Elmwood Park residents open barbecue joint
Gerald Carrao puts homemade sauce on brisket and pulled pork at J & T Smokin Barbeque in Elmwood Park. | Photos by Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
J&T Smokin’ Barbeque
7442 W. Grand Ave.
(708) 395-5424 phone
(708) 695-5168 fax
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Serves barbecue pork, beef brisket and chicken, plus homemade sides and desserts.
Dine in, carryout, delivery and catering
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:14AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Elmwood Park has tons of places to get pizza and pasta, but a local resident has opened up a restaurant to bring in a bit of smoke.
Gerald Carrao, 71, and his wife, Tina, recently opened J & T Smokin’ Barbeque at 7442 W. Grand Ave. hoping to bring an alternative dining experience to the area. He believes he has a winner.
“Is there a barbecue place anywhere near here?” he said with confidence. “There you go!”
Carrao is no stranger to the food industry, having run a restaurant in downtown Chicago for nine years. He sold the business, thinking he would retire, which his wife would’ve enjoyed, but it didn’t last long.
“I was bored to death,” he said. “I did that for three month and I was bored stiff. I hate sitting down doing nothing.”
So he turned his hobby of making barbecue into a business. He is totally hands on - from selecting the meat to creating his own rubs for the meat, as well as making his own three flavors of barbecue sauce.
“The first thing people say (when they taste the food) is ‘I love your barbecue sauce,’” he said.
Carrao admits taking his pastime of 30 years into the business arena is a bit different, but he is prepared. He has two smokers and believes in slow-cooking the meat for at least 12 hours, using different kinds of woods for flavor.
“It gets the flavor in it,” he said about slow-cooking. “It makes the meat tender.
“I play with stuff until it’s the way I like it. I never went to school for it, but if I can taste it, I can make it.”
At his restaurant he sells barbecue ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken. The brisket is served sliced or chopped. The chicken is served pulled or cut in half.
For side items, the Carraos offer barbecue baked beans, corn bread and homemade macaroni and cheese. For dessert, they have peach cobbler and frozen bananas.
Everything is made from scratch, except for the baked beans, but they add their twist to the side.
Carrao knew setting up in Elmwood Park, where he has lived for 27 years, he would have a niche. So far, people like what they’ve tasted and the $5.95 lunch special, which includes a barbecue sandwich, fresh-cut fries and a drink.
Don Sakosky of Chicago took a chance on the place and he made a second trip because he enjoyed the barbecue so much.
“I think they are very good,” he said. “We need a good barbecue place around here. The last time they delivered.”
Carrao said that’s a sign business is picking up after being open for about a month.
He’s confident the business will be successful because he has done it previously. He knows the secret to success.
“I’m a survivor,” he said with confidence. “I always survive one way or the other.”