Chicago: Hot Smoke And Shoulder

By Mike Lintal

There are few greater joys in Chicago than Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally the unofficial start of the #SummertimeChi, it’s a magical time when hibernation ends and sun-drenched hydration season begins. Patios open in unison with the sprouting flowers and trees. And in a city known for sausage and beer, this holiday brings out my favorite parts of the city.

For me, Memorial Day weekend is time to source a choice cut of meat, fill a few growlers with local brew, fire up the grill, and have friends over for a cookout. For me that’s any combination of the following, with a few photos of past successes.

Shoulder 2
Pork shoulder from The Butcher and Larder.

Stop #1 has to be The Butcher and Larder. Home to the real-life Abe Froman, Chef Rob Levitt, B&L always finds a way to expand the possibilities of what encased meat perfection can be. With a network of local farmers providing whole, thoughtfully raised animals, the caliber of product is exceptional. Whether you know what you want or need some guidance, the staff is quick with a cooking tip or spice suggestion. This is a great place for the unfamiliar to learn the subtle sophistication of a real butcher shop.

Shoulder 1
Pork shoulder in action, above. Barese sausage in action, below. 

SausageIf I have the time, I’m getting a pork shoulder, smoking it over charcoal and applewood on the grill all day (yeah, I have a wood guy in Chicago).  If time is not on my side, the sausage case is where I’m focusing my attention. I can’t say enough good things about the sausage program at this butcher shop; all I can say is go. You’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Stop #2 requires a few empty growlers and a thirst strong enough to explore a double-digit draft list of locally brewed deliciousness at Revolution Brewing’s Tap Room. Chicago is fast becoming home to some big-time players in the craft-beer scene who continually turn out great brew, and few are larger in scale than the production-brewery/taproom on North Kedzie.

Fresh Rev Brew straight from the source.
Fresh Rev Brew straight from the source.

You can find anything from hop bombs like Anti-Hero or dark, dreamy stouts like Deth’s Tar. This time of year, I’m in the mood for Rosa, a tart summer ale infused with hibiscus and orange peel.

With the growlers filled and the coals warming, what’s not to love about this beautiful American holiday built around remembrance? So cheers to the memories you make this weekend. May they be memorable for all the right reasons.

Mike Lintal is an avid beer hunter, seeker of tasty treats and Event Coordinator at The Chopping Block in Chicago.