Barn & Company in Lincoln Park (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
Barn & Co. Public Hall and Smoke House
950 W. Wrightwood Ave. 773-832-4000
Rating: 3 (out of 4) Off to a good start
On the heels of the opening of River North’s Hubbard Inn earlier this year, David Mitria and his crew are back, bringing a new barbecue spot to Lincoln Park. Just in time for football season, the spot boasts a sizeable side patio, plenty TVs for game watching and a consulting barbecue master, Gary Wiviott.
Moving from Kansas City has left me craving a Budweiser-and-pulled-pork combo on more than one occasion, so I jumped at the chance to visit this new hangout.
You’re not forgetting something… the patio is new. Part of the indoor dining room from The Grand Central has been converted to this 80-person outdoor space complete with colorful metal chairs that look (with a little more rust) like something straight off your grandparents’ back porch. The intersection gets quite a bit of foot traffic, so don’t expect a quiet meal.
Don’t be tempted by… cocktails by the pitcher. While it may seem the more friendly choice to pony up for a $20 pitcher of spiked sweet tea lemonade or sangria for the group, you’re better off ordering by the glass ($7). The pitchers come packed to the brim with ice (as do your glasses) and pour only three almost-full glasses each. Other drink options include a brief wine list and a hearty good selection of beers by the bottle, can or drafts served up in Mason jars (a faux down-home trend we’re getting tired of).
Yes, those are pigs in men’s clothing… adorning the walls. The cartoon paintings of the animal you’re likely about to eat are actually pretty cute, if not a little juvenile. Hubbard Inn is decorated to the max, so it was refreshing to see the scene at Barn & Co. stay fairly subdued, with an emphasis on the old barn-wood walls and a few tufted leather booths.
If you’re sitting outside… you’ll need to know how to play the “what did you say?” game. Tracks carrying red, brown and purple line “L” trains stand just a little more than a block away, interrupting conversations on the patio every few minutes. I recommend saying something outlandish and/or mildly offensive just as the train passes. “And that’s why she’s not allowed back in Kansas” seems to work well.
Now about that barbecue… that they’re hoping to be known for. I’ll admit, I didn’t go in expecting much and I ended up pleasantly surprised. The pulled pork sliders were tender and the pickled red onions and toasted bun added just the right amount of crunch. But the house-made sauces on the table need a little tweaking: One version is way too heavy on the vinegar and the other was a little too sweet for my taste. They both were lacking a well-rounded, smoky flavor. My vote? Go for the ribs. Perfectly pink and tender, the slab was a hit with everyone at the table.
We’ll be back to try… the french fries again. Our batch was perfectly salted and crisp. The BBQ shrimp tacos were a hit, too. Either would be great to be noshing on during a football game. Expect the spot to draw crowds this fall, when TVs in the dining room will likely be switched to major games. Bonus: The patio will be glass-enclosed and heated in the winter.
Bottom line: Stop by if you happen to be in the neighborhood. The food is good, and the beer list isn’t bad. I’m still on the hunt for a Kansas City-comparable barbecue spot in this city, and while Barn & Co. isn’t there quite yet, it makes for a solid dinner and drinks stop.