By Nona Tepper
Two years ago Greg Stinton finished first in the village's annual Ribfest, giving him the confidence he needed to start smoking ribs full-time. In just two months, the Forest Park resident will go from selling software to launching Small Batch Barbecue, a counter restaurant set to open at 7441 Madison St. by November.
"I've lived in Forest Park with my wife for the past five years, we absolutely love the community, and this is the right time to continue a dream I've had for a while," Stinton said. "I've had the concept of the barbecue idea for a while, and the experience that we've had, and the warm welcome that we've had at Ribfest from the community made things real."
Growing up, Stinton said he was an extremely picky eater, but when a family friend offered to teach him a secret dry rub recipe, the 13-year-old couldn't resist. Stinton tried the Memphis recipe and was wowed.
He started tinkering with the dry rub recipe, and eventually graduated to sauce. Stinton decided to make a Chicago barbecue sauce, which he said incorporates the flavor profiles of giardiniera, sport peppers, and other sweet and tangy tastes near and dear to Chicago and nowhere else. He said he has spent the last decade preparing the secret sauce, which will debut at Small Batch Barbecue.
"We're just extremely excited to do something and especially focus on the community and the neighboring areas, because the community has been so great to us," Stinton said.
He said build-out for Small Batch Barbecue should start within the next few weeks — using all-local labor is important to him, he added — and he plans to install an on-site smoker as the primary cooking vessel. Most items will be priced by the pound — although hot links don't lend themselves to that kind of pricing, Stinton noted — and food will be carved in front of the customer. The five sides include macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, hush puppies, and fried okra, which is Stinton's personal favorite.
He plans to complete the build-out by late October or early November.
"We're going to do a more visual experience; everything's going to be ready," he said. "Barbecue obviously takes quite a long time. The goal is when someone walks in, they walk up essentially to a carving station. … The style is a little reminiscent of how some view it in Texas, as far as serving. Really very few in the Chicagoland area are doing anything close to that."
He plans to be open for lunch and dinner during the weekends and might do dinner only during the week. Down the road, he said he'd like to serve late-night options for those carousing Madison Street.
"Nobody seems to want to take that corner of the market and I'm that guy," he said.
Community Guide 2019 - 2020
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