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The figurehead here is Tony Scruggs, a handlebar-'stached barbecue-competition-circuit vet who made a respectable run on MasterChef season two, making it up to number 16 before packing his knives. Scruggs is a likable fellow who works the room, pressing the flesh, and he's churning out the usual suspects on a large Southern Pride offset smoker that turns out—like a lot of places where it's used—smoked meat that varies in consistency depending on your order. Both the brisket and the pulled pork have a braised quality that doesn't carry much smoked flavor, and though the pork remains winningly fatty and juicy, the brisket just can't take that treatment and comes out dry as a bone. The chicken is also dry, but smoky, and a beef-and-pork-blend sausage hits all the right notes: juicy, snappy, and saturated with wood smoke. Baby back ribs seem to weather this treatment best, their fat absorbing the smoke while they maintain a certain amount of chewability. All of these are served on wax paper screened with fake newsprint.
And if that isn't enough, Old Crow occupies what used to be Chen's Chinese & Sushi, and you can still order takeout from its old menu—everything from pad thai to crispy duck to mu shu to caterpillar maki.
Old Crow Smokehouse, 3506 N. Clark, 773-537-4452, oldcrowsmokehouse.com