Good BBQ is so hard to find in Mid-Michigan. Not in Chicago. J hasn’t used any vacation days since starting her new job and since we wanted to go see my niece, she decided to take a few days off which would give us a chance to catch up with both of our families and a number of friends in Illinois. On our first night in town, we hung out at one of J’s friends in Crestwood. They have a little one of their own so carry-out is one of their best friends. We were hanging out in their living room when it started to get close to dinner time. I haven’t known these people all that long yet, but they knew BBQ was a good way to earn a special place in my heart.
Smokin’ Joe’s is a little carry-out place in Palos Park. I didn’t go pick up the food, but I’m told they’re in a strip mall. The joint is strictly carry-out and since that’s what we were looking for, Smokin’ Joe’s was a good fit. I didn’t want to eat ribs in front of people I still don’t know that well, so I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and fries. When we were all putting in our orders, J’s friend asked me if I wanted coleslaw on my pulled pork. Cole slaw? That’s something I’ve never encountered before. I know it’s a very Carolina concept and I see people doing it in the cooking shows I watch, but I’ve never actually eaten at a place that actually puts coleslaw on the sandwich. I wasn’t really wanting to try it so I asked to leave it off. J and her friend bothgot the pulled pork with the slaw and a side of jalapeno beans.
The meat was really good. Nice and tender with a great hickory flavor. They serve the BBQ sauce on the side and I had the option of hot or mild. I grabbed the hot sauce and it had quite a kick to it. The fries were fresh cut and double fried. They were perfectly crispy and just a little salty. It was great roadhouse type food. J’s sandwich had a little too much meat, so I got some of hers as well. She said the slaw on the BBQ was interesting, but she never said if it was something she would try again.
J’s friend’s husband got a brisket sandwich and a half a slab of St. Louis style ribs. He gave me one of the bones to try. I really prefer baby backs, but don’t mind the St. Louis. The ribs weren’t quite fall off the bone, but they still had an interesting flavor. I’m pretty sure they mixed the two Memphis styles as I could taste the dry rub which felt like it was put on after cooking (a la Rendezvous), but they had also been hit with a little bit of sauce at the end of cooking (a la Corky’s). They were alright, but I would have preferred if they’d just picked a style then went with that. They were definitely smoked and not grilled (like Rendevous’ would have been), but the addition of the dry rub adding a layer I’m not sure I really liked.
Smokin’ Joe’s was a great choice for dinner. The thing I love most about coming home to Illinois is the food. Lansing may have great Middle Eastern or Mexican or Sushi restaurants, but no one does good, hearty food like the Midwest. Smokin’ Joe’s filled a BBQ craving I’ve had since moving north. The hickory smell filled the house for the rest of the night and there’s nothing that smells better.