Welcome to Off Da Bone, The Mayor Daily's search for the best finger food in Chicago.
Few Chicagoans would be surprised if I told them my search for the best finger food in Chicago began at Portillo's. Portillo's hot dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches are legendary throughout Chicagoland. However, most readers would be undoubtedly surprised if I told them I didn't come to Portillo's for the beef or a dog: I came for the ribs at Barnelli's.
That's right folks: you've been walking right past some of the best ribs in Chicago for years without even knowing it.
The ribs at Barnelli's Pasta Bowl (the little side restaurant inside Portillo's where you can get your chopped salads and pasta) are some of the finest you'll have anywhere. If you love tender baby back ribs that fall off the bone, they don't get much better than Barnelli's.
Portillo's doesn't fuck around when it comes to giving a rib lover all they want, so when ordering the ribs, be prepared to really get in there. The racks are always well-sauced (extremely flavorful) and the meat typically falls off the bone before you get 'em into your mouth. Be prepared to do the ol' scoop n' swallow often. Follow that up with some serious finger lickin' and you're well on your way to a food coma. Once in your mouth the meat literally melts.
Upshot: You have no idea how many people will be jealous of you when they see your ribs. Everytime I eat ribs at Portillo's I hear people at the tables next to me saying they need to order those next time. I always tell them to go for it.
Word to the wise: The ribs at Portillo's are messy! Don't bring a date here for ribs unless you're already married with children. You ain't gettin' laid after your chick sees you scarfing these babies down. In the extremely rare case that you have a chick that likes to get down and dirty with ribs in public just as much as you do, trust me... you still ain't gonna make it nasty after this one.
Ordering Tip #1: Call ahead. Barnelli's ribs take 10-12 minutes from when you order them. Instead of being the asshole that is sitting there waiting for ribs while the rest of your crew is downing their beefs call ahead so it'll be ready for you.
Ordering Tip #2: If you're with a group of people call the catering line and order racks in bulk. For $48 and change you can get 3 full slabs of ribs (compared to about $20 per rack a la cart).
Ordering Tip #3: You can't order Portillo's world famous Chocolate Cake Shakes from the Barnelli's side. So if you wanna go all in on this meal you're going to have to get in the Portillo's line.
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