Illinois > Belvidere: The Smokin' Coop


Brad Olson

TVWBB Diamond Member
Just west of Belvidere, Illinois at the corner of Business Route 20 and Beaver Valley Road is a seasonal barbecue place called The Smokin' Coop. There's no indoor seating and hours are Mon-Sat, 11-7. Obviously it's closed right now but last summer I stopped in and wrote the following for another forum:

Years ago it was a go-kart track called Family Funland and the main cinderblock building is a holdover from those days, while I think the covered dining area is a more recent addition.

I had to lean around a post to get this. The ham and turkey sandwiches both use smoked meat.

Clockwise from 12:00 are Rockford's famous 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.

The brisket is served like it's French dip which is different, but good. I think I liked it 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.

A couple of weeks ago I revisited Smokin' Coop for the first time in quite a few years, and the food (especially the brisket sandwich) was still very good. I had the aforementioned sandwich and the pulled pork, and my friend Jeff had the chicken and the ribs.

They've also added a tent and made some other physical improvements.

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I used to live in Belvidere and I never went here because like I didn't get it. It was in a field. I wasn't even sure what it was.