Black Dog Smoke & Ale House combines BBQ & beer for welcoming atmosphere

A name that bites, barbecue sauce that kicks, and meat that is smoked: Black Dog Smoke & Ale House is a little rough around the edges and a well-known restaurant in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The smokehouse opened in February of 2009 and has increased its clientele as the months continue to roll by. Mike Cochran and Pedro Heller co-own the restaurant, which received its name from Cochran’s dogs.

“My wife and I have two black dogs, Oscar and Lola, and we were taking them to a dog trainer and they began to call us Team Black,” Cochran said. “One day she told us how medium-sized black dogs, like ours, were the last ones to be adopted from The Humane Society. We liked the idea of our restaurant being named Black Dog and it also sounded like a pub name.”

Around town this Black Dog seems to be anything but the last one picked. The smoke house is located off campus on North Broadway Avenue in Urbana. You may miss the restaurant as you drive by, but you will not miss the line to get in from the time it opens.

“We open the doors at 11 (a.m.) and fill the room and the restaurant stays that way pretty much until we close,” Cochran said.

With the heavy traffic of people, Black Dog goes through a lot of food. One of the most popular items ordered is the beef brisket.

Before the brisket is put out on the table, it has quite a long journey. The kitchen starts the night before at 8 p.m. by cooking the brisket in a smoker, which can hold up to 600 pounds of meat. The beef is left for 12 hours to ensure it is slow cooked and has a very smoky flavor.

After it is removed, it needs some barbecue sauce to accompany it. The restaurant’s seven different kinds of barbecue sauces are made completely from scratch. The most popular are the Georgia Peach, which is sweet and mild, and the Carolina Red, which is medium heat with black pepper and vinegar spices.

After the barbecue sauce is added, it is time for the sandwich to come together.

“We serve our sandwich, what we call Carolina style, with the barbecue sauce and coleslaw right on top,” Cochran said.

Popular cohorts of the beef brisket are sweet potato fries and a cold brew to wash it down. Black Dog makes sure to represent the Midwest in their restaurant as well. They get most of their beer from breweries in Illinois and some from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

The bar actually takes up half of the restauran,t so it is a large part of the atmosphere. The other half is filled with booths that are more group-oriented. These elements make the atmosphere a mix between a barbecue restaurant and a neighborhood bar. A diverse group of customers matches the restaurant’s diverse setup.

“We get everybody, literally we see everybody: students, older people, people from the University, former governors come in,” Cochran said. “We see people who drive a lot farther than I ever thought people would to come here. We just get a great bunch of people.”

Whether it is the atmosphere, the beef brisket, or just the smoky smells that hit you as you cross the threshold, the C-U community has spoken: Whatever Black Dog Smoke & Ale House is doing, they are doing it right.

_Haley can be reached at [email protected]_