Barry Sorkin

Fire at Smoque BBQ closes acclaimed Chicago restaurant temporarily

Louisa Chu
Barry Sorkin

A fire at Smoque BBQ on Saturday night has temporarily closed the critically acclaimed restaurant in the Old Irving Park neighborhood, said owner Barry Sorkin.

Heat from the stove leaked between stainless steel panels into a wall, that then started smoldering, said Sorkin at the restaurant by phone.

“We started smelling subtle things early in the day but it wasn’t anything that was traceable,” he added. “Obviously we’re generating smoke here in the building on a daily basis, so while clearly it was a different smell it was very difficult to pinpoint where it was coming from.”

“Later in the day as it got a little more severe, we were able to figure out where it was, so we called the fire department. They came and tore out a wall and put it out.”

The incident occurred during dinner around 7:30 p.m., said Sorkin. “People realized there was something wrong and some probably picked up and left a little earlier than they normally would have, but not really in dramatic fashion. It was just a little weird.”

“Right around the time that we knew there was a problem we just stopped letting people in,” he added. “We let people finish on their time.”

Firefighters tore out the wall next to the register, where the soda cooler once stood.

“The main thing I want people to know is everything’s fine,” said Sorkin. “It’s easy to leap to conclusions when you hear there’s a fire at a barbecue joint. It’s just an occupational hazard.”

The restaurant will be closed on Sunday for clean up, which will continue Monday, when Smoque usually is closed. Sorkin said he hopes to reopen Tuesday.

Smoque at Revival Food Hall in the Loop will be open during normal weekday hours.

Sorkin posted a photo of the fire-damaged wall on Smoque’s Facebook page as well as his personal profile, where Chicago barbecue author and pitmaster Gary Wiviott commented with surprising congratulations: “It’s long been said you aren't a real BBQ joint until you have your first fire.”

“Let me be clear about the fact that this was not done to gain credibility,” said Sorkin laughing.

Smoque BBQ, 3800 N. Pulaski Road, 773-545-7427,

Twitter @louisachu


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