Last week, we focused on Texas-style brisket. But this week, it's all about the pulled pork and ribs in an unlikely north suburban mall.
The North Shore isn't exactly the first place you'd think of for slow-smoked beef and pork, but the oxymoronic Real Urban Barbeque - in a Highland Park mall on Central Avenue - is turning out juicy baby backs and pulled pork as good as anywhere else in the region.
"The folks that are winning all of the awards in the competition circuit are all using pellet cookers. So I did my research and talked to a lot of people and pellet cookers was the way to go for this application," said RUB owner Jeff Shapiro.
That means wood pellets ignited by gas - not exactly an old-school Carolina or Texas approach - but still, the results are impressive.
"The ribs we're pulling off a membrane, we're dry rubbing them with our all-purpose seasoning, and we are putting it into the cooker. The cooker goes roughly four hours, 250, 270 degrees," Shapiro said.
It won't give you that tell-tale pink smoke ring, but it does do the job, transforming those ribs into something special. When an order comes in, they're grilled for about a minute per side and mopped with sauce. Pork shoulders get the same care and attention with a dry rub, then a much longer time in the smoker.
"The pork shoulders, really they tell you when it's ready. We cook to temperature as opposed to time. So every shoulder comes in a little bit differently," he said.
And these come out just fine. Shredded with bear claws, it's mounded onto sturdy buns and topped with creamy coleslaw. Other notable sides include baked beans and corn cakes.. but it's the proteins that shine here, and Shapiro - a former Lettuce Entertain You partner - is already looking at bringing his concept to other barbeque-starved suburbs.
"I think that barbeque is one of those kind of items that people are willing to travel for. So we're getting people in from Wisconsin, we're getting people in from Mount Prospect, Barrington and they're coming into Highland Park for barbeque," said Shapiro.
Shapiro is already planning on additional locations in the suburbs.
Next week, we head south and east for rib tips and hot links.
Real Urban Barbeque
610 Central Avenue #177, Highland Park
Other great BBQ places:
226 W. Front St., Wheaton
70. S. LaGrange Rd., La Grange
1856 W. North Ave.
1160 N. Dearborn
3800 N. Pulaski Rd.
1804 W. Division St.
Fat Willy's Rib Shack
2416 W. Schubert Ave.
Uncle John's BBQ
337 East 69th Street
2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., North Chicago
3309 E. 106th St.
Honey 1 BBQ
2241 N. Western Ave.
7617 South Cottage Grove Avenue