CHICAGO - Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse is a distant memory now that the BBQ Supply Co. is fully in charge along Western Avenue in the West Rogers Park neighborhood, near the city's border with Evanston.
When things weren't going well, Rub's decided to reconcept and refine the business. After six years, the upgrades have been significant - a new pitmaster and menu, among other things.
"We went from choice brisket to Snake River Farms American wagyu brisket. We went from commodity pork to Duroc pork," said Dylan Lipe, the culinary director for BBQ Supply Co.
And they fixed up the adjacent space next door.
"We have an event space that we have next door that we host private events in - pit to plate dinners - we sell rubs, we sell sauces, not just our rubs and sauces, and we also serve lunch and dinner," he said.
They sure do. St. Louis-style ribs are meaty, almost ham-like in their texture, a perfect smoke ring intact. Same goes for the 14 hour, slow-smoked brisket, which is first dry-rubbed, then placed into a giant red smoker, fed throughout the day with hard wood. The flat and deckle are both soft and forgiving, a nice black "bark" on the outside, hiding that telltale smoke ring beneath it. You can get it sliced or chopped.
Even the sides are now noteworthy: pit beans with bits of brisket, truffled mac and cheese and deviled potato salad just a few of the highlights.
"We added the deviled egg potato salad," said Lipe. "That came about because we couldn't figure out how to ensure the deviled eggs would reach the table un-smudged. So we went ahead and pre-smudged them and mixed them with potatoes."
They also pull pork shoulder and chicken, and Lipe acknowledges that once they focused the menu a bit, they were able to be more consistent with quality.
"The more you can narrow what you do, the deeper and better you can get and more focused you can have on things so do fewer things and do them better," he said.
So don't be misled by the name of the place. Yes, Barbecue Supply does sell barbecue supplies, plus sauces and a private space next door for classes and events but they've also got a revamped restaurant with a fantastic menu making some of the best St. Louis-style ribs I've ever had.
And the owners just opened a second location this weekend in the Hyde Park neighborhood on East 53rd Street.
EXTRA COURSE: Two of the restaurant's best desserts -- a rich banana pudding and a smoked peach cobbler.
BBQ SUPPLY CO.
EXTRA COURSE: Banana pudding and peach cobbler at BBQ Supply Co.
West Rogers Park location
6954 N. Western Ave., Chicago
Hyde Park location
1301 E. 53rd St., Chicago