler.

            Does anyone know what "style" of barbecue this is supposed to be? I'm afraid I can't distinguish between St. Louis or Memphis or Texas or whatever.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chicgail

              I'm from Kansas City and have been deprived of some great beef BBQ up in Chicago for awhile. Mostly, pork reigns supreme in Chicago. I really enjoyed the beef brisket (chopped or sliced).

              A thin, tangy sauce is a KC staple for beef (Like Smoque has), and the Memphis/St. Louis style is a thicker, sweeter, sauce. It's all about what you prefer. I like a thinner sauce so I can enjoy the meat.

              The sides were good - I liked the beans, mac and cheese.

              We went at 6PM on Saturday it was very busy but the time we got to the front to order a table opened up. If you are going with a large crowd you may want to get there very early.

            2. Went to Smoque last Saturday afternoon and had some terrific barbecue. I had the 1/2 slab of St. Louis ribs and the 1/2 slab of baby back ribs. Both were meaty, and full of that nice smokey flavor. Also like the fact that they had the right amount of "tooth" and didn't fall of the bone like meat jello. Baby backs were a tad dry but that was solved by just a bit more of their excellent sauce. Also tried some beef brisket. Wow! Also some of the best I've ever had. Deep rich flavor, with just enough fat to keep things interesting. Wife had the chicken which she said was moist, juicy and full of flavor. Baked beans were awesome - also some of the best I've ever had. The mac 'n- cheese was very good. Creamy with a good cheese flavor and a nice little "crust" on top. Peach cobbler was very tasty. Cole slaw looked good, but it appeared to have poppy seeds in it so I had to pass. The fries were hot, crispy and delicious. Definately a new destination when I have a taste for barbecue.

              1. I've had BBQ in Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, and all over Chicago, not to mention the Carolinas and small rib joints up and down the East Coast. Smoque is definitely up there with some of the better joints I've been to for smoked meats. The brisket is quite good, especially with the sauce they serve with it. Slightly tangy, a little sweet, moist and flavorful. I prefer the St. Louis ribs over baby backs and am glad to finally see a spot in Chicago that places them in their rightful place on the menu. They are meaty, moist, and cooked just right. The slaw is dynamite - not a mayo-laden, overly sweet creation, but a crisp, cabbage and red onion medley with a vinegary, poppy seed dressing. It's like a true salad and perfect to go with the meats they serve. The BBQ beans are the real deal and they are homemade. I say homemade because one day you can get them and they are on the sweet-side (which I don't mind), the next day, they are less sweet and smokier. It just depends on who's whipping them up, I guess. The mac n' cheese is very good with a nice crumble on top and a sharp cheese bite. I haven't had the cornbread. The peach cobbler is just okay, but just the right size to satisfy the dessert craving. The pulled pork is a little dry, but nothing that the thick, and generally spicy, sauce can't fix [NOTE: they have two types of sauce, one for ribs (thick) and one for sliced and chopped meats (thin)]. The fries taste like Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Salt and Pepper potato chips. If you like those (I do), you'll love their fries. The first time I went to Smoque, I told myself I wouldn't eat the bun with my sandwich. Took one bite, that was all she wrote. I ate the fresh baked brioche-style bun without a second thought of the insulin spike. The two issues I have with Smoque is they don't have fresh-squeezed lemonade and they aren't open later, especially on the weekend. The close at 10 PM week nights and 11 on Friday and Saturday. I believe they close at 9 PM on Sunday.

                It's interesting to read the responses here. I've been there probably 20 times in the past 60 days. They have never been out of anything I wanted and I've been there all hours of the day. Granted, I haven't had everything. They also have salads for those dining with non meat eaters and, yes,as others have noted they have chicken, though I'll never understand eating chicken at a BBQ joint...Enjoy!

                1 Reply
                1. re: drsoul

                  We saw the bit about Smoque on the Food Network and decided to check it out on Saturday. So did everyone else who watched the same show, because there was a line out the door. They were out of chicken by 3 o'clock (more promised by 5 p.m.) and out of pulled pork for the day at 4:30 p.m.

