SOUTH LOOP — Chef Derek Rylon is going to serve a lot of stuff at his new South Loop barbecue joint: ribs, fish, beer-can chicken, alligator links.
But there's one thing you won't see on the menu at Rylon's Smokehouse when it opens next week: sauce.
"It's a cover-up," Rylon said. "I can put Sweet Baby Ray's on my finger and say 'This is delicious.' I want people to taste the flavor of the meat."
That kind of thinking is fitting for Rylon, a longtime line chef whose inventive views landed his Batter & Berries brunch place atop Lincoln Park's Yelp pages. Now he's looking to change barbecue Downtown.
"Everything on the South, West, and East sides is on the pit. North [Side] is smoked," he said. "I am in the middle of everybody, so I'm going to give you both."
Rylon's Smokehouse will open by Oct. 19 at 67 E. Cermak Road. The menu includes ribs, burgers, thin-sliced catfish breaded in cornmeal ($14.95), lobster mac & cheese ($18.95) and the aforementioned alligator links ($8.95 with two sides). Rylon — a former line chef at Gibsons, Shaw's, Ruth's Chris and many other restaurants — is forgoing barbecue sauce for his own BBQ butter.
"For the menu I thought about my favorite CD that I listen to beginning to end," he said. "I was like a rapper flowing with it."
The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, and Rylon will apply for a liquor license after its debut. A corner of the 68-seat restaurant is slated for a "whiskey bar" serving 15 types of whiskey, local brews and bloody marys with blackened shrimp.
Rylon, of Bronzeville, partnered up on the restaurant with the owners of Brandi Pizza, which previously occupied the storefront before moving to McKinley Park. With a new Green Line stop open on one end of the block and the DePaul arena under construction at the other, Rylon thinks his timing is right for the changing neighborhood.
"Right now what I do is what I love to do," Rylon said. "I just want everybody to understand there's more to come."
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