In his 1996 barbecue travelogue Smokestack Lightning, Lolis Eric Lolie makes a pilgrimage to the flagship store of the local Moo & Oink supermarket chain, noting with delicious irony its location on South Stony Island just across from Nation of Islam HQ. “Islam, of course, is hell on swine eaters,” he writes. “And the Nation of Islam is especially so.”
But if you do partake, Moo & Oink is hog heaven. Not only is it “barbecue headquarters,” as the marquee on the Madison location (also home to the chain’s smokehouse and chitterling-cleaning operation) declares, but the three stores in the city, with their smiling bovine and porcine mascots, are vital oases in neighborhoods that were once food deserts, offering a kind of salvation that’s no less important than the sort Reverend Farrakhan pushes. (There’s a fourth store in south-suburban Hazel Crest.)
Moo & Oink packages much of its stock for partying: seven-pound, five-ounce cans of Bush’s Best Baked Beans, five-gallon buckets of Open Pit barbecue sauce, gallon jugs of vividly colored Sno-Bal snow-cone syrup. But its greatest strength is its array of pork offerings: giant plastic tubs laden with slabs of baby back and spare ribs, huge shoulders and picnic hams, bulk packages of rib tips, tails, hocks, jowls, and neck bones, and family-size boxes of house-brand sausage patties and hot links. Snout, tail, and everything in between—if it’s pig parts you want, you’ll find them at Moo & Oink. 7158 S. Stony Island, 773-493-7100; 4848 W. Madison, 773-473-4800; 8201 S. Racine, 773-962-8200. You can also shop online at moo-oink.com. —Mike Sula
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