                  We had brisket, which is my favorite BBQ dish. I thought it was excellent: well cooked, but not overcooked, and with enough body to stand up to the sauce. My sandwich came with cole slaw which had a vinegar sauce, the right kind with BBQ (the sweet kind clashes with the sauce.) I had a side of mac and cheese which came in a cupcake sized aluminum tin, and was just enough. My companions had the beans, loved them, and we shared a side of brisket chili which was only okay.

                  Crowd control is something of an issue, since this is a small joint. But they handled it by asking you to place your order first and ask for a table second (about half the diners were getting carryout, so this was not a problem.) I will say that if they had told us at the door that it would be a 30 minute wait, we might not have stayed, but then we would have missed some delicious BBQ.

                  Advice to out of towners: go before the snow melts. Once summer comes, they'll be overwhelmed, given the publicity they've received (they've also been written up in Gourmet and Bon Appetit.)

                2. We went to Smoque last month. We had the St. Louis ribs and the brisket. The barbecue meats were very good indeed, with a tender texture and a high ratio of meat to fat. The meats had a strong smoky flavor. They use a dry rub and there is very little sauce taste to the meats. The sauce itself, as noted by others, is somewhat thin and vinegary. I prefer Carson's because they, too, use slow cooking and have a high ratio of meat to fat, but they have more barbecue sauce taste to the meat. But Smoque's were good too.

                  The sides were disappointing. The "cole slaw" was the worst I have ever had, consisting of hard, raw cabbage that was impossible to pick up using the plastic fork, sitting in a thin, dishwater-like liquid. The macaroni and cheese was okay, although it wasn't hot in the middle and it wasn't as good as Stouffer's in the frozen section of the supermarket. The fries were incredibly greasy. The beans were okay.

                  We might go back, but we're more likely to go to Carson's. Not only do we prefer their barbecue ribs better, but they have more barbecue choices (e.g. barbecue salmon) and non-barbecue choices (steaks, prime rib), and their cole slaw is the very best in the entire Chicago area.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    I ventured to Smoque for lunch last week and had a great meal. I have been there 3-4 other times with good results. I had the pulled pork platter with mac & cheese, fries and cole slaw. The M&C was very good, hot but too small a portion IMHO. The fries were perfect, crisp not greasy. The only complaints I have are relatively minor....using those stupid little ketchup packets is crazy, why not invest in some real bottles, and the cole slaw was also pretty weak.

                    All in all pretty decent barbecue, not in the class of Memphis but worth a try.

                  2. Smoque is good bbq as far as what Chicago has to offer, not as good as Honey 1 has been in my couple of visits to each, but still very good. The brisket is good, as well as the St. Louis ribs, sides were ok, but I go for the meat, not mac-n-cheese, etc..

                    For those serious about bbq, dry rub, and no sauce, or maybe some sauce on the side is the way to go. Comparing Smoque to one of the "meat jello" places in town is not acceptable to any bbq fanatic, or anyone who owns their own smoker & smokes meat. You cannot compare meat cooked in a smoker(the correct way), to meat prepared in an oven(the meat jello way) .

                    its worth a visit, and worth the wait.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: gordeaux

                      I have the right to remain silent and think I will invoke that right regarding Carson's...

                      I'll be in Texas next week eating at Rudy's BBQ where the meat is sliced fresh by the pound after the pit-master spears it out straight from the oak smoke pit! I'm talking about pork loin, turkey, ham, hot guts, and of course BRISKET! LOL

                      So much for the silence, maybe it will be my last post.

                      1. re: abf005

                        Not sure which Rudy's location you plan to frequent but you know it's a chain right? That is not something that can be said about Carson's. Pits full of bubbling hot guts does not a pleasant picture make. Throw in a few spears and you have a real life hoe down. Anyway, at least Carson's appreciates that moist, tender and tasty are good qualities and that dry, chewy and charred are just the opposite. Check please.

