Price point: $11.50 for Original BBQ Brisket Sandwich at Dinosaur BBQ
The butcher knives were out for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (923 W. Weed St., 312-462-1053; dinosaurbarbque.com/bbq-chicago) when it opened near the North and Clybourn intersection this spring. After all, what could a chain barbecue joint from New York have to show Chicago about the smoked meat arts? Fortunately, I'd been able to visit the original location in Syracuse a few years back, where I manhandled a rack of ribs late one night at the bar. I knew that good things were coming.
One bite of the Dinosaur brisket should end all arguments. It's wonderfully juicy, with a healthy smoke ring and crispy blackened bark along the edges. Sure, it's not quite the best in town—that still belongs to Smoque in Irving Park—but it's still way better than it has any right to be. Plus, it makes for a killer brisket sandwich.
As you can tell, there is more going on here than just smoked meat. The sandwich is topped with pickled onion and jalapeño—enough to make you worry that all you'll get is spice. Fortunately, it's just enough heat to cut through the fat, allowing you to savor the smoky meat in all its glory. The tomato heavy house sauce serves its purpose, adding an acidic kick without blanketing the meat in sugar. Luckily, Dinosaur keeps the sauce to a minimum. One giant step for evolution.