Either people really like this new barbecue joint, or the pitmaster is simply not making enough food. Having finally scored some eats after two 8pm visits were met with, “Sorry, we’re out of ribs and chicken,” I decided both theories are correct. People really like it because the food is damn good and the owners have yet to figure out just how many Chicagoans are starving for great barbecue.
On the nights Smoque was cleaned out, I was told to call ahead to reserve slabs and birds, the two most popular items. After doing so, I was rewarded with near-perfect spareribs—juicy, pull-apart tender, with subtle smokiness that didn’t overwhelm the tangy spice rub clinging to the sticky, crunchy exterior. As a testament to their deliciousness, I dabbed a bone with the decent house-made sauce only once. The baby back ribs, true to their nature, were lean, so they came out a bit dry, but the pillow-soft chicken more than made up for it, with slick seasoned skin giving way to meat that’s partially pink from smoke and fully flavorful.
Like everything I ate, pulled pork was only lightly seasoned, letting the charred bits and juicy strips of shoulder speak for themselves. Beef brisket wasn’t juicy enough; a cut with more marbling might help. Canned pork-and-beans get gussied up with caramelly onions, bits of brisket and brown sugar, while creamy mac and cheese gets a perfectly simple crust of bread crumbs. Don’t bother saving room for the so-so cobbler; order another slab of spareribs instead.