-Grubbing in Chicago
Smoked Steaks in Avondale
When Smoque BBQ first opened 17 years ago it was before barbecue had really taken off across the country. It was the first place in Chicago doing Texas style barbecue. There wasn’t many other spots like it but nowadays there’s places doing Texas barbecue everywhere from here to Timbuktu. So how big of a stretch would it be to ask if smoked steak is the country’s next big food trend? I only ask bc that’s what owner of Smoque Barry Sorkin and his team are doing at their new spot in Avondale.
Smoque Steak opened to lots of hype this past May. The team behind it wanted to open a steakhouse that felt elevated but also affordable and most importantly one that was different. They made it different by choosing to make the steaks in a way no place else is doing. The steaks are smoked, slow cooked, and then seared. They’re served in a sleek space that feels like a night out type of spot. We arrived to a full house that definitely had a great steak house vibe going for it - there was energy in the air. Also of note was the musical playlist which was on point for a Saturday night. They were playing 90’s hip hop and R&B but they switch the genre up often or so we were told. You're greeted by a QR menu at the table which I don't mind but I do miss holding a menu. While beef is always the main character at a Steakhouse the salad also plays an important part. We got a Caesar salad to start and it played a great supporting role. It was a massive portion that could feed four as a starter.
Opening a steakhouse without options for a non meat eater isn’t a good idea in today’s day and age. Smoque has a few non red meat selections including lobster and grits, a piece of lightly smoked salmon and even a cauliflower steak. Erica ended up choosing the spicy shrimp pasta and was very satisfied with it. The portions here are generous and proper for a steak spot. Though it’s not described as so the pasta is basically a spicy shrimp scampi with five nice sized pieces of shrimp sitting atop linguine mixed with garlic, lemon, and white wine plus a spicy melted butter.
The smoked and seared steaks are offered a handful of ways including a fairly priced bistro steak ($19) which is an 8 oz cut of chuck. Their most expensive offering is the 16 oz boneless ribeye ($52). There’s also a strip steak ($45) and a filet ($52) but I chose to roll with the steak frites ($30). Outer cut skirt steak is one of my top two or three cuts of beef. None of the other steak options come with anything but there’s plenty of steakhouse quality sides you can order separately. But the steak and frites comes with fries plus a red chimmichuri that I opted to get on the side as I wanted to try the steak as is for my first few bites. So you get a really nice cut of 8 oz outer skirt steak plus fries and a side of sauce that otherwise costs $3 as an add on to your steak. Not a bad deal at all but how does it taste? Honestly my first thought was “like beef jerky.” There’s a butcher in Michigan City called Langhe's Old Fashioned Meat Market that makes a warm steak jerky unlike any other and that’s what I thought of when I took my first bite of beef from Smoque Steak. It’s pretty good but that said I’m not ready for smoked steak to replace grilled or broiled steak or any of the more traditional ways but it’s a nice change of pace. The menu says the fries are fresh cut but I couldn’t tell if they were or not. It’s usually easy to do so but I don’t know about the ones from here. They weren’t awful but they seemed too in unison to be fresh cut. Overall we had a good visit even though I don’t love a smoked steak as much as I do a char grilled steak. This is still a place that I’ll likely return to by my own choosing. It’s reasonable and it’s unique and I like that combination as far a modern steakhouse goes.
3310 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60618