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Russell's BBQ

Russell's BBQ
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  • Post #31 - December 29th, 2012, 3:28 pm
    Post #31 - December 29th, 2012, 3:28 pm Post #31 - December 29th, 2012, 3:28 pm
    Although the picture makes it look like it is pulled, the description says it is sliced. There are at least three different types of pork barbecue: sliced pork, chopped pork, and pulled pork, and that depends on the level of doneness. I myself prefer chopped pork to pulled pork. Pulled pork is cooked to where it's so soft that it can just be shredded with a couple of forks, or just by picking at it with your fingers (preferably in gloves if you don't want to get burned.) Finishing temp is usually around 195-200. Chopped pork is cooked to where it's soft, but not quite pullable, so a cleaver is generally employed to get it chopped down to chunks. We're looking at a finishing temp of around 185-190 here in my experience. Below that, you have sliced pork, where you need to slice it with a knife. The collagen isn't fully rendered and the meat is more ham-like in consistency. This can be quite good when sliced on a meat slicer. All three of these styles can be barbecued, or they can just be roasted without smoke (in which case I would not call them "barbecue," even if they have barbecue sauce on them.)
  • Post #32 - December 29th, 2012, 3:33 pm
    Post #32 - December 29th, 2012, 3:33 pm Post #32 - December 29th, 2012, 3:33 pm
    deepdish wrote:@David Hammond: As much as I still enjoy Russell's, I don't consider their sandwich an authentic pulled pork sandwich because I don't think the pork is actually pulled. Their menu doesn't even refer to their BBQ pork as pulled. Instead, their menu refers to the sandwich as "BBQ Pork- Thin slices of pork roasted to perfection and covered with our famous BBQ sauce." Other places in Chicago actually refer to their sandwiches as pulled pork sandwiches whereas Russell's does not. Similarly, I don't consider Russell's authentic pulled pork because it very much lacks that authentic smokey flavor of a true pulled pork sandwich, a la Smoque's pulled pork sandwich which is truly pulled and VERY smokey. Thus, what makes Russell's BBQ pork sandwich special is their very unique BBQ sauce. If you take away their unique BBQ sauce recipe, then the pork itself is nothing mind blowing because it's not really smoked in any way. Again, Russell's is all about the BBQ sauce, which is why I still go there, among a lot of other people. I very much like Russell's fish sandwich, too during lent.

    The smoked pulled pork sandwich was a daily special being on the menu along with their regular pork sandwich.

    Might of been actually pulled although it could of been chopped. Might of been actually smoked but the smoke flavor was very light.

    I don't think they are trying to pull a fast one.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #33 - December 29th, 2012, 8:25 pm
    Post #33 - December 29th, 2012, 8:25 pm Post #33 - December 29th, 2012, 8:25 pm
    The "smoked pulled pork sandwich" at Russell's as a daily special is new. This is the first time Russell's has ever even referred to an actual pulled pork sandwich, which suggests that for most of Russell's history the pork was not actually pulled- and definitely not smoked. To me, there wasn't much of a difference between the "smoked pulled pork sandwich" and their standard BBQ Pork sandwich which made them famous. Again, this is not a criticism of Russell's, for Russell's is still my favorite BBQ spot, even though there are much more authentic BBQ spots in and around Chicago. I just like Russell's for their unique BBQ sauce recipe. Their sauce established their reputation in Elmwood Park a long time ago, but not necessarily as authentic BBQ.



    Good Eating As Always,

    deepdish
  • Post #34 - December 30th, 2012, 8:37 am
    Post #34 - December 30th, 2012, 8:37 am Post #34 - December 30th, 2012, 8:37 am
    Binko wrote:Although the picture makes it look like it is pulled, the description says it is sliced. There are at least three different types of pork barbecue: sliced pork, chopped pork, and pulled pork, and that depends on the level of doneness. I myself prefer chopped pork to pulled pork. Pulled pork is cooked to where it's so soft that it can just be shredded with a couple of forks, or just by picking at it with your fingers (preferably in gloves if you don't want to get burned.) Finishing temp is usually around 195-200. Chopped pork is cooked to where it's soft, but not quite pullable, so a cleaver is generally employed to get it chopped down to chunks. We're looking at a finishing temp of around 185-190 here in my experience. Below that, you have sliced pork, where you need to slice it with a knife. The collagen isn't fully rendered and the meat is more ham-like in consistency. This can be quite good when sliced on a meat slicer. All three of these styles can be barbecued, or they can just be roasted without smoke (in which case I would not call them "barbecue," even if they have barbecue sauce on them.)


