Much has already been made of Rylon’s Smokehouse (67 E. Cermak Rd.), the upcoming whiskey and meat joint from Derek Rylon (Shaw’s, Gibson’s). For good reason: Rylon’s first enterprise, Batter & Berries, known for its elevated brunch fare is a constantly-slammed mainstay in Lake View. It stands to reason that he’ll put the same successful spin on barbecue.
But while brunchers are—typically—an easy bunch to please, barbecue fans tend to be a bit more particular. Every region has its preferred style, and anyone claiming to smoke the one true ’cue runs the risk of alienating half of their would-be patrons. To that end, Rylon has a two-part plan: First, offer so many different meats that no one can accuse him of not carrying their favorite.
“We’ve got brisket, ribs, hot links, alligator links, lamb links, and turkey links,” he says. “And we make them all from scratch, in-house.” Fried shrimp, smoked shrimp, pulled pork, pork chops, and beer-can garlic-smoked chicken will also appear on the menu, along with freshly ground burgers, corned beef, tacos, and roast turkey. If that’s not a crowd-pleasing selection, I don’t know what is.
Part two: Rylon will take his barbecue in a new direction so no one can accuse him of futzing with the classics. As opposed to a traditional all-day smoker session for the brisket, Rylon will grill the meat in the pit first, then finish it in his smoker. According to him, this will create “less smoke flavor and more true meat flavor.”
It’s an attempt, he says, to appeal to carnivores citywide. On the North Side, barbecue is typically smoked, while on the South and West it’s grilled in a pit. Rylon’s approach is nontraditional, sure, but he’s definitely done his research.
“I want to change the barbecue game,” he says. “And I’m not stopping there. I want to do French, Italian… there are so many things I want to do. I came up in Lettuce Entertain You, and I’m shooting to be like Rich Melman."
The 50-odd-seat smokehouse opens in Bronzeville next month.