New Black Dog location coming to Champaign

Local barbecue lovers can rejoice for the upcoming addition to the local bar and grill favorites set to open in 2014. Black Dog Smoke & Ale House, a popular local barbecue restaurant, plans to open another location in downtown Champaign.

The current Black Dog, located at 201 N. Broadway Ave. in Urbana, was established in 2009 by co-owners Mike Cochran and Pedro Heller.

“We are opening a new location because we believe that we could use some more seats,” Cochran said. “Both Heller and I hear from people every day that they would come to Black Dog except they can’t or don’t want to wait in line.”

The restaurant, named after Cochran’s two black mutts, has gained national acclamation for its barbecued foods and craft brews. Maxim magazine ranked Black Dog second in its “America’s Five Best BBQ Hot Spots” list in May. A frequently sold-out entree that has aided Black Dog’s renowned reputation is its burnt ends, according to the Maxim article. They are made by smoking a whole brisket in a wood fire pit for 12 hours, after which the ends are then cut off, dry rubbed and smoked for another 12 hours, as stated on the Black Dog menu.

Karen Marie Byrne, Champaign resident and frequent diner at Black Dog, said, “The burnt ends are only made twice a day so if you are a late arriver for lunch or dinner, they are usually sold out.”

Burnt ends — as well as other dishes on the menu such as smoked chicken, pork spareribs and artisan beers — have attracted large crowds. But the current building’s size provides only about three feet of space between the bars and booths. This means large crowds must line up outside to wait for seating, and because they don’t take reservations, it can be difficult for even two people to get in during peak hours.

This space constraint for seating, as well as the space constraint in the kitchen and storage area, is why Black Dog plans to open a second location near the corner of Chestnut and Main streets.

“We are not efficient with our workers because we don’t have enough room for them to work,” Cochran said. “The new location will allow us to build a kitchen the way we need it to be.”

The highlight of the new location is not only the increase in space, but also the building’s historic significance. It was once a railroad freight station in downtown Champaign, now located across from the Champaign-Urbana Amtrak.

“Black Dog is really an off-campus gem for a lot of students here,” said Simone Kaiser, junior in Engineering. “My friends and I heard about it from our other friends, and we go there pretty often now. I think this new opening is going to be great for students on campus because it’s more accessible by bus than the current location.”

This new location also means more employees and more seating. There will be approximately 30-50 employees, and the building is expected to seat about 100-140 people, compared to the current location which fits about 70. Beyond these changes, everything else about the new restaurant should be relatively static; the menu and the hours will remain the same, Cochran said.

Nonetheless, this opening might take some time. Not only does the new location need serious renovation and new furnishings, but a new foundation must be purchased, too.

“The biggest obstacle is the structure itself. It would be easier to build a new building than to use this one,” Cochran said. “We picked the new location because the building has character, history and parking.”

Still, hopes are high to have the place open soon.

Heller said in a recent News-Gazette article that he “hopes that it’s less than a year before it’s ready to go.”

Many patrons are wishing for the same.

“Although I love the food of the current Black Dog, I don’t love waiting in line. I know that my friends, family and I are all very excited to see what the new place is going to offer,” Byrne said.

While the exact opening date is still unknown, barbecue enthusiasts can look out for a new Black Dog sometime in 2014.

According to Cochran, if business continues to keep up at the new location, you may even see the current Black Dog expanded.

To learn more about the restaurant or see its menu, visit noshfolio.com/restaurants/79.

Jolie can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A photo with the previous version of this article incorrectly portrayed the new Black Dog location as a building next to the new location on the corner of Chestnut and Main streets. The Daily Illini regrets the error.