Smoke the accessories at Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse | Bleader

Friday, May 31, 2013

Smoke the accessories at Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse

Posted By on 05.31.13 at 03:33 PM

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smoked potato, Rub
Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse is the second coming of Jared Leonard's West Rogers Park barbecue joint Rub BBQ Company, the former day trader having moved his operation around the corner from Lunt to the remote backcountry of Western Avenue in early March. A lot can be said for Leonard's learning curve. He started out on a gas-powered offset cooker, and the results were less than mentionable. Now his menu proudly proclaims "No gas. No electricity," referring to his totally hardwood-fueled smokers, and there has been some improvement, though not necessarily in the barbecue department. Ribs—Saint Louis spares—are Leonard's strongest suit. They hold together nicely, carry the most intense smoke flavor in the repertoire, and while they can be a bit dry, they're not so bad as to require the application of any of the quartet of house-made sauces. But the latter are essential for the brisket, which absorbs no smoke flavor at all. It would taste braised if it weren't so dry, yet it contains deposits of barely rendered fat, an indicator it's been cooked too fast. Pulled chicken and pork are little better—again too dry.

All of this sounds rather grim for the small spot bedecked in porkphernalia and ancient sigils of regional barbecue, with servers all Elly Mae Clampetted in plaids and checkers, and a turntable spinning vinyl at the entrance. But a bunch of other things on the menu are clever twists on standard barbecue tropes, and pretty good to boot. Apart from the option of building sandwiches (Reuben, panini, burger), tacos, or nachos on any number of the meats, there's a smoked, baked, and stuffed potato that can be upholstered with pork, chicken, and brisket. The spud pictured above was ordered with just the standard bechamel, and it held up just fine without any other stuffing; the natural blandness of the tuber absorbed the smoke very well, and the sauce moistened the whole affair to scarfable texture.

Besides that, multivariety baked beans are not too sweet and nicely smoky, brimming with burnt ends, and there's vinegary slaw spiked with giardiniera, and a delicately fungal truffled mac 'n' cheese with al dente rotini. But with all that, as well as house-made root beer, custard-filled corn bread, and smoked apple crisp, it's tempting to wonder if Leonard & Co. spend too much time thinking about the accessories rather than the essentials. That said, it's still probably the best barbecue north of Irving Park Road.*

Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse, 6954 N. Western, 773-675-1410, backcountryq.com

*Tallest hobbit in the shire

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