Old Crow Smokehouse sets a tantalizing Chef's Table

Our most recent Chef’s Table event took place at Old Crow Smokehouse in Wrigleyville.  If you recall my September 2014 review of Old Crow, you know that I was happily surprised at the high quality of the food.  If this Chef’s Table is any indication, they are just getting better and better largely due to the talent of Chef Tony Scruggs.

Tony Scruggs developed an interest in cooking at an early age, helping his Sicilian-born grandmother in the kitchen, and spending his summers steaming crabs at a crab house and marina in Maryland as a teen. Scruggs’s career as a steel hauler/truck driver furthered his interest in food, in particular barbecue, as his territory was in the barbecue-loving states of Tennessee and Arkansas. While driving, he regularly ate at barbecue shacks, and he began perfecting his own style of ‘cue back home in Illinois. He entered his smoked meats in county and state competitions, racking up numerous awards and honors.

His daughter convinced him to take his competitive spirit to the next level and encouraged him to audition for the Fox Network’s “MasterChef.” His stellar audition landed him a spot as a contestant on season two in 2011, giving him national recognition and celebrity-status throughout Kankakee County.

At Old Crow Smokehouse, Scruggs prepares the smoked meats in a wood-burning Southern Pride 1000. He believes that the wood used in the smoker is just as important as the spices used on the meats; both impart a distinct flavor. He uses his own secret blend of Applewood and other fruit woods in the smoker, and also uses his signature “Scruggs Rubs” throughout the menu from the barbecue sauce to the seasoning on the hand-cut fries.

For the sold-out Chef’s Table event, guests were treated to a sampling of some of Old Crow’s signature items.  As a special added bonus, Chef Tony Scruggs was on hand to introduce each course and to chat with the guests.  The tasting menu consisted of the following:

  • Fried Pickled Okra (Cornmeal beer batter, pickled red onion remoulade) – I grew up in South Carolina so I’m a fan of okra in all forms.  This is simple yet extraordinary! The breading is not too thick, and the surprise of the okra being pickled is the best part of this savory appetizer.
  • Crow’s Nest Poutine with Brisket (Hand-cut fries, house Worcestershire cheese sauce, beef gravy, beer-BBQ sauce) Old Crow’s version of poutine is not exactly by the book, but far surpasses most that I have tasted in Chicago.  The fries are still slightly crunchy beneath the sauces.  Instead of cheese curds, Scruggs uses cheese sauce – an excellent decision.  This may sound like hyperbole, but I doubt you will ever have better brisket. All of the guests agreed that this appetizer was one of the highlights of the entire night.
  • Combo Platter (½ pound pulled pork, ½ pound beef brisket, full slab baby back ribs, whole brined chicken, 2 Old Crow sausage links) This platter is designed to serve four people – four very hungry people.  The combination of foods was unbelievable, both in quantity and quality.  The standout item here was the beer can chicken.  Honestly, I have never before tasted a roast chicken that tender or that flavorful. Wow.
  • A Whole Mess of Sides (Classic cornbread, crunchy coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, hand-cut fries, summer pickles, savory sweet potatoes with blue cheese, and baked beans) If you’re in the mood for good ol’ comfort food sides, Old Crow is your place.  Everything was fresh and delicious with a special shout out to the combination of sweet potatoes with blue cheese. Try it and you will never go back to just butter again.

Chef Scruggs surprised the guests with one additional course – a dessert of Warm Cinnamon Roll with Candied Bacon.  What can I say?  Cinnamon, caramel, and bacon – a trifecta of goodness.

Old Crow Smokehouse is located at 3506 North Clark Street.  You can reach them at 773-537-4452 or by email atinfo@oldcrowsmokehouse.com.  For more information, visit their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Photos by Donna Binbek






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