Fusion food is always something we consider to be high-risk, high reward. The ceiling is high, but take one weird turn and next thing you know you’re flailing around aimlessly like you don’t belong. Some of the greatest culinary creations of all time are the result of mixing cultures, and while we don’t support imperialism, we do love the edible results. Smalls Smoke Shack goes full-blown fusion with its mix of American BBQ and Asian cuisine, and they are dishing out the kind of cross-over we imagine was common place on the Silk Road - the historic route, not the deep web illegal drug trade one.
Smalls’ combinations may sound a little funky, but bibimbap with barbecue pork or brisket goes together like spaghetti and meatballs. While the bibimbap bowls are a fabulous fusion of flavors, the ribs and meat platters with toasted garlic rice and kimchi are pretty good too. Plus, there’s some serious f*cking fried chicken. The platters and bibimpab are the more interesting combinations, but the fried chicken is hands down one of the best in town. And we say that on the heels of a heavy dose of fried chicken experimentation lately. A protective layer of crisp and some succulent chicken flow out of every bite, plus it’s served with fries and an intriguing banana ketchup, with an emphasis on the sweetness of the banana.
The whole “shack” part of Smalls Smoke Shack isn’t a joke either, because Smalls is a tiny little place hiding on Albany just off the corner of Irving Park Road. If you’re set on dining in, there are about eight counter seats in a tight squeeze. If you’re not trying to cramp into the tiny space then you’re still in luck, because Lizard’s Liquid Lounge, which is directly next door and doesn’t serve food, welcomes you to come drink at their lovely establishment and indulge in all the Smalls you please. If neither of those dining in options is appealing, feel free to keep the sweatpants on and get some fried chicken and bibimbap to go, because this is a Serious Takeout Operation. It’s also a serious example of fusion at its best.
Texas BBQ + Korean Bibimbap = A beautiful, beautiful thing.
Note they are St. Louis “style,” so don’t be such a purist. Give them a try.
We don’t dislike the brisket, we just don’t think it’s as good as the other items in this Food Rundown. Take that for what it’s worth.
We initially went to Small’s after hearing great things about the fusion dishes. What we did not expect to find is some of the best fried chicken in town. We were surprisingly blown away by how good it is.
Purple beets with a little bit of a flash fry that are served in a rice box with some spicy mayo. Probably something new to you, and probably something you need to try.
Spiced pepper salt seasoning house cut fries. Dip them in the banana ketchup.
BUH-NANAS. This Filipino condiment has a serious sweet banana kick. It’s confusing, weird, and delicious all at the same time.