Local “pop-up” barbecue operation Brimstone BBQ, run by Arman Mabry and Mike Tsoulos of the band Rabid Rabbit and their friend Stacey Egan, has been active since March 2012, turning up at the Hideout, Star Lounge, and the Continental, among other places. I’ve been a fan of Mabry’s backyard barbecuing for more than ten years—we were in a band together in 2001—so when I heard he’d scaled up, I had to check it out. The Brimstone crew slow-smoke everything for 12 hours with wood only (oak for the brisket, oak and hickory for the pulled pork) and dress it with regionally specific sauces (a thin, tangy Dr. Pepper sauce for the brisket, a thick mustard sauce from Mabry’s native South Carolina for the pork). The long smoking time, which gives the meat an insane pink smoke ring more than a quarter inch deep, is their chief advantage over run-of-the-mill barbecue restaurants, which have to feed people every day and generally can’t afford to be so inefficient. Of course, not being a restaurant has disadvantages too—without daily trial and error, Brimstone hasn’t fallen into a consistent groove yet, and on one occasion their brisket was a tad too tough to call the best in Chicago. But when the stars align and the beef is falling-apart tender, it’s the best I’ve had outside Texas. The Brimstone folks have a busy summer planned—be on the lookout for a homemade smoker made from 55-gallon metal drums, painted black and emblazoned with a skull impaled on a barbecue fork. Actually, scratch that—they plan to build a bigger smoker soon, so just follow them on Twitter.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.