First Taste: Green Street Smoked Meats
The man who never sleeps, Brendan Sodikoff, opens restaurants at the rate that most of us get our oil changed. His ceaseless efforts to open new and unique concepts has paid off with solid hits like Au Cheval, Maude's Liquor Bar, and Doughnut Vault. Now, he adds barbeque to his gamut with the opening of Green Street Smoked Meats, a clandestine warehouse-style meat haven in the West Loop. Located down the same alley as RM Champagne Salon, Green Street Smoked Meats provides a rural, barnyard-like oasis in the heart of Restaurant Row. Now that Sodikoff has cut the tape on his latest restaurant, here's a first taste of what to expect:
(Photo: Green Street Smoked Meats)
From brisket to pork belly to smoked chicken, Green Street Smoked Meats covers all the bases. Unlike Sodikoff's other hifalutin spots, Green Street's casual approach has diners mosey through a counter line to order food, pay, and sit down. The pared down menu focuses on just a handful of superbly smoked meats, such as brisket so tender you could cut through it with your pinky, luscious pork belly absolutely dripping with porcine juices, and smoked chicken wings so succulent I was worried something was wrong. The food here is more focused on meat by the 1/2-pound, as opposed to overwrought sandwiches, though you can order a pulled pork sandwich. This way, the meat is front-and-center, and that's exactly how Sodikoff wants it. As you order your entree by the smokers, staffers slice meat a la minute, lending a bit of a show to the experience.
Two words: Frito pie. Sure, Green Street Smoked Meats didn't invent this haute-white trash delicacy, but they certainly perfected it. Having never had Frito pie before, I feel like this version was a surefire foray. And indeed it was, served rightfully in a sliced open Frito bag with a heaping mound of beefy, heady chili ladled over the chips, which soak up the meaty goodness and garner a chilaquiles-like level of casserole-ness. Other stellar sides include sweet-and-spicy baked beans, tangy vinegar-based cole slaw, and potato salad. Green Street also sells white bread as a side, which is cute.
(Brisket in action)
Elect for sauces at your choosing, available in three varieties by the cash register. Leprechaun Tears was my favorite, a zesty vinegar-based creation that served to embolden any meat it splattered. The Texas Squeeze sauce was denser and more pungent, while a brown sugar-based sauce offered a bit of treacly sweetness to contrast all the savory.
Walking into the unmarked restaurant (look for the barnyard-like doors), it feels a bit like entering a line at Disney World. True to form, Sodikoff's knack for absorbing decor pays off, completely transporting diners out of Chicago and into a wonderland of carnal delights. The restaurant is large, with tall ceilings, an array of picnic tables, a central circular bar, a stage, and a general sense of awe derived from the rural, farm-like motif. Lights dangle from wires overhead, making it feel like a backyard barbeque party in Texas, and there's even an unnerving mannequin-type thing perched above the bar, which sort of looks like an embalmed Leatherface.
Still to come, Sodikoff will soon add an adjacent ramen bar called High Five Ramen and a juice bar called Jack & Juice.
- Matt Kirouac