6/26/2013 05:15:00 PM

5 Questions for Michael Kornick About BBQ at County

Next on the docket for chef and restaurateur Michael Kornick (mK, DMK, Fish Bar and Ada Street) is a casual sit-down barbecue joint in Little Italy. Kornick is no stranger to the genre, with extensive travels to the country’s 'cue hubs. He and chef Erick Williams will roll out a menu that includes inspiration from Williams’ grandma’s recipes and several different styles of barbecue (including some international renditions). We asked him a few questions about the bright orange restaurant, which is scheduled to open early next month.

Zagat: Why barbecue?

Kornick: I wanted to do barbecue for a long time, and Erick wanted to do it too. I love barbecue, and I think it's underserved in Chicago, and done so well in so many other cities. It’s a celebratory style of cooking - whether you have friend over for a 'cue or if someone is pit-smoking or cooking in a Weber kettle, it evokes the kind of memories of sharing at the table and eating outdoors that are rich in our heritage. Yet the reason people go to BBQ restaurants is because these are things people can’t make easily at home. Barbecue takes ten to 14 hours to smoke a brisket. Most importantly, for us, it seemed like it would be fun and satisfying.

Zagat: What defines Chicago barbecue?

Kornick: There are some small barbecue shops. Historically, when you think about going down around [one of the restaurants on] 53rd Street, they have fairly indirect smoker behind glass. It's one rack, so the meat doesn’t move. One of the things that happens from that [heat] inconsistency, which is really delicious, is burnt ends. With burnt ends, I think Chicago has taken some ownership. Certainly the Midwest takes ownership of white bread with BBQ. I don’t know who came up with that idea to throw five slices of white bread with ribs covered with sauce. White bread to me is not a part of barbecue. Why is there this white bread bun when we take so much time to think about meat, rubs and the smoke and the smoker?

Zagat: What will diners eat at County?

Kornick: As a chef, I come at this very objectively. For me I want our brisket to feel a little like West Texas: Good amount of smoke, black pepper, bark or crust. I am less concerned about the ring. As far as our ribs, it’s St. Louis style spare ribs. The rib cage on the hog is long so they have the back ribs and the spare ribs. The spare ribs have the cartilage and the china bone. It’s that part, which taken off in Chicago becomes the rib tip. You don’t see rib tips in Kansas City or St. Louis. When we do back ribs, its not going to nearly as much about the smoke and it will be more about the tender nature of those ribs. Back ribs are not so much BBQ influenced, as they are Tuscan, where they take sage and rosemary and shop it fine with sea salt and rub with pork and grill it. We’re going to incorporate something that won’t fell like traditional BBQ.

Zagat: What will set County apart from other BBQ restaurants?

Kornick: The number one thing is the DMK hospitality portion. We take people as if they are friends and our guests in a way they draws people’s attention. I think DMK has great burger, fries, shakes and craft beer list, but it’s the people that make the restaurant. I think our staff is going to be terrific. It’s going feel like a great restaurant that specializes in BBQ. I think our recipes are also going to make a lot of people happy. Some of the things we hope to accomplish is to have fresh brisket out of the smoker without reheating.

Zagat: Where are some noteworthy local BBQ joints?

Kornick: Chicago Q: If you think about the way that place works, that is not my expectations of what a BBQ place looks like. That could close as a BBQ and reopen as any other style of restaurant. There’s richness to it and something interesting to it and I get it. And it’s doing really well. When I walk into Smoque that feels more like a Kansas City BBQ joint. You walk up to the counter, you order, you get food on a metal try, you sit down. I think that has its appeal. What we are going to do with table service, wait staff and a bar half the size of the restaurant is going to have its appeal. The way that Josh Rutherford has it at Smoke Daddy - it’s ambiance driven.


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