Our absolute favorite barbecue critic, Heather Shouse, is at it again. She can be merciless when it comes to smoked meat, which can make for some genuinely fun reading. (A review of Brand Market BBQ began with this nugget: “There’s barbecue in this town that would get a man exiled from his family if he served it in Memphis, Kansas City or Austin.”) There seems to be no middle ground for her; a joint either smokes meat well or it does not. This week she revisits four joints from last year’s Year of Barbecue. (Very quickly: Pork Shoppe has improved, Rub BBQ still needs more smoke, Chicago Q’s ribs are now the “cream of the crop” in Chicago, while Lillie’s Q is still awesome.) But she also finds the time to visit newcomer, Barn & Company.
She admits that barbecue author Gary Wiviott is either a “masochist, or he has huge ones” for getting into the restaurant game. Unfortunately, while he “has mastered backyard smoking,” the inferior pellet smoker he’s using at Barn & Company is like “handing crayons to a painter.” The brisket is “minimally marbled,” while the Mikeska sausages were “wrinkled like Slim Jims.” Luckily, the pulled pork “showed promise,” and the ribs “picked up noticeable smoke.” Still, the result doesn’t feel like a “coming-out party for Chicago’s most vocal barbecue enthusiast.”