Summer came out in full force last weekend, and the Windy City Smokeout made the best of it. Roughly 15,000 attendees enjoyed the trifecta of sunshine, country music, and mouth-watering barbeque. Filling a parking lot on Rush Street in River North, country musicians played and bantered on a large stage as people lounged at tables wrapped in red-checked covers.
Chef Doug Psaltis, the leading pitmaster for the fest and head chef at Bub City, drew from his wide experience with barbeque festivals around the country, from North Carolina to Washington D.C. to Memphis. He thought the combination of local restaurants and the best from around the country would lend the event its flavor, a plan that worked perfectly. “There’s a great culture to barbeque,” he said. “It brings people together for a fun time.”
The participating Chicago restaurants showed that barbeque was alive and well in the city. Bub City made a strong showing as host of the festival, offering their succulent pulled pork sandwich and snappy, spicy BBQ pork rinds among other dishes. Smoque BBQ delivered sticky and sultry ribs that did not fail to please. The tender, flavorful tri tips from Lillie’s Q were delicious on their own, but made even better with a dip of one of their many sauces.
The Salt Lick from Austin, Texas did not disappoint, bringing the best from the Lone Star State. Juicy beef brisket was liberally coated with a sauce that was just begging to be sopped up by the accompanying bread.
Though a number of big names like Pat Green and David Nail commanded the audience with their lively music, the real star of the show was Myron Mixon with his whole hog roast. Plucked straight from the choicest parts, this barbeque was rich with smokiness, incredibly tender, and perfectly offset by a tangy, vinegary sauce. If you didn’t get a chance to try the dish from the three-time World Barbeque Champion, you missed a truly transcendent barbeque experience.
The Windy City Smokeout had a successful run its first year and looks to be a welcome addition to the Chicago festival scene. No doubt there are already some attendees dreaming about next year’s roast!