Joe Yim was a math teacher and football coach before he ran away to study central-Texas barbecue on hallowed ground. He has lessons to offer:
“Watching five smokers with 100 briskets [is] like running a classroom,” he says. “You gotta put each one in the right place and know what their needs are.”
Over two years, Yim absorbed the wisdom, skills, and friendship of barbecue royalty and barbecue upstarts alike. He returned to Chicago in late 2019 as Knox Ave Barbecue, mounting a series of sold-out pop-ups, smoking classic Texas-style briskets, ribs, and pork belly.
But Yim is no traditionalist. For years he’s pondered the universality of barbecue—the simple synthesis of wood, smoke, and meat that exists in every culture—and wondered why he shouldn’t apply that sorcery to the Korean food he grew up on. (Gochuchang-glazed honey spare ribs helped advance him to round three on season 50 of the Food Network’s Chopped. He nodded toward Vietnam with his caramel-glazed ribs at Foodball’s Umamicue Friendsgiving.)
But on March 20, for the first time, he’s going all-in on Korexas-style barbecue when he stokes the fire for Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.
“I want Korean people to be able to eat it and to not necessarily think that it’s Texas-style barbecue,” he says. “[For] people who are new to me, I want them to be able to be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know barbecue could be like this.’ For me, barbecue, or smoked meats, or the grill, has always been a universal bridge to get anyone to try something new.”
To that end, Yim will be delivering a Texas-style kalbi plate, smoking dino-sized beef ribs, seasoned simply with salt and pepper (vs flat, sweetly marinated Korean-style short ribs). “In Korean, kalbi just means ‘beef ribs.’”
He’ll pair those with the ideal Korean analogues to Texas sides, such as soy-pickled jalapeno and onion banchan, and the bracing shredded scallions salad pa muchim. There’s ssamjang for sauce, flame-dampening white rice for white bread, and lettuce to wrap it all up into the perfect bite. (You can watch him put it together on YouTube.)
And then there’s the bo ssam: cold-smoked pork belly braised in onions, garlic, ginger, ssamjang, and coffee until tender; with crispy white radish kimchi; lightly salted napa cabbage for wrapping; and the fermented shrimp sauce that completes this classic dish. “It’s the same thing as having anchovies on a Caesar salad. It’s something that you don’t really think about, but it really brings the whole dish together.”
Each one of these platters can feed two people—or one particularly hungry Foodball fan—but quantities are limited.
No walk-ins this time. This is a pre-order only situation, folks. Reserve your spot now, starting at 5 PM on Monday, March 20, at Ludlow Liquors, 2959 N. California in Avondale.
Plus, you don’t want to cross the bridge just to turn around and leave. It’s dine-in only this time, friends.
A big new Sprummer Foodball schedule is in the works. Meantime, get washed up for Better Boy on March 27 and Immortal Milk on April 3.