Best Barbecued Brisket

Brimstone BBQ

Critics' Picks

Local "pop-up" barbecue operation Brimstone BBQ, run by Arman Mabry and Mike Tsoulos of the band Rabid Rabbit and their friend Stacey Egan, has been active since March 2012, turning up at the Hideout, Star Lounge, and the Continental, among other places. I've been a fan of Mabry's backyard barbecuing for more than ten years—we were in a band together in 2001—so when I heard he'd scaled up, I had to check it out. The Brimstone crew slow-smoke everything for 12 hours with wood only (oak for the brisket, oak and hickory for the pulled pork) and dress it with regionally specific sauces (a thin, tangy Dr. Pepper sauce for the brisket, a thick mustard sauce from Mabry's native South Carolina for the pork). The long smoking time, which gives the meat an insane pink smoke ring more than a quarter inch deep, is their chief advantage over run-of-the-mill barbecue restaurants, which have to feed people every day and generally can't afford to be so inefficient. Of course, not being a restaurant has disadvantages too—without daily trial and error, Brimstone hasn't fallen into a consistent groove yet, and on one occasion their brisket was a tad too tough to call the best in Chicago. But when the stars align and the beef is falling-apart tender, it's the best I've had outside Texas. The Brimstone folks have a busy summer planned—be on the lookout for a homemade smoker made from 55-gallon metal drums, painted black and emblazoned with a skull impaled on a barbecue fork. Actually, scratch that—they plan to build a bigger smoker soon, so just follow them on Twitter.