Brotherly Grub – Champaign-Urbana, IL

I want to start out this blog with saying that I do have Derek Taylor’s blessing for continuing his Brotherly Grub series. Derek was unfortunately not able to visit some of our Alphas, and I am hoping to remedy that with my own travels.

Champaign-Urbana is quite possibly the ugliest college town in America. There are no really scenic views like some of our brothers get to enjoy, and no matter which way you come into the area, you’re going to see more corn than you could shake a stick at. In addition to being an ugly town, the weather there is typical Midwest; scorching hot in the summer, and freezing in the winter. Needless to say, I was very excited when I got to run a program at Alpha Zeta Delta in the middle of January. I don’t know how you feel about the cold, but growing up in Texas, when it gets cold out we stay indoors. Keep in mind, too, that a cold day in Houston is anything below 45 degrees.

The Brothers at Zeta Delta, knowing that I was very out of my element in the 5 degree weather, wanted to take me somewhere good to eat, and they would not stop talking about a Barbecue place on the other side of town. Now where I come from, barbecue means beef brisket and it is definitely the superior style of barbecue (you heard me right, North Carolina). So when these guys told me that this place had brisket, saying I was skeptical would be an understatement.

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When you walk into Black Dog Smoke & Ale House you are greeted by a big white sheet of paper that serves as the hostess. You walk in and write your name and the number in your party and then you just wait for a table to open up. We sat down and a pretty standard smokehouse menu was placed in front of us; ribs, brisket platters, pulled pork sandwiches, and burnt ends in addition to some standard sides of baked beans, fries, and collards. My yearning for the warm weather of home led me to order the brisket platter and boy was I in for a surprise.

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Working on many different college campuses you kind of grow numb to the food offerings of chipotle, dining halls, and the occasional sandwich shop. Every once in a while you get to experience a real gem. The cooks at Black Dog knew their way around a smoker and gave me such an experience. The sauce was top notch and the smoke ring on the brisket spoke true to my heart. This place is a bastion of good barbecue in an otherwise unremarkable town.

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