Most people flock to Chicago for the deep dish pizza, the Chicago-style hot dogs or the even a taste of Rick Bayless’ Mexican food – beyond what you can get at Tortas Frontera at O’Hare airport, which I will come right out and admit I like a lot.
What many people don’t expect to find when they visit Chicago is a range of barbecue options, from North Carolina-style to low and slow Texas ‘cue. If you only have time for to hit one barbecue joint, or if you live here and are looking to broaden your horizons, Pork Shoppe pretty much has you covered no matter what it is you’re after.
Pork Shoppe, in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, arrived in spring 2015 following its first location in Avondale. It isn’t your typical barbecue joint, with an eclectic design that feels special but still comfortable with a vibe that would be appreciated by the neighborhood.
“We wanted the rustic feel, but to incorporate a ‘shabby chic’ element, said owner Steven Ford. “The banquettes are made of wood with a caramel colored vinyl. We added some plaid table and plaid fabric to the other banquettes to make them pop. We also added the art around the room to tell a fun story related to the farm and the “PIG” to add a little edge to the space.”
Chef Jason Heiman smokes all of the meats at Pork Shoppe with oak, hickory and applewood, but what really makes the food here shine is the variety of spice rubs, all made in house. Ford thinks the varied spices they use in their barbecue rubs sets the flavor profiles apart from other local BBQ joints. “Each of our meats has its own specific rub to compliment the different cuts,” he said.
Having tried both the brisket and the pork, I can attest that both were incredibly flavorful but unique in taste — they certainly aren’t slapping the same rub onto every cut of meat and hoping for the best. The chicken, pork and brisket are all seasoned differently. Everything is made in house, from the rubs and sauces right down to the side dishes, which in my opinion are the most essential components of a barbecue meal. For example, the coleslaw recipe is from Ford’s mother-in-law and the potato salad is from chef’s mother in law.
I had brunch at Pork Shoppe, but my friend Anita and I wanted the full experience so we split an order of the corned short rib hash and eggs plus the pulled pork with a side of macaroni and cheese and obviously, French fries. It goes without saying that we didn’t go home hungry. What we did not have, however, were the nachos, which I have been thinking about pretty much nonstop since my visit.
One of my favorite things about Pork Shoppe is that you really don’t have to be a barbecue aficionado in order to enjoy it. I’ve loved my experiences at Chicago Q and Smoke Daddy, as well as Stubbs in Austin, but I could hardly call myself an expert. I know that I like Kansas City style over North Carolina style, and that I like the sides almost as much, maybe even more, than the meat, but again, hardly an expert.
That’s okay though. Ford says, “even if you’re new to barbecue, you won’t be new to flavor. Start with the brisket. Full of flavor, tender and an experience a newbie BBQ lover will remember.”
Pork Shoppe, 5721 N. Clark Street, Chicago IL 60660. Call 773.654.1800 or porkshoppechicago.com for reservations.