    Exactly, and Russell's falls into your last description. It is roasted and not BBQed. Rusell's BBQ Pork Sandwich is NOT BBQ in exactly the same way that Twin Anchors or Gale Street Inn's ribs are NOT BBQ. It's roasted (or even boiled) meat with BBQ sauce poured on top. Blech!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #35 - December 30th, 2012, 8:44 am
    Post #35 - December 30th, 2012, 8:44 am Post #35 - December 30th, 2012, 8:44 am
    Actually I have had better ribs at the Greek places where it is boiled and slow roasted than many BBQ places. :)

    Mickey's in Oak Park. Many diners...
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #36 - December 30th, 2012, 8:50 am
    Post #36 - December 30th, 2012, 8:50 am Post #36 - December 30th, 2012, 8:50 am
    It is roasted and not BBQed. Rusell's BBQ Pork Sandwich is NOT BBQ in exactly the same way that Twin Anchors or Gale Street Inn's ribs are NOT BBQ. It's roasted (or even boiled) meat with BBQ sauce poured on top. Blech!


    "Meet Jello" or "fall-off-the-bone" ribs ...no thank you

    GWiv and I were on the Nick D. show the other night talking about BBQ and our Windy City BBQ Classic competition, and Russell's came up. Nick said he remembered eating Russell's as a kid, and has always loved the sauce. We, both not wanting to publicly bash another place, kindly handled the comment - simply mentioning that this style of "Chicago BBQ" is totally different than real southern smoked BBQ.
    Actually I have had better ribs at the Greek places where it is boiled and slow roasted than many BBQ places.

    Mickey's in Oak Park. Many diners...

    And, it's true - some Chicagoans will like soft mushy ribs from "boilers, bakers, and sticky sauce makers" better than a tender, juicy, steak-like textured rib from a smoker, with no sauce on it - simply because that's what they grew up eating. On the contrary, Texans, and pretty much all Southerners wouldn't even finish a plate from the boiled rib joints around town. Different strokes, different folks.
    I love comfortable food, and comfortable restaurants.
    http://pitbarbq.com
    http://thebudlong.com
    http://denveraf.com
  • Post #37 - December 31st, 2012, 12:45 am
    Post #37 - December 31st, 2012, 12:45 am Post #37 - December 31st, 2012, 12:45 am
    Most BBQ places in Chicago serve tough and dried out ribs.

    Of course there are those that know the pit master and get fresh ribs. :)
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #38 - December 31st, 2012, 9:53 am
    Post #38 - December 31st, 2012, 9:53 am Post #38 - December 31st, 2012, 9:53 am
    Panther in the Den wrote:Most BBQ places in Chicago serve tough and dried out ribs.

    Of course there are those that know the pit master and get fresh ribs. :)


    And also those who just smoke their own.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #39 - January 2nd, 2013, 9:51 pm
    Post #39 - January 2nd, 2013, 9:51 pm Post #39 - January 2nd, 2013, 9:51 pm
    My dad grew up on the Northwest side around St. Pat's where he went to HS and Russell's was a favorite of my grandpa's. He always took him and my aunts and uncles there and my dad continued the tradition now and then. As a kid I did really like the jello ribs of frequented places such as the now gone Chase Tavern in Lincoln Park, Biasetti's on Irving Park (also gone) and Twin Anchors, Russell's and so on.

    I stopped liking those around HS when smoke came into the picture 8). Ya it was peer pressure but I was smart to give in. But the sauce here is great, maybe bc of my love for it as a kid. A couple years ago I bought a few bottles as a bday gift for my uncle and enjoyed (Nostalgia?) their beef sandwich while stopping in. But just like someone else mentioned it's too close to Johnnie's so I rarely get there.

    Image
    Barbecue Beef Sandwich
  • Post #40 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:40 am
    Post #40 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:40 am Post #40 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:40 am
    @Da Beef: I still buy Russell's BBQ sauce by the bottle every now and then. Good stuff. Russell's is a very nostalgic place for many of us. Off Topic: Have you had the chance to try Villa Nova Pizzeria at 6821 W. Pershing Road, in Stickney yet? Villa Nova has been discussed here on LTH, and they got a really nice review on Slice Serious Eats a while back. I grew up on Q's in Hillside, but Villa Nova is still the best thin crust pizza. The former owner was very colorful to say the least. I know you like your thin crust places, and a simple cheese and sausage is always the way to go here. In my very humble opinion, Villa Nova's homemade sausage, along with Pizano's sausage (Rudy Malnati, Jr's place), are the two best thin crust sausage pizzas anywhere.

