On Smoque BBQ, Daniel Vaughn writes “This is the closest thing to true Texas Style BBQ that I’ve found outside of Texas.”  With time for only one lunch in Chicago, my barbecue destination was quickly settled on his words alone.

Vaughn is a man that knows barbecue. As the proprietor of Full Custom Gospel BBQ, he’s catalogued a compendium of over 500 in person reviews of joints throughout the state of Texas and beyond.  And while I’ve been following his smoky footsteps for quite a few years now, his recent list of accolades, including an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”, has elevated him to a national authority on the subject.   While he doesn’t travel outside of Texas often (and frankly, I don’t know why any true BBQ fan would) when he does, you better pay attention.  I’ve counted on Daniel’s recommendations for a number of years now, and with this upcoming trip to Chicago in my sights, his website was the first place I checked for some proper cue’.  Once again, Daniels expertise did not disappoint.

Walking into to Smoque, the aroma of a proper BBQ joint tingles the nose.  Smoke wafts through the air, permeating clothes and pores alike, and the sweet smell of pork stirs my appetite.  Taking only an obligatory glance at the chalk menu board, I place my order for the “holy trinity” of traditional Texas barbecue: sausage, pork ribs and brisket.  Through years of experience, these are the three best barometers for evaluating the mettle of a proper pitmaster.  After watching a few plates prepared with sauce, I recoil in my customary fashion, instructing the counter girl not to sauce my order.  Given Smoque’s anti sauce manifesto (read here) I’m surprised this step is required.  Handing me my ticket number, I remind her one more time not to sauce me, just to be safe.

I watch the cook staff while I wait, delicately slicing orders in the open kitchen, Smoque clearly takes pride in their work.  A moment later my order arrives, the three meats arranged neatly on a wax paper lined aluminum tray.  An individual serving of house made mac & cheese and baked beans round out the feast, even the sides are given proper attention here.  As I dig in, the sausage has a familiar flavor profile to it. Imported from Rudy Mikeska’s in Taylor, Texas it has the spice and snap of true Texas sausage.  Sweet smoky ribs pulled from the bone with only the slightest of tugs, the St. Louis cut yielding gobs of porky goodness.  The brisket, however, I hoarded.  Like a child setting dessert aside greedily for the end of the meal, I rationed bites of brisket, savoring each morsel. Without a trip to Texas scheduled this season, it might be my only chance for some proper brisket. Tender fatty cuts from the point end had a crisp jet black bark, giving way to luxurious smoked beefy velvet.

This is, quite simply, the best brisket I have ever had outside of Texas.

There are precious few places anywhere in the country that show mastery over several kinds of protein.  There are even fewer still that exist outside of Texas.  Having visited, I can now add Smoque to that elite, short list of places.  If you’re ever in Chicago craving BBQ, your only question should be where to eat third?  Because the first two places better be Smoque.

Click here for Full Custom Gospel BBQ

Click here for Smoque BBQ

Full clickable gallery of Smoque pictures below.

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