WEST RIDGE — After seven years of building a savory barbecue empire on the Far North Side, chef and restaurateur Jared Leonard is briefly closing up his Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse and supply shop for a few aesthetic touch-ups and menu adjustments.
"When you're running a restaurant 12 hours a day, six days a week, you put a lot of Band-Aids on things when they need to be fixed," Leonard said. "It's nice to just have a reset period like this to really give it a nice overhaul and freshen up, so our diners can have the best experience."
When his shops at 6948-54 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge re-emerge in the coming weeks, they'll boast a combined and more open floor plan, brighter ambiance and a second wood-fired smoker that can handle up to 500 pounds of meat at once (the only two of their kind in Chicago) all under a new name: BBQ Supply Co.
"It was time for kind of a fresh breath of air," Leonard said. "Update the decor a little bit and just better represent what we provide as a business instead of being just a barbecue restaurant.
"We wanted to do everything all at once so it was like a launch of 3.0 you could call it," he said.
Indeed, Leonard has expanded into ticketed pit-to-plate dinners (which will continue during renovations), barbecue cooking classes, retail store and even a Rock River BBQ bed-and-breakfast in Beloit, Wis.
The menu also will change slightly — including the addition of more meats.
Wagyu beef is a crossbreed between Japanese and American cattle, two grades above "prime" but just shy of Kobe (though it is sometimes called "American Kobe").
The coveted beef is highly marbled in healthier and unique types of fats, making for a flavorful "unrivaled eating experience," according to the American Wagyu Association.
In brisket form, it's often used in high-level barbecue competitions.
The high-quality brisket has been served in some of Leonard's private classes for a while, but it will be the first taste for regular diners.
BBQ Supply Co. will also include a charcuterie program with in-house smoked hams, sausages and pork belly bacon for sale.
Overall, BBQ Supply Co. will showcase a more mature and focused vision for the company and its offerings, Leonard said.
"I loved the old Rub, I loved the decor of it, but this new design reflects a little bit more as to what we've grown into as a brand — less kitsch and more clean lines and more confidence in our barbecue style," Leonard said.