Restaurants

Bub City brings bourbon and barbecue together

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Food fans of a certain age might remember "Bub City," a sprawling crab shack and barbecue joint on the Near North Side.

Lettuce Entertain You has revived the concept, moved it to River North and added live music.

The focus now is on barbecue and bourbon.

Bourbon and barbecue have to be one of the greatest pairings of all time. Throw in a roadhouse vibe with some occasional live music and you've got a reborn Bub City in River North

It takes some of its cues from the original up on Weed Street which closed more than a decade ago.

"Greatly influenced by all of the great stuff on the menu, the crab shack part of it, we have a seafood bar, ribs and keepin' it southern and keepin' it fun," said Chef Doug Psaltis.

Whiskey - specifically, bourbon - is the highlight at the bar, where cocktails come either on tap or assembled by hand.

Psaltis and his team serve barbecue styles from all over the country.

Brisket gets a dry rub featuring cayenne and black pepper, then hits the smoker for more than 10 hours. Pork shoulder comes in from the Ozarks in Missouri, and gets the same rub, before being slow-smoked, just like the ribs.

"We're definitely inspired by some of the great links in Texas, some of the burnt ends in KC; pulled pork North Carolina style; then we did, what do we do with it? So it's kind of Chicago-style, our style barbecue," said Psaltis.

The differences are evident when the proteins are done smoking: the brisket is generously sliced and it can also be chopped.

The pork, however, is combined with some additional vinegar sauce and seasoning, once it's completely pulled apart.

The ribs get a quick brush of sauce before being finished under a broiler.

Still, there is plenty of evidence of a nice pink smoke ring on the interior layer, and there's even a few surprises, like Texas-style bone-in short ribs and a nod to Jewish soul food with smoked pastrami, served on a platter with potato pancakes, rye bread and 'slaw, plus requisite sides of grainy mustard, sour cream and applesauce.

Chicken is also smoked or fried.. In the case of the latter, it can be ordered plain or spicy.

"It's three-quarters habanero and a little bit of Fresno chilies; grind 'em, ferment 'em and make a little bit of a spicy sauce with it," he said.

In another nod to Kansas City, Psaltis also sells burnt ends.

"Burnt ends are like the candy of the beef. It's that fatty cap off the brisket; we take it off, we chop it up, a little more spice and smoke it for another three hours," he said.

Burnt ends are definitely unique. You don't see them in that many barbecue joints in Chicago. But the one item that is truly unique - I'd only seen in Central Texas up to this point - is this massive, smoked short rib, and I say, welcome to town.

The restaurant also has a country music night karaoke and a take-out option if you want to call ahead.

Bub City

435 N. Clark St.

312-610-4200

bubcitychicago.com

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