ABC 7's Steve Dolinsky found a polish-run barbecue joint in Jefferson Park, where they not only smoke their beloved kielbasa, but also some beef and pork right out of the Texas and North Carolina schools of barbecue.
He stumbled upon Earl's on my way to O'Hare, but the quality of the pulled pork, as well as the ribs, was impressive.
Even more impressive was the fact that the owners, while having restaurant experience, had never formally learned how to slow-smoke ribs and brisket; they're completely self-taught.
Rib tips are more of a South or West Side thing than they are here on the Northwest Side, in Jefferson Park, but at Earl's Barbecue, they don't discriminate with respect to pig, cow or chicken. Anything is fair game.
"Family Heritage you know, in Poland we grew up smoking, making sausages, making ham the whole family had a farm, so I got it in my blood," Artur Wnorowski, the owner, said.
Brisket sure isn't easy. It takes years to figure out how much fat to trim, what kind of dry rub to use and how long to smoke it, but his team has a pretty good recipe. Their dry rub differs from the Texas salt and pepper, adding dried onion, cumin and cayenne. They also inject them with a brine, including root beer. They get anywhere from 12 to 14 hours on the rotating conveyor inside the smoker, sliced thick or chopped, then finished with a bit of seasoning just before serving, which is really superfluous.
"We cut out just the right amount from the brisket we experimented a couple of times to see how the smoker behaves," he said. "We dry rub the ribs, smoke it four to five hours and again make sure that the spices caramelize nicely on top."
And check out how soft and tender that pork shoulder is, the bone comes right out, and then shredding it into bite-sized strands is a breeze. Sides are solid - mac and cheese and baked beans are the stars, and those beans contain a few surprises.
"We put bacon, ground beef, onions, brown sugar, molasses," Wnorowski said.
They even offer a traditional Polish sausage, topped with caramelized onions, served with hand-cut fries and coleslaw. Wnorowski said the hardest part of his new business was figuring out how to keep the product fresh throughout the day, and not overcooked.
"We need to make sure than the quality is there all the time so if you come right now, if you come as six o'clock, or nine right when we close you still get the same quality; that was the trickiest part, but we got it," he said.
In this week's Extra Course, Dolinsky talks about the made-to-order doughnuts at Earl's.
WATCH: DOUGHNUTS AT EARL'S BBQ.
4835 N Austin Ave