I noticed in the thread New BBQ joint in Wheaton
(Butler’s) that User Lilya mentioned the disaster at Andrew’s Open Pit (and other names associated with Jimmy’s Charhouse in Naperville) and mentioned being “on the lookout for a reliable BBQ place” ever since (User location listed as Naperville)
I checked back through some of my posts, and realized I only touched on a “cubic zirconia” in the rough, when I thought of my most consistent place for BBQ which happens to be a mile from me, and that’s the reason I resurrected this thread.
I have a love hate relationship with Thomas’ BBQ on Montgomery Rd in Aurora. I’ve been there often enough (couple times a month for about 4 years) that I have hit them on good days and bad.
(I wish discksond liked this place more, but I can definitely see his points above. I am a little more forgiving only because the next closest places are/were Smokey Bones and Famous Daves)
I mostly love them on good and bad days. I mostly hate them on days when I want them and they are closed. Closed is a relative term with Thomas’ BBQ, as they do a substantial amount of catering business, with summer being the hardest time to find them open (Aurora area festivals, and some Toyota Park gigs, versus winter when it’s a bit easier to find them open). But hey, in the summer, I’m more apt to smoke my own anyway, so I’m not complaining. Thomas’ is my weekday fix. Weekends are my own cooking. But I digress, lets get to the review.
First off, CALL AHEAD. Stated hours are non-existent, or loosely followed. Loosely, they are Tues-Sat, 11:30am to 7:30pm (last order 7pm‘ish). Its not uncommon to pull up to a “Closed for Catering” sign, so please call.
Second caveat: Take Out Only! They have two tables, then other times one, sometimes 5 chairs, sometimes none. Its really meant to be take out only. I have picked up with the family and taken ¼ mile south to Waubonsie Lake just off Kautz for a great picnic. In the winter, its get it home, or eat in the parking lot in the car.
Upthread, the loin backs were mentioned, and yes, I tend to avoid them. Suburban prices for BB’s that I can do better myself are not my idea of good BBQ. I stick with the pulled/chopped pork, the tips and links, and the chicken. As you’ll see, I have a affinity for the pork and beans as my chosen side.
Fries at Thomas’ are used as a serving vehicle for your food for the most part. Steak fries, just cooked from frozen, bottom of the basket your order goes in. I know this going in, and I don’t special order for fries. I have heard people come in and order fries crispy, on the side. But its still just Sysco type starting out, so I use it for its purpose, to keep the main meal out of the sauce.
Sauce: Thomas’ is as mentioned, billed as Alabama style, but I find the sauce a perfect balance of tomato and vinegar, without leaning too far towards the Carolina’s (vinegar) or too far into KC (tomato based). So the following might look “over sauced”, but it really it not too bad. That’s what the fries are for, remember Pulled/Chopped Pork Sammy, Fries, Large Beans
Nice cornmeal topped bun, holds up best if flipped over immediately so the smaller bun bottom becomes the top. I plan on eating the last of it with a fork, as it sometimes disintegrates. Pork has nice smoke flavor, couple burnt crusty bits are sometimes present. Beans show some shredded pork. Not sweet tomato, good smoke flavor.Chicken Dinner and Sm Beans, Fries as a platform
Really nice smokey flavor to the chicken. Breast is chopped in half (you can hear A LOT of cleaver action in the kitchen) and takes getting used too. Fries are a mess when you get down to them, but are what is expected, a smothered mess (but good to a degree) Small beans this time.Pulled/Chopped Pork Sammy/Link Beans
When I don’t want to deal with the fries which are usually a mess, I just order beans in lieu of fries. Hot link pictured is split. I tend to find an even mix of split versus whole, depending on the order. Read in a GWiv post here that split is sometimes common presentation, and I see split quite often when ordered as an extra with a sammy. With a dinner as an extra, I get whole links. Hot Links are really Mild Links, but I like the smooth grind texture as a change of pace.Tips and Links
Fries are inedible when I get down to them.
Over sauced? Again, the fries are there to work as a pool. But the tips link combo, w/beans of course, that I can spend a ½ hour in hog heaven enjoying.
Bottle of sauce pictured is fresh. You order it, they take an empty from the shelf and take it in back to fill from that day’s vat. Short shelf life, no preservatives.
So does this place stack up against some of this site’s beloved?
But is it real BBQ, something to be enjoyed, when you don’t have time to get the Bandera or WSM going, after soccer and swim for the kids, when you need a fix of smoked pork, fantastic beans, and a sauce that is in no way a commercial offshoot of something?
Yes, Thomas’ BBQ fills the bill for me, and I am a purist when it comes to good BBQ as many of you are.
Lilya, I hope Thomas’ can help with your craving, at least until I get to review the new place in Oswego!