Sorry, I have no idea. Perhaps Buddy, Abe, or one of the other Chi-folks will have some thoughts.
There's been a Barbecue and Fried Chicken BOOM
lately, here in Chicago. The success of Smoque
has spurred the 'Que onslaught, some of them damn good, others spotty. Honky Tonk BBQ
, Barn & Co.
, Lillie's Q
, and Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse
are just a few of the newcomers since Smoque's arrival. The Contingent
recently visited Milt's Barbecue For The Perplexed
, a kosher
greasehouse, with mixed results. Opinions differed on many of the items we tried, but there was agreement on one thing: The Barbecue was the weakest thing we were served. Outstanding Smoked Chicken Wings, and excellent Gribenes
(not a regular menu item; we goaded them into making up a platter) were at the top of the list. Other sides and apps, including the house-made Beef Bacon, were good, but no real standouts. The Brisket was what we were all waiting for (what else? Not a pig within a hundred yards of this place) and it turned out to be a disappointment. Small portions of overdone beef with a slight burnt taste. I'd go back for the Wings alone, and maybe to try the Milt's Burger, but until they get their act together on the brisket, I'll pass.
The real issue here, though, is Fried Chicken. Parson's Chicken & Fish
, Honey Butter Fried Chicken
, and Small's
have gotten plenty of love lately over at LTHForum. I can speak personally to Honey Butter and Small's, and declare them FANTASTIC!
I'll start with Small's as they fulfill both the Fried Chicken and BBQ categories. The guys who own and operate Small's started out in Chicago's growing food truck industry. They are to chicken and 'Que what Hot Doug
is to hot dogs. That is to say, they've taken two distinctly American foods and elevated them through fusion concepts executed as high culinary art.
In this case, the fusion mixes down home cookin' with Asian spices and a touch of Mexican for good measure. Sure, you can get a slab of ribs, but these will bring back memories of the Spare Rib appetizers commonly found at Chinese restaurants of the '60s. They're beautifully smoked of course, but a hit of Chinese Five Spice gives them their edge. Likewise the brisket, served straight as a sandwich or platter, or as one element of a Korean Bibimbap
The sides also reflect the mix of cultures. Toasted Garlic Rice and what they call "cole slaw", that's really a Korean style Cucumber Salad, top the list. My only quibble with the "slaw" is that they serve a miniscule portion, and it's just so darn good, ya gotta have more. The Mexican twist comes in the form of charred Elotes, replacing margarine and crema
with a dollop of Japanese spicy mayo.
I've managed to work my way around Small's entire (brief) menu. In addition to the 'Que, they serve a mean Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken. Brilliantly crispy, with a very light batter coating, deep flavor from both the chicken and the buttermilk. The chicken dinner comes with the house cut fries, Texas toast, and Banana Ketchup for the fries.
The only problem with Small's is that they live up to their name. This a tiny box of a store with virtually no seating. There's a stand up counter for dining in, but I'd say 90% of their business is takeaway. In spite of that one limitation Small's earns a high recommendation!
Honey Butter Fried Chicken is the newest kid on the block. I've only made one visit, because this is definitely not "value" dining. A two piece dinner, that only comes with a side of corn bread, will run you eight bucks. Four pieces will set you back $15. I know that's going to raise some eyebrows and some hackles, but I'll tell you what, as a once-in-a-while treat, this stuff is totally worth it. Visit Harold's once a week; drop by Honey Butter once every couple of months.
The one value I saw, and tried, was the "Fried Chicken Sammy". This was the single biggest boneless, skinless chicken thigh I've ever seen. It outsized the massive bun, and was so thick I could barely get my jaws around it. It's served with a Candied Jalapeno Mayo and a side of slaw. The chicken itself was wonderful. The not-too-thick, audibly crunchy batter gave way to a juicy, flavorful hunk of thigh meat. After your teeth enjoy the rough textured coating, the meat melts in your mouth with rich chicken flavor. I'd get that sandwich again in a heartbeat and look forward to trying other menu items.
BTW, the name "Honey Butter" comes from the side of honey butter served with the dinners. Apparently, you spread the butter on the still hot chicken and it adds a whole new dimension to an already fantastic piece of bird.
Based on the number of BBQ Joints that have sprung up in Smoque's successful wake, I imagine we'll see more and more Fried Chicken places in the very near future.
<message edited by BuddyRoadhouse on Wed, 11/6/13 9:39 PM>