    I know Vito and Nick's at 84th and Pulaski gets a lot of love, but everyone I knew on the Southwest Side (Clearing, Garfield Ridge neighborhoods) ate at Villa Nova. They have a small eating area connected to the restaurant. It's right up your alley. The place has been there since 1955, so they must be doing something right.

    Good Eating As Always,

    deepdish
  • Post #41 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:54 am
    Post #41 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:54 am Post #41 - January 3rd, 2013, 8:54 am
    deepdish wrote:I know Vito and Nick's at 84th and Pulaski gets a lot of love, but everyone I knew on the Southwest Side (Clearing, Garfield Ridge neighborhoods) ate at Villa Nova.


    I know you've said this before, but I find it a bit surprising. Not that Villa Nova isn't deserving of the praise it gets, but that everyone you knew from those neighborhoods would go to Villa Nova. I grew up in Archer Heights and live here again, and I didn't even hear of Villa Nova until I found LTH. And folks are very partisan about their pizzas here, with many factions. I would say Chesdan's and Just-A-Pizza were the local favorites in my specific neighborhood, although Falco's, Danny's, Villa Rosa, Palermo's, etc., had its adherents. (And, of course, Vito & Nick's, which was my favorite, although you had to go a bit farther south to get to Vito & Nick's territory.)
  • Post #42 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:30 am
    Post #42 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:30 am Post #42 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:30 am
    @Binko: Chesdan's was a big favorite of an old buddy of mine, along with Joe's Italian Villa on Harlem. Didn't Chesdan's move out to the far southwestern burbs years ago? But, sincerely, everyone I knew (and still know) loved Villa Nova. I still prefer the large hunks of sausage at Villa Nova over everybody else.
  • Post #43 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:38 am
    Post #43 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:38 am Post #43 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:38 am
    @Binko: We should have an LTH Chicago thin crust pizza crawl. Villa Nova, Vito and Nick's, Pizano's, Pat's, etc.
  • Post #44 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:50 am
    Post #44 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:50 am Post #44 - January 3rd, 2013, 9:50 am
    deepdish wrote:@Binko: We should have an LTH Chicago thin crust pizza crawl. Villa Nova, Vito and Nick's, Pizano's, Pat's, etc.


    Yes.
  • Post #45 - January 3rd, 2013, 10:33 am
    Post #45 - January 3rd, 2013, 10:33 am Post #45 - January 3rd, 2013, 10:33 am
    As much as it pains me to say it, let's now get back to barbecue, or at least Russell's. :wink:

    Santander
    for the moderators
  • Post #46 - February 27th, 2013, 12:27 am
    Post #46 - February 27th, 2013, 12:27 am Post #46 - February 27th, 2013, 12:27 am
    Santander wrote:Smoked meat at Russell's sounds like more of an abomination than their standard beef or pork sandwich, unchanged in its comforting mediocrity since at least the late 70s in my memory. Those trying the place for the first time now would do well to run with the original sandwiches; I will warn that the fries, shakes (Island Oasis syrup nonsense), and slaw have all gone downhill. There is indeed still magic in the sauce.


    Image

    I took smoked meat at Russell's as one of the more alarming harbingers of the apocalypse when Panther mentioned it upthread.

    Must say, it's actually an improvement over what I usually eat (and enjoy) there. The opaque container of sauce (off left above) also disconcerted me on arrival, but was just a larger-mouthed portion of the standard sauce for easier dipping. Smoke on the pork was light, but the meat was very nicely pulled and flavorful, and they're using a brioche bun on this one that is fantastic, perhaps the same one as nearby Burger Boss.

    Somehow, where $7 for a regular pork sandwich and fries seems like a total ripoff - one that I grin and bear monthly for sake of nostalgia - it seems quite reasonable for the new special. Not sure if this thing'll stick around, and it may not be worth a special trip, but I'll no doubt surprise myself by favoring it over the perennial for the next few visits. First-timers should still get one of the classic sandwiches for a baseline.
  • Post #47 - February 28th, 2013, 10:10 pm
    Post #47 - February 28th, 2013, 10:10 pm Post #47 - February 28th, 2013, 10:10 pm
    Russell's has been so heavily slammed on LTH that I have to admit I've lived in Oak Park for 7+ years but have avoided giving it a chance. I get that there's no good BBQ in the area by (sometimes unreasonably high) LTH standards, but is it good enough for a quick weeknight meal for a guy with a couple of young kids who loves BBQ but doesn't have time to make the longer drives to Honey1 and the like any more?

