I put on a new dealer in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago recently. I offered to take him out for dinner after we consummated the opening order and he said, "Do you like barbecue?" Oh, man! Do I! He suggested a place not far from his place called Smokin' T's Barbecue.
Tom Stoner and Tom Gescheidle - the "T's" of Smokin' T's - are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. While at a wedding in Texas, both Stone and Gescheidle professed a love for barbecue of all types - Memphis-style with the dry rub; North Carolina-style with the pulled pork and vinegar based sauces; Texas-style with great beef brisket; and St. Louis-style pork ribs. They decided to open a restaurant that featured a little bit of everything that is holy in barbecue. Smokin' T's was born in 2007.
From the outside, the place doesn't look like it would be a good barbecue joint. It's situated in a cottage-type building that is part of a shopping area in a growing section of the Long Grove/Kildeer area at the NW corner of Old McHenry Road and Route 22 (Half Day Road) near the Kemper Lakes Golf Course (see map). We walked in around 6:30 and the place was half full. It isn't all that big - about 30 to 35 seats total. But it has nice decor and is definitely family friendly.
The only problem is that Smokin' T's doesn't sell beer and I really could have used a beer after a long day and before the drive back to the hotel. Oh well... That's OK, I could get a Coke with my dinner.
The menu is posted on a board near the front counter. A pleasant young girl asked us if we'd been in before. My new dealer said, "Oh, yes. Many times. But this is my friend's first time here."
The girl then proceeded to tell me about Smokin' T's and how they don't try to "regionalize" one style of barbecue. She said, "We have a little bit of everything."
And they certainly did. Ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken - they had a fine selection of different styles of barbecue from around the nation. My new dealer suggested trying the combo platters - two, three or four different types of meat with two sides. I ordered a combo platter with the ribs, pulled pork and Smokin' T's "Chicago" version of brisket - sliced Black Angus beef short ribs. I also got the baked beans and the cole slaw. My dealer got the exact same thing, only he got the homemade corn pudding and fries.
We got our food and sat down at a table. On the table they have three different types of sauce - a North Carolina vinegar barbecue sauce; a Memphis mustard sauce with black pepper; and Smokin' T's "original" sauce which was sweet with chopped onions. I'll have to say the North Carolina vinegar sauce was great on the pulled pork and the ribs.
The St. Louis-style ribs were sort of fatty and boney. I wasn't impressed with them at all, although the taste of the meat was fine. My dealer also said he'd had better ribs in Smokin' T's before. But the pulled pork was just excellent. Great taste, moist, tender. Adding the North Carolina vinegar sauce just helped accentuate the smoked taste.
And the Black Angus beef short rib brisket was double excellent. Also very tasty, tender and had a nice smoked flavor to them. The Smokin' T's "original" sauce went well with the brisket.
Smokin' T's baked beans were OK, nothing special. Even adding the original sauce or the mustard sauce didn't zip 'em up enough. And I didn't care much for the cole slaw which seemed sort of bland. My dealer said, "Oh, man. Get the corn pudding next time. It's out of this world. It's an old recipe that one of the guys has had in his family for years and years."
OK, duly noted for the next visit. And there will be a next visit. I wouldn't call Smokin' T's all that cheap - it was over $40 bucks with drinks and tax. But the portions for the meat were huge. It was definitely worth the price compared to other barbecue places I've been to. So, yes, Smokin' T's gets a double "thumbs up" from this barbecue connoisseur.