Chicken and waffles at Smalls
Brown Bag Lunch Truck owner and chef Joaquin Soler is opening a barbecue restaurant in Irving Park this month.
Soler first began using the tiny space at 4009 N. Albany Ave. to host pop-up shops where he served dougnuts or chicken and waffles. Their success convinced him to park his truck and open Smalls.
“It’s a great little neighborhood," Soler said. "It’s fairly underserved. There’s not a lot of food options."
The restaurant will serve the same brined and smoked meats the food truck was known for along with ribs, fried chicken and seasonal local vegetables such as Asian long beans and asparagus.
"We employ some classical regional American techniques, but we throw some curveballs with the flavoring,” Soler said.
For those "curveballs," Soler will be drawing on his own Filipino heritage and his work at former restaurants Rambutan and Ohba, ditching traditional coleslaw in favor of Thai-style pickled cucumber or green papaya and serving brisket and smoked pork in rice bowls with Korean chili paste and kimchee.
“When I started the truck, the goal was always to either do a restaurant or a commissary thing for other food trucks to join," Soler said. "The kind of food we want to do really lends itself to being about to cook things a la minute. There’s a creativity that we’re looking forward to.”
Smalls is focused on carryout, but if you don't want to take your food home, you can eat at one of the five seats at the counter or at Lizard's Liquid Lounge next door.
“In the South Side, there’s a rich tradition of these little smoke shacks, but there’s not a lot of that on the North Side," Soler said. "We figured there’s a void here for simple carryout.”
The restaurant will also offer a grab-and-go breakfast, serving pork sausage, biscuits and "walking waffles" made with maple candied bacon and walnuts. Soler is in talks with some local roasters to provide coffee, though he's also considering roasting his own.
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