    I have to say the photos look more promising than the reviews in the many previous posts would suggest.

    I have no sense of nostalgia for a place I've never been to. If it helps set the bar I've completely given up on Robinsons and am 90% done with Smokin' M's. I can do better than one in my microwave and the other on my own smoker.

    The bar is set pretty low by my fellow LTH'ers. Is Russell's worth a try, or just a waste of my money?
  • Post #48 - February 28th, 2013, 11:07 pm
    Post #48 - February 28th, 2013, 11:07 pm Post #48 - February 28th, 2013, 11:07 pm
    I think it's always been worth a try for the unique, thin, allspice-rich sauce, and the grand decay of the North Woods-cum-Texas Stagehouse room. The sandwiches are basic but very consistent, shaved dry meats with a splash of sauce on Ray Kroc era buns. No smoke was ever involved in any point in the process in my memory. If you go there without the current (read: LTH) expectation of barbecue, it is perfectly acceptable, although I think they've outpriced the value.

    What had really gone downhill lately were the drinks and fries; they had decided on the subbasement of commercial food service for those elements. The fries have come back somewhat (even if it's just how they're treating the product better), and the jaw-dropper was the actually smoked and pulled pork shoulder, which had flavor (!), texture (!), and moisture (!), and is served on a very tasty and fresh roll. That sandwich (still listed on a Scotch-taped flyer as a daily special, not integrated into the "menu") is not destination-worthy, but markedly better than the last few in the category I'd had at Robinson's or Smokin' M's (or, for that matter, Piggyback in Forest Park).

    I would not discourage you from trying Russell's out at all. A fresh set of eyes and report here would be very useful, and more importantly, you might enjoy it. Make sure they give you some of the sauce cuplets for eating in and to take home - that is the classic delivery vehicle; the squeeze bottles and clear plastic tubs change the flavor or consistency slightly for me.
  • Post #49 - March 1st, 2013, 8:26 am
    Post #49 - March 1st, 2013, 8:26 am Post #49 - March 1st, 2013, 8:26 am
    Russells is not as bad as people are making it. You just have to keep in mind what it is and isn't. Its survived how many decades and is still around. I went there as a kid and its still there and I am well over fifty. Well well over. Just think of it as a spiced pork sandwich if you try it. Back then when some of us got our first taste of so called BBQ, there were no "real BBQ"s around at least not in those parts of Chicago or burbs. The vinegary thin spicy sauce was odd but compelling the coleslaw was also a vinegary mix, the fries....and let us not forget the odd flat wooden forks it was served with. Who here even remembers them but me. People did not eat out then. So went your family went to Russells it was a treat.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #50 - March 1st, 2013, 9:03 am
    Post #50 - March 1st, 2013, 9:03 am Post #50 - March 1st, 2013, 9:03 am
    toria wrote: Back then when some of us got our first taste of so called BBQ, there were no "real BBQ"s around at least not in those parts of Chicago or burbs.
    agreed, there was a childhood spot we used to go to called Anthonys, the "BBQ" sandwich was sliced beef w/BBQ sauce put on it. Which is about a BBQ as one could get most places.

    Which leads me to believe that Russels wouldn't make it if opened today. Count me as not a fan.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #51 - March 1st, 2013, 10:13 am
    Post #51 - March 1st, 2013, 10:13 am Post #51 - March 1st, 2013, 10:13 am
    Russell's is a tasty, slow roasted meat (any of the trio) sandwich with a unique BBQ sauce. I enjoy dipping their fries in the sauce.

    I like it! Often I will pick up a pound of meat and some sauce, grab some buns and slaw at Jewel. In the plastic container there is a nice amount of au jus making for a sandwich as juicy as you would like.

    Smokin' M's meat sandwiches often would remind me of Russell's with a kiss of smoke but lately they have been overcooked and dry to the point of inedible.

    Smokin M's
    7507 Roosevelt Rd, Forest Park
    (708) 488-0123
    http://smokinms.com/
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #52 - March 1st, 2013, 12:02 pm
    Post #52 - March 1st, 2013, 12:02 pm Post #52 - March 1st, 2013, 12:02 pm
    I had a chance to try Russell's new smoked pulled pork sandwich and it was excellent. Nice and smokey. But when it comes to Russell's, their BBQ sauce is what made them famous, and is definitely still their strongest point. It's usually the first thing people mention about Russell's that grew up in the area- the sauce. And you can still buy it by the bottle.
  • Post #53 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:04 am
    Post #53 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:04 am Post #53 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:04 am
    toria wrote:Russells is not as bad as people are making it. You just have to keep in mind what it is and isn't. Its survived how many decades and is still around. I went there as a kid and its still there and I am well over fifty.

