Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL (now w/pics)

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2008/11/17 11:22:06 (permalink)

Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL (now w/pics)

Just west of Belvidere IL on Business Route 20 is a seasonal barbecue place called Smokin' Coop. I didn't know about it until I passed by yesterday and it's closed for the season, but I'm wondering if anyone here has eaten there. According to my parents it's been in business for a few years now (hey, THANKS for telling me about it!!) but they've never stopped, apparently because the "facilities" consist of a couple of port-o-lets. I'll definitely have to find my way there next summer.

Years ago the site was a go-kart track and it looks like Smokin' Coop building might be the original structure from the track, but it's been so long that I can't remember if it torn down or not. As an interesting aside it's next door to Ned's Restaurant, which for as long as I can remember was the strip club Frank Gay's Marquee.

post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/06/02 16:20:05

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    Re:Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL 2009/05/31 00:34:08 (permalink)
    Today I got the chance to stop by, if you call driving 40 minutes out of the way on a dreary Saturday morning a chance.
    It's on the corner of Business Route 20 and Beaver Valley Road and in the old Family Funland building, although it looks like the dining area might've been added on as I only remember the low cinderblock building but that was years ago.  There's no inside seating and the hours are Mon-Sat, 11-7.

    I had to lean around a post to get the board.  In real life it's actually straight and level and features a decent number of selections without trying to have everything for everybody.  As an aside, the ham and turkey sandwiches both use smoked meat.

    I felt like eating light today.  Going clockwise from 12:00 are Rockford's legendary Mrs. Fisher's potato chips, a buttered bun, pulled pork, brisket, a half chicken, and a half rack of back ribs.  Ordering a Diet Pepsi would've just been silly.

    Brisket served like it's French dip?  Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.  I think I liked the brisket best but it was also the first thing I tried, so maybe I'm a little biased.  Regardless, it was good bare, on the sandwich, and dipped and I think it was the smokiest of the 4.

    The pulled pork was mild and mixed with a slightly sweet sauce.  It was good but I like my pork with a lot of bark mixed in, so I need to remember that for next time.

    The rib meat pulled cleanly from the bones but it wasn't mushy.  They come sauced unless requested otherwise, but since they weren't drowning in sauce I was able to get a taste of some dry meat.  I brought some of everything home as leftovers and my wife really liked them.

    The chicken had a nice light smoke flavor that wasn't overpowering, and was plenty moist.  People who say they don't like smoked foods might change their minds if they try it.

    There's also a cinderblock pit that's used for whole hogs; it was in use when I was there but I didn't get a shot.
    It's a family business in its 7th year and the owner/pitmaster is Jim Cooper, shown here with his granddaughter and his daughter Carrie.  I was the first customer of the day and he was nice enough to spend some talking with me.  He commented that his wood mix uses less hickory than one might expect to find down south, which reinforces my belief based on personal experience that light smoke is popular in this part of the country.

    You might've noticed that I didn't say anything about the side dishes; that's because I didn't have any.  I was up at 6:30 this morning and hadn't eaten anything by the time I got there shortly before 11, and once I saw the left (meat) side of the menu board it was all over.  Frankly, I'm a little surprised that I stopped at 4 selections.
    I'm no barbecue expert but I know what I like, and I liked what I ate today.  Unfortunately distance will make it tough for me to visit frequently but hopefully I'll get at least 1 more chance later this year.
    post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/05/31 00:53:08
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    Re:Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL 2009/06/04 10:26:38 (permalink)
    Blast from my past moment; Mrs Fishers chips out of Rockford, IL (and Mrs Mikes in Freeport) are great, local potato chips in NoIL. I could taste them just by seeing the bag. Nice review. I'll stop by the next time I am back in the area.
    carolina bob
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    Re:Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL 2009/06/04 16:37:30 (permalink)
    A great report, Brad, with terrific pictures. Yet another place that I'll have to try soon ... I've got a busy summer ahead of me! 
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL 2009/06/04 17:24:21 (permalink)
    Good job Brad...I'm going to try it out.
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    Re:Smokin' Coop - Belvidere IL 2009/06/05 15:33:47 (permalink)
    Brad_Olson, Nice report and pics.  Boy, I would never order that much food
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