According to most Chicago-suburb native students, anything south of I-80 is considered “The South.” Even though this is geographically false, there is one restaurant in central Illinois that could easily be mistaken as misplaced and home to real southern barbecue. Black Dog Smoke & Ale House is a small restaurant with a big bite off Main Street in downtown Urbana.
Black Dog’s menu offers a variety of BBQ sandwiches, burgers and gut-busting platters that come with Carolina BBQ sauce and a choice of two sides. Whether you choose the twice-baked potato casserole, the sweet potato fries or a bubbling batch of pit beans, these comfort-food sides demand your undivided attention (at least until you spot the heap of meat on your plate). When it comes to choosing your entrée, the pulled pork sandwich with a toasted bun and tangy sauce is a classic yet always satisfying barbecue classic. Make sure to try the extremely popular burnt ends – 24 hours of smoked crispy trimmings that taste like they were prepared by the barbecue gods – but get prepare to get there early or the burnt ends will run out.
The only (small) downside to Black Dog is the minimal seating and never-ending crowd. Although this is a consequence of its nationally acclaimed menu, not getting a seat or waiting in line can be a turn off especially on a date night. There are two ways to bypass this wait and suppress your growling stomach sooner: arrive very early or order it to go. On weekends or later into the evening, the latter is the way to go. You get all the barbecue goodness in twenty minutes and can enjoy your food on the comfort of your own couch (a win win). If you are lucky enough to snag a booth at Black Dog (or are willing to wait idly by as patrons fill up on smoked meat), be sure to order off the impressive drink menu and don’t be afraid to try one, or two (maybe three) of over 20 different whiskey options: American or Scottish, take your pick. If whiskey isn’t your thing, fear not, because Black Dog Smoke & Ale House offers up a diverse list of Midwestern craft beers.
Location: 201 N. Broadway Ave Urbana, IL
Hours of operation: Monday – Sunday 11AM – 10PM