By: Laura Hansen 

“Life itself is the proper binge.” Julia Child

This area of west Division (the sizzling part of Wicker Park) is filled with trendy clothiers, coffee shops and eclectic eateries.  Enter The Smoke Daddy and, for me, two thoughts come to mind:

-”Oh goody, I am back in college!”

-”Oh goody, I am in New Orleans!”

Either could apply.  Exposed brick and a small stage for the folk music strummer,   Memorabilia and other collected artifacts are nailed in to the brick. Simple tables lined up with LOTS of napkins.  It’s relaxed, laid back atmosphere says “it’s okay to spill, get your hands messy – that’s what you are supposed to do here at the Smoke Daddy.”

Founded by four partners: (cousins Doug and Mike Dunlay, Derek Rettell and Josh Rutherford), The Smoke Daddy serves up “Chicago-style barbecue.”  I was sired into a real smoking BBQ family, so I was particularly interested to hear from Josh about how this all came about…Apparently, he was also born into a clone family of mine, and Josh started smoking things right about the time he began to crawl.  It’s my contention that if you are a smoker of meats (or a lover of smoked meats) almost any meat that’s not smoked is a disappointment.  At Smoke Daddy, all meats and veggies are smoked using hickory, apple and cherry wood.


“All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbeque and there was no meat, I would say ‘Yo Goober! Where’s the meat?’ I’m trying to impress people here Lisa. You don’t win friends with salad.”
Homer Simpson

We started to overindulge on the appetizer course.  Josh created a Pulled Meat Nacho offering that he considerers a signature dish.  The first one sampled was layered with pulled pork and chicken on the bottom, then covered with chili, substantial chips, semi melted cheese and barbecue sauce.  The chicken and pork dish was a little dry.  The second was my favorite dish of the evening…the beef brisket nachos.  Underneath the chips was warm, moist, smoked brisket.  Piled on top were all of the other ingredients that were included on the chicken/pork nachos.  I kept digging underneath to capture the brisket prize. All of the other toppings held up. The kicker was the arousing tangy taste of the barbeque sauce.  Now, if we could keep that cheese topping steamed and melted…

I ordered a combination platter of baby back ribs and chicken. It was served with two side choices (I opted for the coleslaw and mac and cheese). The mac and cheese was nice and moist and comforting, and included a light smattering of bread crumbs on the top. I believe that the crumbs and a toasted crisper layer of browned cheese on top with a soft creamy noodle underbelly is the best. The coleslaw was okay – laden with more cabbage and less of a tangy sauce to dress it up. [often I hold up coleslaw to my gold standard – the slaw dished up at Bandara on Michigan Avenue.)

The ribs were smoky, moist, “almost” falling off the bone and appropriately slathered with their proprietary BBQ sauce.

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Lexington, North Carolina, is known as the Barbecue Capital of the World, and October was officially declared ‘Barbecue Month’ with a month long Annual Barbecue Festival. The Festival has a Parade of Pigs on bicycles (also called the Tour de Pig (

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I made room to try “Granny O’s Banana Puddin’ for dessert.  This was a very simple dish. Banana pudding, fresh bananas, and those little white vanilla wafers. Took me right back to my aunt’s house in the early 70’s when she was creating recipe after recipe with banana pudding.  Sometimes simple is best.

The Smoke Daddy provides catering, take out and this summer will be smoking a big hog.  I’ll send out something about the hog party to let people know the particulars.

For those who are dog lovers, buy the Smoked Pig Ear.  You can also purchase their custom sauces and Mojo BBQ spice


 The Smoke Daddy    1804 W. Division Street     Chicago, IL 60622

Phone: 773-772-MOJO (6656)

Thesmokedaddy.comI have re-named this recipe to reflect the nostalgia I felt for my eroding youth:



Courtesy: Food Network

Whipped cream mixture:

2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups scalded milk

3 large egg yolks, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whipped cream mixture

1 (12-ounce) box vanilla wafers

5 medium size ripe bananas, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely ground

Sprig fresh mint

To complete whipped cream mixture, whip all ingredients to stiff peaks. Set aside until you complete making the pudding

Mix sugar, flour and salt in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually stir in the scalded milk with a whisk. Cook the mixture over moderate heat while stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Slowly stir in approximately 1/4 cup the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Next add the yolks to the balance of the hot mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is fully thickened to a custard-like consistency and coats a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool completely and then fold in 1/2 cup of the whipped cream. Use a large crystal bowl (or a trifle bowl) and spread a little of the custard on the bottom. Alternately layer banana slices and vanilla wafers, reserving 4 wafers, with custard in between each. Repeat and end with vanilla wafers on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over the top. Grind the 4 reserved wafers coarsely and mix with the ground macadamia nuts. Sprinkle on top of the whipped cream. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. Chill at least 30 minutes and serve.

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