                        1. re: gleam

                          >> Anyway, at least Carson's appreciates that moist, tender and tasty are good qualities and that dry, chewy and charred are just the opposite. <<

                          Well said.

                          Carson's has the best barbecue ribs I've had in Chicagoland.

                          1. re: j.walker

                            I am not going to state anything but facts:

                            Yes, I am very aware that Rudy's is a Texas chain of approximately 15-20 restaurants, and is looking to expand a very successful concept across the US Southwest. http://rudysbbq.com/locations/index.html For the record, I'll be going to the Round Rock location for lunch and have a dinner trip planned to Elgin for some real "hot guts" as well; BTW Hot Guts are Texan for Hot Link sausages, they are not guts literally.

                            I still don’t see the point to using this logic; one easily concludes that Carson’s is also a chain, but a rather unsuccessful one at that. They have closed more restaurants then opened new over the last several years, and in fact; as of late, they now seem to be content on riding upon the coattails of Boston Blackie’s: http://www.ribs.com/menu_locations and the mail order Malnati’s pizza business: http://www.tastesofchicago.com/

                            So is there really a point to this attack on Rudy’s?

                            They do a fantastic job of making fresh BBQ daily with high quality meats in custom made Post Oak smoke pits and enjoy a loyal Texas following. I question whether you've ever eaten there, since you falsely claim the meat to be "and that dry, chewy and charred" and I have always found the exact opposite to be true, even when stated in a grammatically correct manner.

                            Regardless, of the claim it does not change the fact that Carson’s is not BBQ, but instead BakeBQ. Slathering BBQ sauce over meat and baking it on (no matter how tasty the sauce) with a **scoop of crappy, mushy, peppery coleslaw on the side**, does not constitute BBQ.

                            The BBQ war drums are beating loudly….

                            **Please note the correction, it should read instead: "scoop of crappy, mushy coleslaw bits, offered on the side in a bowl with fresh ground pepper which is usually recomended by the waitstaff". Thank you NS

                            1. re: abf005

                              >> Carson’s is not BBQ, but instead BakeBQ

                              Carson's ribs are slow-cooked in a smoker with hickory chips on the side, and are not baked in a regular oven. They dip the meat in their wonderful sauce before placing it on the rotisserie system inside the smoker. This, combined with the slow cooking in the smoker, is what gives their ribs such a great barbecue taste.

                              >> with a scoop of crappy, mushy, peppery coleslaw on the side

                              There is no pepper in the cole slaw at Carson's, and it is served in a separate bowl, not as a scoop on the side. It is chopped too fine and has too much liquid to stand up as a scoop. The cole slaw at Carson's is the very best cole slaw I have ever had in the entire Chicago area. Anyone who has never been there should really try it as well as their ribs - both are absolutely delicious!

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                NS - you are correct about the serving style, and I have restated my thoughts above.

                                I still respectfully disagree that it is "the very best cole slaw" in the entire Chicago area. But being as I look at slaw as an insignificant side dish, I stand by my belief that Carson's is rather unremarkable on its own. But alas, I have none better to offer up to the board, at least other than my own.

                                Now had you stated that Carson's has one of the tastiest chopped liver offerings in Chicago, I believe we would have hit a common ground.

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  Now there is a curious statement:
                                  >>Carson's ribs are slow-cooked in a smoker with hickory chips on the side, and are not baked in a regular oven. <<<

                                  Please elaborate for us just what kind of commercial restaurant smoker would have chips on the side. My experience has been that commercial smokers use logs or chunks on the INSIDE... You know, to keep the smoke on the inside!

