Chicago Restaurants Pivot From Elegant Menus To Bbq To Survive Pandemic

Posted: Jan 11, 2021

The pandemic has forced every chef and restaurateur in Chicago to make changes. These pivots can be found in how menus are written, and what items are cooked and served. For some, what's currently on the menu has absolutely nothing to do with the original business plan. But a pair of chef are hoping barbecue gets them through the first half of the year.

The past few months have been tough on restaurants like Smyth and the Loyalist in the West Loop. Smyth is known for elegant tasting menus designed by husband-and-wife chefs John and Karen Shields. But these days, they're focusing on barbecue.

"We've done a huge pivot, actually," said John Shields.

"We outfitted our own hearth with a rolling rack that we took the wheels off and created little slots and trays and we're able to smoke that way. So we just kind of made it happen. Our Sous Chef - Brian Barker - is from North Carolina. He's the one with all the experience; sort of inspired the whole scenario.

Barker smokes whole briskets, racks of baby back ribs and chicken, creating a glorious mahogany exterior, as black as charcoal.

"A brining, then a slow cook and then we glaze with our initial glaze which is more of a sugary lacquer on the outside and then in from there it's more of a classic barbecue that we lightly paint as it's smoking through the day," he said.

By Steve Dolinsky
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