Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Illinois BBQ?

So when you think BBQ styles, you think, Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, the Carolinas & St. Louis. Whoda thunk that we would run across some of the best BBQ of the trip in Illinois?

My BBQ instructor, Ronnie Shewchuck of Rockin' Ronnie & the Butt Shredders, has in his BBQ cookbook a bibliography of other great BBQ cookbooks. One of them is called "Peace, Love & Barbeque". The author of this missive is Mike Mills -- from Illinois. He has a 6 restaurant "chain" in these parts (and Las Vegas) and one of them happens to be in Marion, Illinois, where we stayed tonight (other than the Vegas locations, the rest are are all within ~30 miles of here, and he lives here). Mr. Mills is a several times Grand Champion of the BBQ competitions in Memphis and elsewhere.

17th St BBQ & Grill is just awesome BBQ. We had the combo platter which is an excellent meal for two. It had brisket, ribs, pulled pork, links, chicken & turkey, all BBQ'd, plus we had the slaw and red beans and rice.

Where do I start?

  • The brisket was wonderful, perfectly sauced, great smoke ring, great crispy bits, falling apart tender yet not dried out. Very Texas.
  • The ribs would disintegrate at a touch. Great smoke ring, tender, excellent. St. Louis styled
  • The pulled pork was served more Memphis styled, with great applewood flavour and a nice and mild sauce.
  • The turkey was great, though slightly dry
  • The chicken was classically smoked chicken. The meat was fabulous. The skin was rubber, just like all properly BBQ'd chicken.
  • The links also reminded me of Texas with a nice spiciness to them.
  • The slaw was made in a Carolina vinegar style, which complimented the pork
  • The red beans and rice was spectacular and just like I used to have in Texas and Louisiana.
A couple of things were unique.
  • His dry rub (which was available to sprinkle on anything on the table) lacked the omnipresent cumin that I have run into so often down here. I don't understand the concept of putting dry rub on the table; it needs to work for a few hours. I didn't put it on anything, but it smelled great.
  • He has only one sauce -- his own, home made ketchup/mustard sauce. This is a treat in that his sauce goes with everything. So many places have too many sauce choices.
This was great BBQ with the only problem being the atmosphere. Don't get me wrong: the restaurant was very nice. But the best 'Q places have a seedy, cafeteria atmosphere. I was glad you could get beer & wine. But real BBQ places have only unsweetened (warm) ice tea and lots of ice, and they serve it in styrofoam cups. The best BBQ places are fast food, not sit down dining.

No, this is a homogenized BBQ experience but with real, genuine BBQ food. Accordingly, while the food hold up, Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City remains the best real BBQ place we have eaten thus far. 4.75 stars out of 5, but 5 stars out of 5 for the food alone.

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