Quick-service BBQ at Its Finest

August 27, 2013

Back in mid-July, a trio of Chicago-area guys (who happened to love barbecue) opened up a fast-casual barbecue joint in the heart of the Loop. It just so happened to be dangerously conveniently located across the street from my office! Blackwood BBQ is similar to Chipotle in terms of format. First, you pick your meats (chicken, pork or brisket) on either a salad, sandwich or platter. Next, comes the task of choosing from the five housemade sauces, each from a different region (Chicago, Memphis, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kansas City). Blackwood has a nice selection of sides including mac 'n cheese, cole slaw, baked beans and cornbread, which are all made in-house daily.

Chipotle-style menu boards

Grab a seat at the window and people watch!
All of Blackwood's meats are locally-sourced and smoked in-house, overnight, with the exception of the chicken which only takes one hour to smoke. Adding to the smoky flavor, are the hickory and fruit woods that are used in the process.

Brisket is sliced to order
On the day of my visit, I sampled a variety of items on the simple menu. First up was the brisket, sliced to order and topped with the Chicago Style sweet and spicy sauce. The brisket was fork tender, and not too fatty. The intense smoky flavor was evident and the Chicago sauce was a tangy accompaniment. The mac 'n cheese was perfectly portioned and had a beautiful cheesy crust. A blend of cheddar and gruyere cheeses added an interesting flavor and the creaminess of the noodles made them melt in your mouth. The cornbread was buttery and was sprinkled with kernels and cheddar on top. Not the best I've had, (they start with a cornbread mix) but also not too dry like at other places.

Brisket platter with cornbread and mac 'n cheese
My second platter of food (I came hungry) included a pulled chicken sandwich topped with their South Carolina mustard-based sauce. The chicken was juicy and the sauce had a nice bite from the vinegar in the mustard. Blackwood's sandwiches are served atop Turano brioche rolls which have a slightly sweet taste. I chose to have my cole slaw on the side, which was mayo-based (I prefer vinegar) but not overly so. The baked beans were moderately sweet but had pork and red pepper baked in which helped cut that sweetness. I don't normally order baked beans but these were definitely worth it.

Pulled chicken sandwich with baked beans and coleslaw

What's next for Blackwood BBQ? Move over cronuts and doughscuits, the restaurant began serving breakfast a few weeks ago with a selection of biscuit croissant sandwiches and pulled pork hash. They are also hoping to expand with catering offerings so you can score some of that sweet brisket at work or your next backyard wedding.

By location alone, I will be back to try the pulled pork, which they had sold out of on the day of my visit. I HIGHLY recommend the sliced brisket with the Chicago Style sauce and a side of mac 'n cheese. The restaurant is speedy, delicious, and offers BBQ that is way more than what you'd expect in a quick-service format. It's a great alternative to your typical Loop lunch, but be prepared for the food coma to hit once you've wiped that Chicago Style sauce from your face.

Blackwood BBQ
305 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60606
Blackwood BBQ on Urbanspoon

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