                                  You wouldn’t possibly be confusing a commercial duty (generally gas & wood driven back loaders and as big as 2-3 refrigerators) with a residential side load smoker like the one in swsidejim's avatar are you? Carson’s would never be able to keep up with the mail order demand if you are. In fact, based on the size of the Deerfield location alone, they would need a smoker like this: http://www.southern-pride.com/p/pits_...
                                  Come to think of it, I have never even seen a commercial smoker vent system there, nor have I seen a wood stockpile on the premises of any Carson’s either.
                                  When a real BBQ joint fires up one of those big boy smokers, man you can smell the sweet aroma of hickory for blocks away, in all the years of driving past that place on Peterson, and later on I would pass the Deerfield location, I only ever noticed that Burger King char greasy broiler smell coming from outside in back… it must’ve been from the burning BBQ sauce as it hit the flames.

                                  1. re: abf005

                                    I dont think I have ever smelled smoke at a Carsons like you do when you go to Honey 1, or Smoque(the smell of a smoker in operation hits you in the face blocks away). But then again I have not bothered to go to a Carsons in years, I have found real bbq since then, & also the Carsons that used to be out in the suburbs by me went out of business, due to lack of customers.

                                    Different strokes I guess.

                                    As a side note, I am going to fire up the smoker in my avatar on Sunday for some St. Louis Ribs, and perhaps get up extra early, and do some brisket. I just hope to turn out some smoked meat that is up to the good bbq I have had at Smoque, and Honey 1 in the last few months.

                                    1. re: abf005

                                      Here is what it says on Carson's web site (note that I am not partaking in the argument part of this discussion - I have never been to Carson's)

                                      "Carson’s, uses the "indirect method", of smoking our meat on a large traditional BBQ pit smoker. Smoke and low-level heat generated from hickory (off to the sides) slowly cooks while also penetrating the meat with wonderful wood flavor. The smokers have a rotisserie system within the pit which permits them to slowly smoke 180 slabs at a time. While some barbecue purists insist that sauce never be part of the process, Carson’s believes the opposite…those purists have just never tasted a great sauce! Carson’s Signature BBQ Sauce is spectacular and that’s why we use it generously. Many places brush sauce on the meat in the final grilling stage or offer it at the table. Carson’s goes much further. Before we load our meat into the pit, we dip it into our sauce. This allows the sauce to permeate the meat as the hickory slowly does its job. Some suggest the sauce might cause the meat to burn. Carson’s sauce is on the sweet side and it does not burn, especially when smoking at temperatures between 190° and 250°. So, no boiling! No tenderizers! No dry rub! No beer! Just authentic, slow-cooked barbecue."

                                      1. re: leek

                                        intersting info leek,

                                        I just figured they were oven baking the ribs since when I have eaten their ribs I have never seen a pink smoke ring(which I require for my bbq) on the meat, or smelled smoke in the parking lot, or in the establishment.

                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                          OK, MAYBE they do smoke their ribs in something and do it somewhere, but I am absolutely convinced that it is NOT done on either of the restaurant's premises. Which means, that they are reheating them at the restaurants somehow, be it an oven or grill.

                                          I seriously doubt that Carson's would tell such a falsehood on the web-sight, and I've always genuinely believed that they maintain a solid reputation in the food & restaurant world. I just don't like the ribs & slaw, but I do respect the other aspects of their business.

                                          For the record, I've always contended that they are not Boil-B-Qer's, but instead Bake-B-Qers. And I have yet to ever detect a hint of hickory smoke on the ribs. Something still ain't right about those ribs.

                                          I have attached photos of the last two remaining locations, and in both (Downtown in particular) it is absolutely clear that they do not have any wood on premises or a smoker exhaust system on either of the buildings, you'll need to decide for yourselves.

                                          1. re: abf005

                                            I agree abf,

                                            I bet they are baking the ribs at a commissary & shipping them out to their 2 lone remaining locations (where they are reheated), and for their mail order business.

                                            1. re: j.walker

                                              Yeah, well this pointy head DID think of Louie's! And I was really bummed when I worked out the schedule too.

                                              I really wanted to go there on this trip. Problem is; I get in on Sunday and they're closed, on Monday I'm stuck in chowhound hell eating a catered lunch followed by a group dinner somewhere in Round Rock.

