By Jason DeRusha

DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — When you think great barbecue, you might think Texas or Kansas City. But chef Louis Hanson wants you to think: Duluth, Minnesota.

“We don’t have a culture of barbecue in Minnesota, I want to change that,” Hanson said.

He and his family opened OMC Smokehouse in Duluth in early 2017. After just six months, Southern Living Magazine put it on “The Great American Barbecue Bucket List” as the magazine’s favorite spot in Minnesota.

“It’s an exciting process that we’ve been discovered this quickly in the game,” Hanson said.

The “OMC” in OMC Smokehouse stands for Oink, Moo and Cluck.

“We do it all! Fresh smoked every day, competition-style barbecue,” Hanson said.

Smoked beef brisket, smoked pork ribs and Tennessee Hot Chicken sandwiches. There’s smoked salmon too, a nod to the northern Minnesota barbecue culture Hanson is trying to foment.

“We take this and blend it into a pimento smoked salmon cheese,” he said.

His brisket is smoky, meaty, tender, juicy: everything you’d want in a brisket. The bark is made of heavy black pepper, paprika, salt, a little mustard and pickle juice.

“You have to have that nice black coating, looks almost burnt. But that’s sealing up all the flavors and juices,” he said.

Inspired by BBQ in Waco, Texas, Hanson uses sugar maple wood in his smoker instead of the traditional pecan wood. Pecan wood is expensive to transport to Minnesota, and maple wood is abundant near Duluth.

“It’s passion. Waking up every day, doing the same thing, and being consistent. We’re only as good as our last brisket smoked,” he said.

The rib rub is made with organic cane sugar and a secret blend of spices.

“It’s gotta be sweet but have a kick, enough salt to penetrate as well,” he explained.

As for the rib meat itself: “bite off the bone, not fall of the bone,” he said.

The Tennessee Chicken Sandwich is made with tenders, as smoking entire birds would slow down his very busy, fairly small kitchen.

How hot is it?

“It’s tear in your eye…sweat in your brow. It tastes great,” Hanson said. “I call it a hurt so good kind of thing.”

It’s barbecue so good, and it’s worth the trip to Duluth.

OMC Smokehouse is another reason we can stop saying: Minnesota doesn’t have good barbecue.

“People really want that product, and they’re excited about what we’re doing,” Hanson said.

OMC Smokehouse, open daily 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
1909 W. Superior St., Duluth
218-606-1611

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