Barn & Company is Smokin'

With barbecue joints popping up all over Chicago it’s getting hard to decide where to go when you want your brisket and ribs. I mean, barbecue is barbecue, right?

For shame! There are as many different barbecue methods as there are chefs, and each restaurant has its own specialty. One spot we heartily recommend is Barn & Company, and they wrote the book on low and slow – literally.

Pit Master Gary Wiviott is the author of “Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons“. He’s also the co-founder and Pitmaster Emeritus of the popular Chicago foodie community He’s joined forces with Hubbard Inn’s Executive Chef Bob Zrenner to create a menu that not only has the comfort of barbecue, but also boasts zing and creativity. They call it “Hickory smoke barbecue, taking the traditional messy glory of Memphis, Kansas City and Texas–style barbecue and turning it into a full-blown pig picking fest.”

At our recent Chef’s Table event, Wiviott gave us some insight into how he perfects his recipes. At one point he was making miso soup every day because he thought it was healthy. “After I made it for a year and a half every morning my wife threatened to kill me if I made it one more day,” he said. “Then I realized it wasn’t so healthy.”

When he was learning how to barbecue he did so with the same obsessiveness, cooking dishes over and over until he got it right. The result is meat that’s tender and flavorful. It’s so tasty that we completely forgot there were sauces, and both Chefs Bob and Gary said that’s the biggest compliment you can give for barbecue.

Our dinner began with a trio of appetizers: fried pickles, smoked pulled pork nachoes, and Smofried wings. The nachos were piled high with house-made guacamole, pico de gallo, and pulled pork. The chips, also made in house, were light and crispy but strong enough to hold up to the heavy toppings. A guest at my table said they were the best nachos she’s ever had, and she knows her nachos!

Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos at Barn & Company

My personal favorite was the “Smofried” wings. These babies are brined, then smoked, and then fried and end up with a unique and crave-worthy flavor. Another guest said these were worth the price of admission alone! They’re normally $9 for a basket, or go in on Saturday when they’re only $5.

Smofried Chicken Wings at Barn & Company

@GourmetRambler: Smofried wings, smoked, rubbed & fried. Amazing! No. Really.

Next up we tried two salads. Salads, at a barbecue joint, you ask? One of them was, as Wiviott said, the only healthy thing on the menu. The Harvest Salad is mixed greens tossed with apple, walnuts, apple vinaigrett, and smoked (of course!) pumpkin.

Harvest Salad from Barn & Company

The Pit Master elicited ooohs and aaahs as it was presented. It may be a “salad”, but with potato, pulled pork, and green beans it was like an entire meal. The most impressive part was the fried poached egg resting on top. Yes, fried, poached egg. As we cut into ours more “ooohs” escaped as the yolk ran into the greens. Yum.

Pit Master Salad at Barn & Company

Pit Master Salad at Barn & Company

@PennyTLT: We had 2 salads and both were wonderful. I am a salad connoisseur.

While the appetizers and salads were delicious, and worth a visit themselves, the main attraction was the meat. Our first main course was Smofried chicken legs and free-range chicken, and these were followed by baby back ribs and beef brisket. I’ve already said everything I need to say about those: we forgot there was sauce.

@JimGoodrich I was at a barbeque place and forgot there were sauces.
That’s how good the meat was.

Our side dishes were smoked baked beans with bacon, tater tots that have been dusted with barbecue seasoning, and a slightly spicy cole slaw. I love my cole slaw and I’m finicky about it. For me it’s like the hot & sour soup of barbecue. Barn & Company’s passes the test with flying colors. The asparagus with preserved lemon had delicious grill marks on it. As one Facebook user commented, “Preserved lemons is not for amateurs. Good call!”

Dessert was pecan (pronounced pee-can) pie with housemade whipped cream. While not quite as good as my mom and grandma’s (really, no one’s is), it was still that ooey gooey sweet and crunchy goodness that a good pecan pie should be.

Pecan Pie from Barn & Company. Photo credit Tatiana Abramova
Photo credit Tatiana Abramova

On top of the decadent food we also had both beer and whiskey pairings! In order we tried Lagunitas “A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’”, Three Floyd’s “Pride & Joy”, Two Brothers “Cane & Ebel”, and Revolution’s “Anti-Hero IPA”. The beers were decidedly on the hoppy side, which is just right for barbecue.

The whiskeys all came from Heaven Hill Distilleries, which has a broad portfolio of spirits. We started with Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, which was smooth and smelled like butterscotch. This was followed by Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, which was aged 12 years. Our final whiskey was the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon, which is the world’s only vintage-dated single barrel bourbon.

Heaven Hills Distillery Rep
Photo credit: Tatiana Abramova

@GourmetRambler Favorite whiskey of #TLTBarn evening: Evan Williams Single Barrel. Smooth, rich & round, w/a touch of spice. Great pairing!

Barn & Company were impecable hosts with great food, quick and pleasant service (Go Jill!), and a warm and comfortable ambiance. This “Smokehouse and Public Hall” definitely goes on my list of spots to recommend in Chicago, and one I’ll be visiting frequently myself. Smofried wings, anyone? 






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