Smalls Smoke Shack is big on BBQ flavors

Barbecue joints continue to open at a frantic pace in Chicago and Smalls Smoke Shack is among the most interesting, in addition to being the smallest, but its diminutive size has no impact on the big flavors.
September 7, 2013 8:57:44 PM PDT
Take a closer look at the barbecue coming out of the tiny Smalls Smoke Shack & More in Irving Park, and you'll notice a number of Asian accents. The fries are dipped in Filipino banana ketchup; the elotes, or grilled corn, arrive with a Japanese mayo. Even the beautifully-pulled pork has a supporting cast of garlic rice - another Filipino riff.

"But I've always had an affinity for meat in general, smoked meats in particular, and I just thought there was room to add something a little bit different," said Joaquin Soler, owner of Smalls.

The brisket, smoked to juicy tenderness, is sliced and served with pieces from the flat and the point, ensuring a bit of fatty richness, but the sauce is a galaxy away. Instead of Carolina, it's Thai-influenced.

"Lime juice based, we use a little bit of maple syrup, toasted garlic, chili flakes and some charred tomatoes," said Soler. "It's really just about what we like to eat at that particular moment. So right now the menu is consisting of a bunch of things that we like to eat. I wouldn't be surprised if it changes up though."

Chicken is twice-fried to perfection, sprinkled with a bit of five-spice, and one thing I hope doesn't change is the brisket bibimbop: a bulgogi sauce, containing maple syrup, sesame and soy is added to some of the smoked brisket. Meanwhile, sprouts, carrots and rice are assembled on a platter, along with the brisket, which gets a shower of sesame seeds. On goes the fried egg and a side of gojujang - the ubiquitous Korean red chili paste. Mix it all up for a beguiling snack that's all-at-once smoky, spicy and crunchy.

"We like to serve things that are enjoyable for people to eat and almost more importantly, enjoyable for us to make," said Soler.

There are also spare ribs with a Filipino marinade on the menu here at Smalls, yet another example of how Asia has woven its way into this fantastic barbecue menu.

If there aren't enough seats, you can always walk next door to "Lizard's Liquid Lounge" to wait for your food, and they'll happily deliver it to you. By the way, Smalls is closed Sundays and Mondays.

Smalls Smoke Shack & More
4009 N. Albany
312-857-4221 http://www.smallschicago.com/


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