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Old Crow Smokehouse surprises with BBQ and more in Wrigleyville
When you think of Wrigleyville, it’s highly likely that you think immediately of bars packed with screaming baseball fans. That’s certainly the truth, but scattered amidst all of those bars are some spots that offer amazingly good food. Even some of those same sports bars that are crowded on game days are well worth a visit when things are not so crazy. One of my favorites is Old Crow Smokehouse located at 3506 North Clark Street.
Old Crow is certainly a sports bar. In fact, it has the largest retractable roof in the city and is one of the most gigantic bars you will ever visit. It’s also an Ohio State bar, so it’s packed on both Cubs game days and Ohio State game days. They also have live music and live band country karaoke. Despite being a traditional Chicago-style sports bar, however, it is also helmed in the kitchen by one of the most talented barbecue chefs in the city.
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.
I was recently invited to try out some of Scruggs’ awesome food and I definitely recommend stopping by Old Crow Smokehouse when you’re in the mood for good ol’ barbecued comfort food. Start out with one of their handcrafted cocktails. They are prepared with freshly-squeezed juices, house made spice blends, premium produce and made-from-scratch mixers. My favorite was the Mad Moonshine (Midnight Moon Cranberry Moonshine, cranberry juice, orange juice, moonshine-soaked cherry, orange wheel).
For appetizers, my money is on the Crispy Fried Pickled Okra and the Pulled Pork Eggrolls. Both are signature items at Old Crow and were my favorites out of all the intriguing appetizers. I didn’t try the Crow’s Nest Poutine (hand-cut fries, house Worcestershire cheese sauce, beef gravy, beer-BBQ sauce) but that’s on my list for the next visit.
Their pork and beef cuts are dry-rubbed with Chef Tony’s signature “Scruggs Rubs” and slow-smoked over Applewood logs. You must try his superior brisket and pulled pork, but you absolutely cannot visit at least once without indulging in the Beer Can Chicken, a whole yardbird cooked on a beer can and rubbed with some of Chef Tony’s magic rubs. I have rarely tasted such a tender, succulent chicken. For sides, be sure to sample the Savory Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese as well as the Mac & Cheese with his house Worcestershire cheese sauce.
The inventive menu also includes several items from an Asian BBQ menu including Chinese Lamb, Japanese Chicken Teriyaki, Thai Curry Chicken, and Korean Kalbi Short Ribs. The decadent dessert menu beckons at the end of your meal by offering some irresistible items including Baked Peach Turnover, Toasted S’Mores Pie, and Layered Southern Pudding (Chocolate and vanilla pudding, graham cracker crumbs, moonshine-soaked cherries, whipped cream, graham crackers).
Old Crow Smokehouse is located at 3506 North Clark Street. You can reach them at 773-537-4452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.