                                              Tues, I'm stuck in more day long seminars until 3 and I'm supposed to fly out at 5!! So if I don't hit something Sunday night or on Tuesday that's in Round Rock for lunch, then all hope for great Q is lost.

                                              I'm not happy about it, but Rudy's will have to do... And it blows away anything here in Chicago anyway, even if it is a chain.

                                              G: ducks I love it!

                                              I just heard of a place in Antioch called the Thirsty Turtle Beach Bar & BBQ. I don't have high expectations but who knows they might surprise me. Anyone ever been??

                                              1. re: abf005

                                                "...Come to think of it, I have never even seen a commercial smoker vent system there, nor have I seen a wood stockpile on the premises of any Carson’s either."

                                                ---does it LOOK like a duck?

                                                "...I have yet to ever detect a hint of hickory smoke on the ribs. Something still ain't right about those ribs."

                                                ---does it WALK like a duck?

                                                ..."when I have eaten their ribs I have never seen a pink smoke ring(which I require for my bbq) on the meat, or smelled smoke in the parking lot, or in the establishment."

                                                ---Does it QUACK like a duck?

                                                I have seen MUCH bigger deceptions on websites than Carson's.

                                                I know what smoked bbq is. I prepare it myself a LOT. I have absolutely no reason to doubt my knowledge on the subject.

                                  2. re: abf005

                                    Ok, so just a small riot has been incited about q. Happens what, about every two months here? I will give Carson's credit where it's due. When you bake your ribs, you can achieve a more consistent quality whereas if you smoke them, you have to pay a little more attention to achieve the desired results. That being said, properly smoked cue is CLEARLY my favorite because it is much more flavorful, and as juicy, tender, and succulent as any baked ribs. IMPROPERLY smoked, overdone cue is what is dry, chewy, and charred. There are many examples of improperly smoked cue throughout Chicagoland which might give ppl the wrong idea that real (smoked) bbq is dry, chewy, and charred. I just wish they could sample the spares, tips, baby backs, and shoulder roast (pulled pork) that I make in my weber. I haven't gotten around to doing brisket yet. (Not enough patience!)

                                    Uncle John's is generally consistent with his tips. Give that place a FEW tries. And if you're down in Texas, fuhgetaboutit! If you can't find good, smoked, luscious, juicy, cue down there, you're doing something wrong.

                                2. How salty was the meat? I'm curious because my guy has a real aversion to overly-salted foods and I'm not going to bother with the place if that's excessive. Thanks in advance for the answer!

                                  1. My wife and I went for the first time over the weekend. It was spectacular.

                                    First, I'll get my nitpik out of the way: I liked the sauce but I didn't love it. This is purely a matter of preference. Where I grew up (in the south), sauce inspired religious kinds of arguments, but I prefer a little sweeter sauce.

                                    Now for the good stuff:

                                    -- The pulled pork was fantastic.
                                    -- The chopped brisket was some of the best I've ever had. It was so moist and delicious that the fat actually dissolved on your tongue. I can't overstate how perfectly this was cooked.
                                    -- The chopped brisket was similarly good.
                                    -- The beans were so light and delicious that you could taste the smoke in them. They weren't overly thick and goopy.
                                    -- The fries reminded me of the best fries I've had (Five Guys in DC).

                                    It's a simple menu and everything on it is done well.

                                    I drove from the other side of town to eat there. I might drive from the other side of the state.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: yellowdog442

                                      your experience sounds very similar to the couple of times I have been to Smoque, a very good product, and one of Chicago's 2 or 3 top places for real bbq(cooked in a smoker, not oven baked meat jello, which is not bbq).

                                      Since you liked Smoque I would also recommend:

                                      Honey 1
                                      2241 N. Western

                                      I perefer them to Smoque, and they are byob

                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        SWS, I enjoyed your profile tirade.

