HUMBOLDT PARK — A barbecue joint is opening this week in Humboldt Park across from Bernhard Moos Elementary School.
Offset BBQ at 1720 N. California Ave. served its first customers 4 p.m. Thursday. The restaurant is only open for takeout and delivery due to coronavirus restrictions.
In announcing the opening on Instagram this week, owners Carlo Carani and Doug Pompa said it comes after “many months of hard work and help from friends, family and our new community.”
“It’s been a long road to get to this point and a hard year to pursue our lifelong dream of opening a restaurant of our own,” the owners wrote. “It’s undeniable that 2020 has been uniquely challenging for the restaurant industry and we hope our opening can serve as a sign for better days ahead.
“We’re ready to bring you our fresh take on barbecue — and when the time comes, we’ll have a table inside waiting for you.”
Carani and Pompa each have more than two decades of experience in the restaurant industry. The two worked at various 4 Star Restaurant Group restaurants, including Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park, before striking out on their own.
Pompa said Offset is their unique take on “unpretentious” barbecue.
“We love barbecue as in the dirty barbecue shack on the side of the road. That’s good eating. This is different,” Pompa said. “This is a culmination of things we like and things we’ve experienced.
Offset’s BBQ’s menu features a range of dishes, from St. Louis-style ribs and barbecue chicken sandwiches to barbecue bibimbap and a dish called Abuelita’s Rice Bowl with your choice of smoked meat.
The owners named the restaurant after the offset smoker, which has a firebox off the cooking chamber. They use that style of smoker to smoke everything from pork to poblano peppers and sweet potatoes.
“We’re giving a different way to enjoy BBQ without it just being pork that’s been cooked and shredded and sauced to death,” Pompa said. “We have respect and love for the craft of barbecue and found some different ways to utilize … the smoker.”
Pompa said while some barbecue restaurants have gone the way of white-cloth dining, that’s not what Offset is about. They’re going for “approachable, comfortable, fun — and just good,” he said.
The barbecue spot took over the old El Nuevo Borinquen, a Puerto Rican restaurant. The owners spent the last year redesigning the restaurant and plan to serve people inside when it’s safe to do so.
The opening is nearly a year in the making. The owners intended to open in April but then the pandemic hit, a tough blow but one they muscled their way through.
“We tried to stay positive throughout,” Carani said. “It gave us time to really do a lot of the stuff ourselves here.”
So far, Offset BBQ is a hit among neighbors. The owners said on opening day there was a line out the door and they ran out of food an hour and a half early.
They hope it’s a sign of things to come.
“If people like smoked food and would like to try it in an approachable, different way, this is their place,” Carani said.
Offset BBQ is now open 4-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday starting Thursday. To place an order, go to the restaurant’s website.
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