Modern Gourmet BBQ
Long gone are the days when the only place to get your BBQ fix outside your own backyard was a side of the highway restaurant with a massive smoker puffing away out back. While the ‘cue was phenomenal, and the sides tasted like your grandma was in the kitchen, the word “gourmet” probably didn’t come to mind when dining at your favorite joint.
These days, chefs are taking traditional BBQ and infusing it with modern, gourmet twists, which have begun to appeal to a broader foodie audience. While there’s nothing better than traditional, smoky, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ, it’s great to see chefs revitalizing an old classic.
In terms of the meat itself, places like Dragon Ranch in Chicago, are infusing Asian flavors with classic American barbeque by playing with the rubs that go on before they hit the smoke. Restaurants like Smoque, also in Chicago, pay attention to every single detail, to ensure that flavors harmonize and complement each other. Blue Smoke in New York melds regional BBQ styles together from across the country, allowing you to taste flavors typical of Kansas, Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina, in a single sitting.
Chefs are also beginning to experiment beyond the barbeque itself. Side dishes have become nearly as important as the meat. Classics like mac’ and cheese have been reworked to include handmade noodles and gourmet cheeses from around the world. New, more adventurous combinations have popped up, like Blue Smoke’s muscles with chorizo, fennel, and white wine. Not to be left out, what you wash down your ‘cue with is also being taken much more seriously these days. Extensive whiskey lists, craft beer selections, and even “moonshine” are staples at many new barbeque restaurants.
We’ve rounded up four noteworthy restaurants from around the country that are doing interesting things with barbecue.
Dragon Ranch Moonshine & Barbeque: Chicago, IL
With over a decade of restaurant experience in Chicago, Billy Dec opened Dragon Ranch, a barbeque spot with an upscale Asian flair. Dragon Ranch uses traditional BBQ cooking methods and flavors for their meat, and then infuses them with Asian spices. The sides also bear an Asian twist, with offerings like the sweet potato hash that has soy beans thrown into the mix.
Sweet potato hash with soy beans from Dragon Ranch, photo credit: Dragon Ranch
Woodshed Smokehouse, Fort Worth, TX
Chef Tim Love’s The Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth, Texas is one of our personal favorites. If you’re a fan of all things grilled, roasted, and slow-cooked then this is the place for you. Love experiments with a variety of woods and fires (three smokers, two rotisseries, two wood grills, and up to 4-5 woods – just to name a few), and cooks a diverse array of beef, chicken, pork, wild game, fish, and vegetables. While Love draws his inspiration from traditional BBQ, he imparts his own gourmet spin on his food, for a slightly more sophisticated experience.
Gourmet ‘cue from Woodshed Smokehouse: 16 hour smoked beef shin, fresh ricotta, chile, smoked oil borracho beans and 3 kale salad, photo credit: Woodshed Smokehouse
Smoque: Chicago, IL
This Chicago restaurant is beloved by the city’s barbeque aficionados. “Created by 5 regular guys,” it isn’t the largest departure from classic ‘cue, but where Smoque really shines is in their attention to detail. Every cut of meat gets its own sauce and rub, fine-tuned down to the smallest detail, to make it just right. They focus solely on BBQ and doing it the best they can, so while their menu isn’t huge, it’s very focused. They see the meat and sauce as the stars of the meal, and work hard to bring out the best flavors in both.
Traditional ‘cue from Smoque, photo credit: Smoque
Blue Smoke: New York, NY
Blue Smoke has two Manhattan locations, and has set themselves apart by offering several different styles of barbeque, rather than focusing on just one. You can sample Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, and Memphis style ribs, brisket, and pulled pork all in one place.
We’re big fans of BBQ in pretty much any form, but it’s great to see this particular style of cooking continue to adapt and change, bringing about new and delicious flavor combinations.