    Spot on. Some folks here put BBQ in the same category as abortion, gun control, and gay weddings. Folks from those opposing camps are not going to attend a meet-and-greet at Russell's.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #54 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:12 am
    Post #54 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:12 am Post #54 - March 3rd, 2013, 12:12 am
    Cogito wrote:Spot on. Some folks here put BBQ in the same category as abortion, gun control, and gay weddings. Folks from those opposing camps are not going to attend a meet-and-greet at Russell's.
    I honestly don't know what that means. Can someone explain that to me in a way that won't go too far off topic?
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #55 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:02 am
    Post #55 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:02 am Post #55 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:02 am
    I think he means 'Que folks hold the same extreme, unwavering, and uncompromising viewpoints about what makes good Barbecue; the same way some people feel about those other highly charged issues.

    Buddy
  • Post #56 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:03 am
    Post #56 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:03 am Post #56 - March 3rd, 2013, 1:03 am
    Thanks, Buddy.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #57 - April 11th, 2013, 10:17 pm
    Post #57 - April 11th, 2013, 10:17 pm Post #57 - April 11th, 2013, 10:17 pm
    I've never been a fan of Russell's, but I was there today (not of my choosing) and I said "what the heck" and ordered the pulled pork (i.e., smoked). And I'm still not a fan. First, although the smoke flavor was rather light, I also found that it was slightly off, a little chemical-like in flavor. Perhaps this is from the charcoal they're using, but I really don't know. I just know it wasn't particularly pleasant. Aside from taste, it really wasn't the tender pulled pork you expect from pork shoulder smoked for hours. On the plus side, the bun was very good - brioche-like, but on the less buttery, dry side which I think is the way to go if you're going to use a brioche bun.
  • Post #58 - May 28th, 2013, 7:34 pm
    Post #58 - May 28th, 2013, 7:34 pm Post #58 - May 28th, 2013, 7:34 pm
    You may find it odd that I keep posting about a place I'm not a fan of . . . but a couple friends of mine are big fans so I occasionally get stuck there. But I've finally found an item I really enjoy - the smoked pulled chicken sandwich. It's served on the brioche-type bun, which is quite good, and the chicken is very moist (although I'm not sure I detect any smoke flavor).

    But the biggest key to this sandwich is Russell's new (at least I believe it's new) chipotle bbq sauce. It's not really smoky or very spicy, but it delivers a little bit of heat and I find it far more enjoyable than Russell's cinnamon-heavy sauce.

    On future visits, I'll again order the chicken, without sauce if possible, so that I can simply apply the new chipotle bbq sauce.
  • Post #59 - October 27th, 2013, 5:10 pm
    Post #59 - October 27th, 2013, 5:10 pm Post #59 - October 27th, 2013, 5:10 pm
    I do enjoy Russell's and had a taste for their Ham Sandwich but got distracted by the permanent addition of Smoked Brisket, Pork and Chicken to the menu.

    The Beef was actually very good (if a little soft). Juicy with a good smoke flavor. Not much bark but enough fat to make it good.

    The pork was not as juicy or smoky but had a strong pork flavor and the juiciness improved as we made our way through the sandwiches.

    Surprise, surprise! :) It is actually working.
    Russell's BBQ  Smoked Pork 1.JPG Smoked and Pulled Pork
    Russell's BBQ  Smoked Brisket 2.JPG Smoked and Chopped Brisket
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #60 - October 27th, 2013, 10:16 pm
    Post #60 - October 27th, 2013, 10:16 pm Post #60 - October 27th, 2013, 10:16 pm
    Nice pics, Panther; was just there as well.

    When they started the smoked experiment a year ago, it seemed to be smaller batches, a drier and smokier product, and more directly / immediately served. They've kept the great brioche buns going, but now that the smoked style has been permanently added and always available, the serving style seems (to me) wetter, ending up as more of a hybrid of the two styles; I think they're smoking for some duration with starting or finishing at other heat, or at least holding in sauce / steam once smoked, for a moister, less smoky sandwich. It's honestly still an improvement. Sauce in the sealed tubs does taste markedly better to me than the bottles or clear tubs. Dine-in experience - tables, smells, wall grime, ordering process - hasn't changed a lick, which I still mostly dig.

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