                                        Regarding BBQ: if it ain't got a smoke ring, fahggetaboutit. I am the worst stereotype of a NY Yankee (proudly), and never had real BBQ until I got educated. Then, 1991, I graduated with an advanced degree but afterward learned something real. My advisor had us ignorant folk over for a post-Pomp-and-Circumstance celebration. Her partner from Deep South had helped prepare the meal. (Not Texas, I think MS or AL)

                                        We went out back. There was an old 40-barrel drum cut lengthwise in half. Pieces of tender meat pulled off the bone were in foil. Vats of mysterious sauce lay nearby. I ate. My eyes were opened.

                                        Smoke ring says it all. I was never the same since.

                                        1. re: ShortOrderHack


                                          some of the best bbq I have had has been out of a smoker set up similar to the one you describe.

                                          1. re: ShortOrderHack

                                            Nope - sorry Hack. While I don't really fault a NY'er for not getting it, the key to the real thing is tenderness, juiciness, flavor. All the colorful down home theatrics and rustic atmospherics in the world won't substitute for these essential qualities if the product is tough, dry and charred. As evidenced by the wider public acclaim, Carson's and similar area spots take the prize. True there's always room for disagreement, but in this case Chicagoland has voted with its feet and thereby offers all the proof you need.

                                            1. re: j.walker

                                              ...and the Olive Garden is always packed too. ;)

                                              1. re: jesteinf

                                                "As evidenced by the wider public acclaim, Carson's and similar area spots take the prize."
                                                As the real bbq joints open in Chicago, how many Carson's have closed now?

                                                I do agree that tenderness and juiciness are essential qualities of good q. This can be achieved by smoking (bbq-ing) correctly. I do it frequently. So do a lot of ppl. Only a few of the Chicago Q places know how to do it correctly. There are MANY that do not. Honey 1, and Uncle John's are the only two places that I know of that are fairly consistent with their spares and tips. Most other places put out the dry, charred, tough, garbage you speak of.

                                                1. re: gordeaux

                                                  great points gordeaux,

                                                  although maybe it is an ingenious marketing decision by Carsons to limit the supply of their highly sought after "ribs"..


                                                2. re: jesteinf

                                                  Ah yes...time to trot out the old Olive Garden argument. Funny thing is these self proclaimed experts have been deluded into thinking rings, char, toughness etc are the sole virtues in barbecue. This may be the latest trend but that doesn't make it convincing. Most of us are less concerned about fashion swings and prefer to pursue the essence of barbecue while enjoying tender, moist, flavorful items in a comfortable setting with decent service. Pretense just doesn't cut it for us.

                                                  1. re: j.walker

                                                    I really don't think anyone thinks that toughness is a virtue. Your words simply do not make sense. I'm going to assume you wrote this in jest. Texas q is just starting to make its way "for real" on the Chicago scene. It is an example of how this city is a melting pot. Remember when Pepe's was a decent place for mexican food? Then came places like Lalo's, and now we have Frontera, Salpicon, and others that prepare regional stylings of real mexican food? It's not a trend. Carson's is closing its shops, and more smoke q places are opening up.
                                                    How many Pepe's are left? THAT'S the trend. Are you really thinking that Carson's is closing simply because people are eating less ribs? They are losing mkt share to a crummy place like Famous Dave's because Famous Dave's is better. (Kinda reminds me of how pepe's lost out to Lalos because lalo's was a HAIR better.) Once someone comes in this mkt with a better product than Dave's, then Dave's will lose out.

                                                    While it's definitely ok that you prefer Carson's, please don't remain confused about smoked bbq. It is just as juicy and extremely tender when it's done correctly. Although I will definitely concede that there are plenty of places in this city that offer substandard q, I believe it is incorrect to say that just because you have had bad smoked q (which is easy to do here) that all smoked q is bad. It's simply not true, and it shows massive amounts of pretentiousness on your part. If you've never had good smoked q, you are trying it in the wrong places at the wrong times. While I do somewhat agree that Chicago is lacking in really good smoked q compared to the number of places for bad smoked q, It really is not correct to say that all smoked q is bad. It just isn't true. Man, just writing this has me yearning for some good smoked brisket. I can see the juices flowing now as it's being sliced....