I took my son for lunch today at the Main Street Smokehouse in Libertyville.
I have been holding out on visiting since finding out that they had opened up three months ago, wanting to ensure that I didn't arrive with my critical eye before all the startup kinks had been worked out. The good news is that I didn't see any missteps or any obvious staff mistakes today.
However, what I did see today was a place that left me feeling underwhelmed overall.
Frankly I was a bit shocked by what felt like very high prices. So based on this fact, I ordered rather conservatively where had there been a reasonably priced combo platter I would have been much happier.
While I was at the order counter, I also found out that several things are not on the menu, like a 1/2 rack of ribs for example, which is what I ordered. My son being a brisket lover, ordered the brisket sandwich. each order came with a side, mine with two, his with one. I opted for the fresh, hand cut fries and the Mac & Cheese, while he picked the cornbread.
Let’s start with the meat, after all, it’s BBQ. And if you know anything about BBQ at all, then you obviously know that everything else is truly secondary to being able to properly cook meat slow and low.
The ribs were horrible! After I ordered the cook grabbed a foil wrapped pouch and plopped my 1/2 rack on the grill! Seeing the atrocity that was about to occur, I asked if the ribs were fresh and if they had any straight from the smoker. The reply I got was one that assumed I was ignorant; “these are fresh from the smoker”. I knew this was going to be a bad rib experience right there. Really, why the hell would you need to reheat ribs that were in the damn smoker to begin with?? Now I was mad that I’d been blatantly lied to.
When my order came up sure enough, sitting on a metal cookie tray were my dried out, lack of any moisture, crunchy tough jerky, shitty ribs. Good thing I didn't get a whole rack at $21!
My son’s Brisket sandwich was better than mine. Skimpy, but better. The brisket was tender, and had a mild smoke scent that didn't seem to translate into a smoky flavor. In fact, the brisket had no flavor, and was like eating a beef pot roast. There were no traces of bark or rub on any of the pieces in the sandwich, overall it was just OK.
I’ve certainly had many worse than this, and if they did a few thing different there might still be hope. Things like increasing the portion sizes and cutting the damn brisket the right way, so you get slices with bark instead of flavorless chunks.
The sides; I will always score high anyone doing fresh hand cut fries, since it takes more effort and it produces a superior taste. The Mac & cheese was good about scoring maybe a 7 out of 10, and the cornbread was just ok.
I doubt I’ll ever put this place on my rotation for BBQ, and at those prices, I see myself driving to Big Ed’s or just cooking myself instead when I want damn good Q.