Chicago's 10 Best Barbecue Restaurants on Show Me Chicago.

Chicago's 10 Best Barbecue Restaurants on Show Me Chicago.
Photo credit: Show Me Chicago

Love those baby back ribs.

Pig Out Chicago Style.
When most people think of Chicago food specialties, they think of hot dogs, deep dish pizza and Italian beef…not barbecue. But that may be changing.  Although we still have a way to go to catch-up with barbecue hall-of-famers like Memphis, Kansas City or North Carolina, we are making big-time progress. A number of new establishments are rubbing shoulders (pork and otherwise) with some long-standing joints and turning out some mouth-watering barbecue.
So, what is Chicago Style barbecue, you ask? It can be argued that there is no such animal. Others say Chicago-style barbecue is characterized by a slightly sweet tomato-based sauce. I say Chicago-style barbecue is an oxymoron. There is no one “Chicago Style.” Chicago barbecue runs the gamut from dry rub with no sauce, to wet rub, to ribs literally drowning in sauce. Sweet, tangy, mopped, rubbed, smoked, soaked, we pretty much have it all.  Sample some of Chicago’s Best starting with the ten below.

1. Pork Shoppe.

New kid on the block, Pork Shoppe, looks and feels like a traditional barbecue joint from its rusted communal tables, brown paper towels and no nonsense–take a number and be ready to order– attitude.  But if it’s good pork barbecue that your looking for Pork Shoppe has your number.  What could be better than their slowly smoked meat, topped with your choice of sweet, tangy or wicked sauces (a habanero firebrand) washed down with a craft beer or bourbon chaser? They also offer homemade popsicles. Open lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. 2755 W. Belmont (between California and Washenaw). 773 961 7654.

2. Barbara Ann’s.

This South Side carryout has been around for a long time–almost as long as the the Beach Boys song of the same name.  Barbara Ann’s was founded in 1967 by Mississippi native Delars Bracy who named it after his daughter, Barbara Ann–who is now the owner. The food is slow cooked in hot smoke over an oak, charcoal and hickory fire. The all-female pit crew turns out links, tips, ribs, and a variety of other mouth-watering pork creations. You go to Barbara Ann’s for the food which has been described as “good as hell.” Plan to eat in your car or bring the food home as there is no seating in the restaurant. 7617 S Cottage Grove Ave. (between 76th St & 77th St). 773 651 5300.

3. Nothing Could be finer than Lillie’s  Q.

Fans of North Carolina style ‘que can thank Lillie’s Q for bringing this flavor up north. Lillie’s meats get the pat down with “Carolina Dirt”–a specially tweaked dry rub.  After the “dirt” settles some are glazed and others can be topped with one (or more) of their five unique sauces–available at the table. The space is an inviting rustic urban mix with exposed ducts, brick walls, metal chairs and wooden tables.  Open lunch and dinner. 1856 W. North Avenue (at Wolcott) 773 772 5500.

4. Twin Anchors.

Twin Anchors, a Chicago original since 1932, is almost as famous for its love affair with Frank Sinatra as its’ ribs. Twin Anchors was Sinatra’s kind of restaurant and he always made a point to stop by with his buddies when he was in town. Not unlike many other celebrities, politicians and average Joe’s that haunt this down-home eatery–as the photo covered walls bear witness. Although the menu offers many choices, if you want a true taste of Chicago–go for the ribs. At popular times, especially weekends, be ready to stand in line–reservations not taken. Take-out is available. Lunch, Saturdays and Sundays, Dinner nightly. 1655 N. Sedwick St. (at Eugenie St.) 312 266 1616.

5. Smoque BBQ.

This Northwest Chicago BBQ has craved a niche for itself with barbecue aficionados from near and far. Famous for its’ slow, very slow (12 hours), smoked Texas style ‘cue, this eat-in, take-out spot is sure to please.  Equally good is the pulled pork or brisket topped with a sweet slightly tangy sauce. The ribs are juicy and tender. Meals can be ordered with a choice of two sides–try the slaw and mac ‘n cheese.  Don’t forget to save room for the peach cobbler. Then either go home and take a nap or better yet go for a run. Smoque BBQ, 3800 N. Pulaski (at Grace and just off the Kennedy at Irving Park). Read parking signs in the neighborhood carefully to be sure you are parked legally. 773 545 7427.

6. Smoke Daddy.

This Wicker Park winner offers an awesome combo–blues and ‘cues. Enjoy live music nightly along with a bad ass menu of wood-smoked goodies topped with a trifecta of sauces anxious to please Carolina, Memphis or Kansas City BBQ lovers. Smoke Daddy’s is a “neighborhood” joint complete with low lights, a corrugated aluminum bar and a 50’s vibe. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 1804 W. Division (at Wood) 773 772 6656.

7. Gale Street Inn.

Go West (Chicago’s NW side) young man (or woman) to this Jefferson Park Rib spot where it feels like everyone knows your name. Gale Street Inn entered the world in 1964 as a neighborhood secret famous for their fall-off-the-bone ribs.  The restaurant and the menu have grown to become a destination spot where people return again and again. Still famous for their ribs, there are many other choices including a popular Chicken Tomatillo soup and “good pours for the money” cocktails. You’ll find owner, George Karzas on hand most nights making sure things go smoothly–say hello.   Monday night special: Get a full rack of ribs with choice of side for $18.95 (23.95 regular price) plus live jazz. Dine in or take out. 4914 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773 725 1300.

8. Honky Tonk BBQ.

Deep in the heart of Pilsen, you’ll think you’ve just landed in Cajun country or Texas with Honky Tonk’s  green fried tomatoes, cornbread and bourbon specialties–and, oh yes, BBQ.  The piggy-themed interior points to the pulled pork sandwiches as the way to go but all the other BBQ options are available from ribs to brisket.  Another favorite is their Bacon Candy. Open for dinner at 4p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon Sunday, closed Mondays.1213 W. 18th Street (at Racine). 312 226 7427.

9. Robinson’s Ribs.

Robinson’s Ribs in Lincoln Park, was the hands-down winner of Chicago columnist Mike Royko’s first Ribfest in 1982 with Charlie Robinson’s recipe for dry rub smoked baby back ribs and it is still pulling them in. You may want to make your order to go unless the weather is nice. Then you can BYO and sit out on the patio. They also deliver.  Go to the Lincoln Park location for the real thing or stop by their always present booth at The Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. Open Mondays for dinner at 4:00p.m.; Tues-Thursday 10:30a.m. to 9:00p.m.; Fridays 10:30a.m. to 10:00p.m.;  Saturdays 4:00p.m. to 10:00p.m. and Sundays 3:00p.m. to 8:30p.m. to 9:00p.m. 655 W. Armitage, 312 337 1399.

10. Honey 1 BBQ.

Honey 1’s claim to fame is “real smoke and no joke.” The first thing you see when you enter this BBQ emporium is their glassed-in smoker and a pile of hickory. Pitmaster Robert Adams describes the style as “traditional Arkansas wood-smoked BBQ.” Diners have a choice of hot or mild sauce, homemade by Mrs. A. Dine-in, carry-out, Tuesdays through Sundays, lunch and dinner. 2241 N. Western Ave. (773) 227 5130.

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