Soul & Smoke attracts national media attention – and more customers

Since Soul & Smoke gained national attention after being on hello america for a live barbecue contest in Chicago, he saw an influx of customers, many of whom told the owners they were driving in from other states just to order the brisket.

“We sold a lot of breasts,” co-owner D’Andrew Carter said. “Breast sliders, brisket sandwiches, brisket dinners. You name it: cut brisket, mac and cheese brisket bowls. It was bustling over the weekend.

Soul & Smoke’s famous brisket sandwich. Credit: Provided by Soul & Smoke

Carter and co-owner Heather Bublick appeared on the segment on May 11 and showcased their prime beef brisket, cooked for 14 hours, topped with their Kansas City-style barbecue sauce on a brioche bun. They competed for Chicago bragging rights and to advance to the CMG quarterfinals against South Side leader Dominique Leach of Lexington Betty Smokehouse, who won the round.

This isn’t the first time Soul & Smoke has garnered media attention in recent years. The barbecue had been praised by food critics from the Chicago Tribune and TimeOut Chicago. The former wrote that Carter’s was “the best [brisket] I tried outside of Texas.

It was this very media attention that attracted them. hello americawhich Carter considers the most media attention to date.

Bublick, who is also married to Carter, told the roundtable that CMG The producers said they found the duo’s restaurant by Googling “Best BBQ in Chicago.”

“We kept coming on all the links,” she said.

The recent coverage provides a great opportunity for the Roundtable to not only salivate, but also review how the local barbecue business quickly gained regional and national attention.

Company history

Before there was Soul & Smoke, there was Feast and Imbibe.

Carter and Bublick met in 2013, while working on the now-defunct fine-dining restaurant Moto, where they began preparing “underground diners,” five-course private tasting menus with food and wine pairings. , from their apartment, as Feast and Imbibe.

Co-owners Heather Bublick (left) and D’Andre Carter (right) are pictured May 11 at the Good Morning America contest Credit: Provided by Soul & Smoke

Eventually they began to hold larger private parties and weddings under this name. A few months later, different companies caught wind of the growing buzz and asked the duo to drop off several pounds of food at a time for lunch on Tuesday..

Carter said the company eventually morphed into Soul & Smoke as it spawned the more portable comfort food barbecue menu.

“The food we used during Feast and Ibibe had to be put together,” and it couldn’t just be dropped off like those companies demanded. Soul & Smoke, however, makes food that you can easily reheat. “We would do our gourmet thing, then one of the companies would call, and then we would just drop them a few pounds of food,” Carter said.

In 2015, the casual menu that served as the backbone of Soul & Smoke was formed. The couple ran the two operations side by side. Soul & Smoke as an informal take-out restaurant operating from their apartment for private requests.

Their original S&S menu included mac and cheese, pulled pork, herb chicken, mashed potatoes, and salads.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Carter said Feast and Imbibe went on the back burner because no one was gathering anymore.

But Soul & Smoke stepped up “because it’s just everyday comfort food,” Carter said. Both have started offering individual pickup and delivery options to the general public.

By May 2021, Carter invested in bigger smokers and a bigger team. Not only are the couple operating their Evanston location at 1601 Payne St., but at the height of the pandemic, Soul & Smoke had opened several ghost kitchens (or pop-ups) in Chicago neighborhoods such as Avondale, the South Loop and the West Loop.

“So all of these guys have a three mile radius, so if the four locations [have a] within a three mile radius, you got us pretty much covering all of Chicago,” Carter said.

Once the Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger wrote his first review as a food critic on Soul & Smoke in May 2021, “it really blew everything up,” Bublick told the Roundtable.

hello america live

About two weeks before the live television appearance, the hello america team called Soul & Smoke about the competition. Bublick said they started talking to the cashier, who answered the phone.

“They were just like, ‘No, we want to do, like, a barbecue contest. We want you to be one of them,'” Bublick said.

the CMG the crew came to Evanston a week before the competition to film segments for the live show. They returned for the live competition, filming inside the Soul & Smoke kitchen.

All participants of the May 11 BBQ contest are represented. Credit: Screenshot by video

Carter said he arrived at the store at 4 a.m. the day of the show to check on the breasts he had been smoking since the night before.

Each of the two competing restaurants was asked to invite 25 guests, and the film crew was about 30 people, he said. The Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs mascots were also there to give the event a bit more Chicago flair. So there were a lot of people.

“I always was … [a] shy person,” Carter said. “But…I was quite ready and confident and…I really believed we were going to win.” Carter said he spent a lot of time making sure he had the right description for his food because he knew everyone would listen to him.

Journalist TJ Holmes (left) and chefs Heather Bublick (center) and D’Andre Carter (right) are pictured May 11 at the Good Morning America contest Credit: Screenshot by video

Overall, Carter says the event had a “really fun vibe” and “it wasn’t stressful,” mostly because he had a lot of confidence in his dish and was ready to win — even if he didn’t. ‘he did not do it.

“‘You should have won’, that’s what [customers] were saying,” Carter said.

What’s next for Soul & Smoke?

The Evanston-based restaurant has managed to capture the attention of the Chicago barbecue scene. And the two co-owners are working on two more restaurants, one in Evanston, the other in Avondale, hopefully transforming the ghost kitchen into a brick-and-mortar place.

On top of that, the restaurant is launching a new Belgian-style beer called “beer for the soul”, coming to Sketchbook Brewery in Evanston. Beer goes well with barbecue, Carter said.

But if there’s anything you need to know about the Evanston-based restaurant, it’s that its influence has reached beyond the city. “Any time someone outside looking inside is doing research,” Carter said, “They’re going to see us.”

Watch the full contest video here.

About Jonathan Bell

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