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MN: How do you find your way from an IT services company to barbecue?
BS: You sit down with your wife and say, “What do you think about me quitting my cushy, high-paying job and going into the world’s riskiest business?” She said go for it.
MN: They say the easiest way to start a war is talk about barbecue.
BS: That’s part of the reason we got into this business. I love the passion that comes along with barbecue. I’d rather have some people love us and some people hate us than have everybody be indifferent about us.
MN: Is your barbecue good because you’re not afraid to break the “rules"?
BS: We’re not finishing our ribs on a grill, like a lot of people would; we’re finishing them in a conveyor oven. Some would say, that’s not how you do ribs. But if there are better ways to do it, I have no problem trying something new.
MN: I was struck by how every single side dish was great on its own.
BS: We spent weeks trying to get the macaroni and cheese right.
MN: How did you choose Old Irving Park?
BS: I live ten blocks away. It’s a great neighborhood with a handful of good restaurants, but there’s a lack of culinary diversity. The neighborhood is looking for almost anything now, and it never hurts to be the only game in town.
MN: Why does the name Smoque seem to confuse people?
BS: Almost nobody pronounces it right [Smoke]. I’ve heard smo-kay; I’ve heard smo-cue. At the restaurant show this past year, someone looked at our name tags and said, “Schmukee?” Some think it’s clever; some think it’s idiotic.
Photograph: Audrey Cho