American-style smoked meats are the focus at Baobab BBQ, a North Side restaurant opening this afternoon in Bowmansville from chef Andrew Dunlop. Dunlop serves brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, and roasted chickens pulled from his Cookshack smoker cooked with a medley of oak, hickory, and fruit woods. Dunlop is also pulling a few tastes from his native country and serving South African sausage and cured biltong.
“This is a very personal restaurant for me,” Dunlop said of Baobab at 2301 W. Foster Avenue.
Dunlop grew up in Johannesburg and has worked at a variety of Hilton properties, including one in Curacao. He’s always been obsessed with American barbecue. While developing menus he never had a chance to incorporate South African flavors which represents a mix of various African nations, Indian, Dutch, and more. Over the last few years, Chicagoans have been most exposed to South African flavors thanks to Nando’s Peri-Peri, the chicken chain that originated in South Africa. Baobab also harnesses the bird’s eye chili that powers Nando’s chicken. Dunlop said he uses the pepper in a variety of dry rubs.
He’s had the idea for Baobab, a 48-seat family-friendly barbecue, for years. He quit his job as chef-partner at LM Restaurant Group in February to pursue his dream. He’s worked with accomplished chefs like Kevin Hickey (Duck Inn), Diana Dávila (Mi Tocaya), and Jennifer Kim (Passerotto). Dunlop’s wife and son help out at the restaurant, reiterating ownership’s desire to quickly become part of the community. Baobab is BYOB (try to say that five times fast), beckoning customers to bring wine from a South African vineyard.
“Barbecue” is a concept that varies in each culture. South African’s outdoor cooking tradition centers around braai, a word brought to the continent by Afrikaners, but one that’s universally understood in a country of many languages. One item found at braais is boerewors, a sausage made of beef, lamb, and pork. Street vendors can be seen grilling the meats in cities like Cape Town. Baobab will serve the sausage which is encased with toasted coriander.
While Baobab serves a variety of familiar barbecue sauces (bourbon, Kansas City-style, mustard), Dunlop brings over South African monkey gland sauce. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with monkeys. It’s a South African steakhouse staple with a citrusy taste. Dunlop is also proud of his desserts which include koeksusters (braided fried dough).
The restaurant will also serve breakfast. Dunlop is corn-dogging boerewors and serving that with eggs and bacon. The traditional items may attract more South Africans to the restaurant. Maybe they’ll eventually add springbok, the antelope that’s South Africa’s national animal. Maybe.
“This is not an African restaurant,” Dunlop said. “It’s a barbecue place served with a South African accent.”
See how that translates this afternoon when Baobab opens at 4 p.m.
Baobab BBQ, 2301 W. Foster Avenue, (872) 888-8922, open 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday; weekend brunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; open for lunch and dinner form 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.