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Woodstock's BBQ King Smokehouse wins first place at Chicago Ribfest

H. Rick Bamman file photo - hbamman@shawmedia.com
Firefighter and father Jason Szmurlo (center) opened BBQ King Smokehouse. Since then, he has amassed a dedicated following, won barbecue festival awards and has been featured on Food Network's "Food Fest Nation."
H. Rick Bamman file photo - hbamman@shawmedia.com Firefighter and father Jason Szmurlo (center) opened BBQ King Smokehouse. Since then, he has amassed a dedicated following, won barbecue festival awards and has been featured on Food Network's "Food Fest Nation."

WOODSTOCK – Local restaurant BBQ King Smokehouse earned first place in the "Best Ribs Juried by our Celebrity Judges" category.

Of the 15 vendors in participation on Sunday, BBQ King Smokehouse won out. Judging the award were Daniel Gerzina, Joe Minoso, Patti Vasquez and Fr. Jason Malave.

The restaurant, which will have been at 125 E Calhoun St, four years this July, was created to satisfy two requirements: Not only should the barbecue delight guests, but the environment should be comfortable and inviting.

Besides the restaurant's own rubs, sauces and recipes, a defining feature of BBQ King Smokehouse is its commitment to principles of food quality.

”We do things the way they're supposed to be done. We don't mass produce food,” owner Jason Szmurlo said.

Before his cooking was channelled into the restaurant, Szmurlo used his backyard to cook meats for friends and family. After working to perfect his recipes, Szmurlo entered the KCBS BBQ Competition. Last weekend's Ribfest award was not the first earned. Among the categories entered, Szmurlo placed among the top five in every one.

In 2013, a representative of Ribfest encouraged the restaurant to compete, but Szmurlo elected to take a year off and perfect the recipes. In the past two years, BBQ King Smokehouse has earned both second and third place.

As for harnessing the title of Best Ribs, for Szmurlo the award is gratifying. The third trip to Ribfest proves the quality of BBQ King Smokehouse's ribs.

“People always tell us we have the best ribs, but we’ve never been able to win," Szmurlo said.

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