Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pork Shoppe

We were 45 minutes early. This wasn't entirely an accident as the Saturday evening expressway traffic in and out of the city can be a little dicey, and if there's one event that you don't want to risk walking into late, it's a wedding. Mrs. Hackknife's cousin Glenn (whose recipes have been oft featured in this blog, one of which will be the centerpiece of my next posting) and his longtime girlfriend Cindi made the decision to formally tie the knot this past Saturday night at a venue located on the Northwest Side, Michelle's Ballroom. This particular neighborhood (a 3-way intersection between Elston, Belmont, and California) is notable for a couple of things, mainly that it's very close to where my Great-Aunt Evelyn (still going strong at almost 97) and Great-Uncle Joe (Pep) lived for many years until Uncle Pep met with his unfortunate end, hit by a Godfather's Pizza delivery car while crossing the street at Elston and Nelson on his 80th birthday in 1987 (I wish I were making this up; alas, not all of my family food stories are good ones - RIP Uncle Pep).

On a less morbid note and of great recent interest to local foodies, the intersection is now the epicenter of 4 highly-regarded casual restaurants: to the North, Hot Doug's, the city's showcase encased meats emporium, to the South, Urban Belly, a sought-after noodle and dumpling lunch counter, to the West, Kuma's Corner, which features one of the best burger selections in town, and to the East, Pork Shoppe, one of the bumper crop of new BBQ joints to open here in the past year. Getting back to the wedding - having ducked our heads inside the banquet hall and determining that there really wasn't anywhere for us to inconspicuously hang out while the pre-nuptial photos were being taken, Mrs. Hackknife, her parents, and I decided to take refuge in a Burger King across the street. While they all noshed on fries and coffee, my eyes happened to wander down the street and made contact with the Pork Shoppe's sign, beckoning me as a flame would to a wayward moth (I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't already aware that we'd be close to these food places, nor if I said that I hadn't been scheming of ways to slip out unnoticed at some point during the reception to re-fortify myself as it were after dinner). Politely declining to partake in the King's offerings, I high-tailed it down the block to the mostly-empty Pork Shoppe for a little pre-meal snack (which you now see in the photo above). My meal consisted of a beef brisket sandwich (with a little sweet BBQ sauce on the side), hand-cut fries, homemade coleslaw (featuring pineapple and raisins, a little different from your run-of-the-mill slaw), and Shiner Bock in a can (SB was my tipple of choice during my 5-year stint as a Texas resident, but I had never seen it in a can before).

I can easily tell you which part of the meal to avoid: the Shiner Bock can was pretty much awful, worse than Pabst Blue Ribbon if you can believe it. Apparently, either the beer has really gone downhill or the canning process has done it no favors. Anyway, the food was all pretty tasty; however, having recently dined on brisket sandwich at Lillie's Q in Bucktown (see related December posting), I'd have to give Lillie's the slight edge, mostly because of the heavenly buttered brioche they use there (Pork Shoppe's roll was more of the standard variety). In any case, I'd be interested in making a return trip here to try some of the other offerings (ribs and chicken, for example), if not to make a pilgrimage to the other three restaurants nearby.

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