Battle of the bites: The Chi’s Smokey’s vs. The Bear

Chi Bear

Chicagoooooooo, let’s get ready for the “Culinary Showdown!” Fictional culinary showdown that is. With The Bear premiering tonight on Hulu at 8 p.m. CST and The Chi currently enjoying a popular sixth season on Paramount+, we thought it was time to pit the two restaurants against each other.

Why? In the world of fictional dining, two establishments have captured the imagination of food lovers and TV audiences alike. Both The Bear and The Chi are centered around these vibrant restaurants, serving up delectable dishes with heaping sides of drama and anxiety.

But which one reigns supreme? Let’s dive into a tasty comparison of these two culinary titans.

Ambiance and Atmosphere

Smokey’s: Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, Smokey’s exudes a warm, down-to-earth vibe. The decor is unpretentious, featuring mismatched chairs, rustic wooden tables, and walls adorned with local memorabilia and community photos. It’s the kind of place where you feel at home the moment you walk in, greeted by the mouth-watering aroma of smoked meats and soulful sides.

Rolando Boyce as Darnell in THE CHI, “New Chi City”. Photo credit: Elizabeth Sisson/SHOWTIME.

The Bear: On the flip side, The Bear offers a more modern, edgy ambiance reflective of its North Side location. With sleek, industrial design elements and minimalist furniture, The Bear strikes a balance between trendy and comfortable. The open kitchen allows diners to witness the culinary magic unfold, adding an element of excitement to the dining experience.

Winner: Smokey’s for its cozy, community-centered charm. While The Bear’s modern flair is impressive, Smokey’s feels like a warm hug from the city itself.

The Menu

Smokey’s: Known for its finger-licking barbecue, Smokey’s serves up a variety of smoked meats, including ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, all slow-cooked to perfection. The sides are just as impressive, with classics like mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, and cornbread that complement the hearty mains. The secret sauce at Smokey’s is the perfect blend of tangy and sweet, adding that extra zing to every bite.

(L-R): Jason Weaver as Shaad and Rolando Boyce as Darnell in THE CHI, “New Chi City”. Photo credit: Elizabeth Sisson/SHOWTIME.

The Bear: The Bear’s menu is an eclectic mix of classic American comfort food and gourmet twists. From the iconic Italian beef sandwiches to innovative daily specials like truffle-infused mac ‘n’ cheese, The Bear constantly surprises its patrons with creative and bold flavors. Desserts at The Bear are a highlight, with the house-made cannoli and decadent chocolate torte being fan favorites.

Winner: The Bear edges out Smokey’s with its inventive and varied menu. While Smokey’s excels in its barbecue offerings, The Bear’s creativity and versatility make it a standout.

Service

Smokey’s: The service at Smokey’s is as warm as its ambiance. Staff members treat diners like family, ensuring everyone feels welcome and well-fed. The friendly banter between servers and regulars adds to the homey atmosphere, making it a beloved community staple. But here’s the spice rub – you could get shot by one of Douda’s henchmen or even Douda himself.

The Bear: At The Bear, service is efficient and professional, reflecting its more upscale nature. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate about the menu, always ready to recommend the perfect dish or drink pairing. While the pace can be brisk during peak hours, the quality of service remains consistently high.

Winner: Smokey’s wins this round for its personable and heartfelt service.. even with danger hanging over it like a dark cloud.

The Bear’s professionalism is commendable, but Smokey’s genuine warmth is unbeatable.

Owners: Emmett vs. Carmy

Emmett from Smokey’s: Emmett Washington is the heart and soul of Smokey’s. A sneaker obsessed teen baby daddy to Tiffany’s son growing up turned community leader, Emmett’s journey is one of redemption and resilience.

He pours his heart into his restaurant, seeing it not just as a business but as a beacon of hope and unity in the community. Emmett’s charisma, dedication, and genuine care for his customers and employees make Smokey’s a beloved institution. He often goes the extra mile to help those around him, making Smokey’s feel like an extension of his family. He sometimes uses poor judgement such as getting into business with Douda and even trying to kill him. But he’s a good soul.

L-R: Cortez Smith as Nuck, Jacob Latimore as Emmett and Birgundi Baker as Kiesha in season 6, episode 13 of The Chi, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Sisson/Paramount+ with Showtime

Carmy from The Bear: Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto is a culinary genius with a background in high-end gastronomy, who returns to his family’s sandwich shop after the tragic death of his brother. Carmy brings a touch of fine dining finesse to The Bear, transforming it into a culinary hotspot. His perfectionism and passion for food drive him to elevate every dish and experience at The Bear.

However, his struggle with the pressures of the culinary world and personal demons adds depth to his character, making his journey compelling and relatable. Carmy’s leadership style is intense and demanding, reflecting his high standards and commitment to excellence.

Winner: Tie. Emmett and Carmy both bring unique strengths to their respective restaurants. Emmett’s community focus and heartfelt dedication make Smokey’s a warm, welcoming haven, while Carmy’s culinary brilliance and relentless drive push The Bear to new creative heights.

Their distinct styles of leadership and personal journeys enrich the narratives of their restaurants, making them unforgettable characters.


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Overall Experience

Smokey’s: Dining at Smokey’s is like attending a neighborhood block party. The sense of community, the comforting food, and the laid-back atmosphere create an experience that is both nostalgic and satisfying. It’s a place where stories are shared, laughter is abundant, and every meal feels like a celebration.

The Bear: The Bear offers a dining experience that is both sophisticated and exciting. The innovative dishes, chic setting, and the energy of the open kitchen make it a destination for foodies looking for something new and extraordinary. It’s where culinary artistry meets Chicago’s vibrant food culture.

Winner: The Bear takes the crown for overall experience with its blend of creativity, style, and flavor. However, Smokey’s remains a close second, cherished for its heart and soul.

Conclusion

In the battle between Smokey’s and The Bear, both restaurants bring their unique strengths to the table. Smokey’s captures the essence of community and comfort with its down-home barbecue and welcoming atmosphere, while The Bear dazzles with its innovative menu and modern chic vibe. Ultimately, the choice between the two comes down to personal preference.

Whether you’re in the mood for soul-soothing barbecue or adventurous gourmet creations, Chicago’s fictional dining scene has something to satisfy every palate.

Both The Chi and The Bear center their narratives around these vibrant restaurants, making them pivotal characters in their own right. Smokey’s and The Bear not only serve up delicious food but also provide a backdrop for the compelling stories and complex characters that keep viewers coming back for more.

So, next time you tune in, be prepared to not only get hooked on the drama but also to find yourself craving the flavors of Chicago’s finest fictional eateries.

The Chi is currently streaming on Paramount+ with new episodes every Friday. The Bear Season 3 premieres tonight at 8 p.m. CT.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1