North Shore joint turns out tasty BBQ

May 20, 2011 8:40:18 PM PDT
There is grilling - usually a fairly rapid process - and then there is barbeque, which implies slow-cooking over smoldering wood; the smoke imparting a distinctive flavor while also breaking down the connective tissue.

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
224-770-4227
www.realurbanbbq.com

Other great BBQ places:

Austin BBQ
226 W. Front St., Wheaton
630-690-0526
www.austinbbq.net

Q BBQ
70. S. LaGrange Rd., La Grange
708-482-8700
www.q-bbq.com

Lillie's Q
1856 W. North Ave.
773-772-5500
www.lilliesq.com

Chicago q
1160 N. Dearborn
312-642-1160
www.chicagoqrestaurant.com

Smoque
3800 N. Pulaski Rd.
773-545-7427
www.smoquebbq.com

Smoke Daddy
1804 W. Division St.
773-772-6656
www.thesmokedaddy.com

Fat Willy's Rib Shack
2416 W. Schubert Ave.
773-782-1800
www.fatwillys.com

Uncle John's BBQ
337 East 69th Street
773-892-1233

Big Ed's
2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., North Chicago
847-578-1901

BBQ Zone
3309 E. 106th St.
773-374-9663

Honey 1 BBQ
2241 N. Western Ave.
773-227-5130
www.honey1bbq.com

Barbara Ann's
7617 South Cottage Grove Avenue
773-892-1233