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Jun 21, 2001 07:38 PM

chicago 'cue

  • p

I'm going to be in Chicago for one evening next week and want to get some prime barbecue. On previous visits, my favorite place has been Lem's, and I'll be happy to go there again, but if anyone has suggestions for places that are even better, I'm all ears. Sketchy neighborhoods and bulletproof takeout windows don't bother me as long as the ribs are good. Recommend away!

The day after I'm in Chicago, I'll be going to Kansas City, but I'll be posting a query about that on the Midwest board...


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  1. Lem's is still tops as far as I'm concerned. NB though that the location at 75th and King is still closed from the fire, while the other location 59th and State is open.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Seth

      I agree - if someone has anything better or even in the league of lem's please share

      1. re: zim

        The Lem's at 311 75th St is open again. We went this weekend. It seems exactly the same as it was before the fire...even to the extent that the linoleum has the same stains it had before, the patina of grease/smoke on the bulletproof glass is unaltered. And the ribs, while not the best I've had at Lems, were very very good. I could have used a little more crispiness, but...i guess one can't expect every piece of meat that comes out of any superlative barbecuse place to be a pork epiphany. The hotlinks remain fantastic.

    2. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lem’s and agree it is probably the best around. But a little variety is good and helps put Lem’s into perspective. By the way, only a block away from Lem’s State St location is Elmo’s Tombstone Service. Their motto is "Tombstones made while you wait", certainly one of Chicago’s best slogans.

      To hear the old timers tell it, Leon’s used to be great but is now only a shadow of its former self. That may well be true but I enjoy a slab every now and then. Even if you don’t like the BBQ, Leon’s is one of the classic southside places, worth a visit at least once. The ribs are quite different from Lem’s with a pinkish color and an almost bacony flavor. The mild sauce is excessively sweet to my taste but the hot is pretty good. There are several Leon’s but I always go to the one across from the Regal Theater (itself worth a look). It’s only half a mile west of Tropic Island which has fantastic jerk chicken. A slab of Leon’s, some jerk chicken, a side of steam cabbage, and plenty of beer, it’s a beautiful thing.

      I also like DD&S from time to time. Maybe not world class but pretty darn good. One of the outstanding features of DD&S was their side dishes: great black eyed peas, good greens etc. Tragically, they stopped making most of these several years ago.

      One place I’ve heard good things about but still haven’t been to is The Rib Joint. Has anyone been?

      Finally, another place I like quite a bit is Chuck’s in Burbank (south of Midway Airport) of all places. There’s little doubt in my mind that Chuck’s is the best of the sit down BBQ places. Certainly nothing fancy. There’s a moderately large menu including brisket and pork shoulder as well as some non BBQ items. A couple of excellent sauces. Chuck used to cook at Frontera Grill and knows his chiles.

      Leon’s, Tropic Island, and DD&S all have other locations. The hours I list may not be current.

      Leon's Bar-B-Q
      1640 E 79th St (just east of 3-way intersection of Stony Island, South Chicago and 79th)
      Chicago IL
      11am-4am everyday

      Tropic Island Jerk Chicken Restaurant
      1922 E 79th St (near Jeffrey)
      Chicago IL
      773-978-JERK (5375)
      Mon-Thu 11-11, Fri-Sat 11-12, Sun 11-8

      D.D.& S. Bar-B-Que
      7100 South Chicago Av (at Cottage Grove, 800 east)
      Chicago IL
      Tue 11:30-12:30, Wed-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat 1-3:30, Sun 1-1, closed Mon

      The Rib Joint
      432 E. 87th St.
      Chicago IL

      Chuck's BBQ
      5557 W 79th St (at Central)
      Burbank IL
      Mon-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-8

      5 Replies
      1. re: Rene G


        thanks as always for your detailed post. I sometimes check out chi.eats and notice your posts there, they are always good, could you do those of us who don't use news readers the favor of posting here as well?

        regarding the cue,

        I have been to the rib joint, and found it a solid cue. Not in my opinion in the Lem's category, lacking the smokiness that in my opinion what makes Lem's stand out, but the sauce is much less sweet than Leon's (which I do not care for, for that reason)and meat fairly tender. A decent change of pace.

        If you like good chicago signs check out the attached link which has many. many great chicago signs including a section on gyros art especially those along western avenue


        1. re: zim

          I'll second that request for more from Rene...i just checked out chi.eats for the first time -- terrific stuff! And pretty easy to access from the web without a news reader (as i'm sure you know zim) -- search for chi.eats @ (now

          And I have to say that i've been to the leon's you mention several times (usually because i get a craving for lem's before 2 PM), and have never been terribly impressed with the quality of the meat. Altough the hot sauce is definitely fiery. DD&S and Chucks are now on my list.

          1. re: zim

            I just don’t check this site as often as I should but will try to post here a bit more. Definitely take a look at chi.eats, there’s often good stuff there (although things like the recent thread on hand washing are enough to make you want to beat your head against the wall). The archives are accessible once again through:


            The gyros signs are great, I enjoyed that site a lot, thanks. Along those lines, did anyone catch Patty Carroll’s exhibit of Chicago hot dog stand photographs at the Water Tower? An excellent show. Unfortunately it closed a couple weeks ago.

            I’ll be curious to hear what people think about DD&S and Chuck’s. Again, I don’t think they’re quite at Lem’s level but both are worth checking out. If you have room try a Chuck’s Special, a smoked brisket sandwich with rajas (roasted pepper strips), onions, Chihuahua cheese, and au jus. Not your traditional Wonder bread sandwich.

            1. re: Rene G


              One thing that puzzles me about DD&S is that on the number of occasions I have gone by I have never noticed many folks in there. Now I know that this is not always an indicator of poor food quality but it does make me pause on a bbq place on the south side. I have never had that experience with most of the places on the south side that have decent food and that are to the tastes of the neighborhood.

              Have you have different experiences there re: neighborhood support?

              1. re: zim

                I hope I don’t regret recommending DD&S (or more precisely, I hope YOU don’t regret it!). I used to go there fairly often years ago when they served all their side dishes. The barbecue was way above average and those black eyed peas and the greens really made it worth a trip. I haven’t been going very frequently recently and probably haven’t been there once in the last year. It’s completely possible the place has slipped a notch or two. I never remember it being packed but don’t remember it being empty either. Actually I do remember the one on Stony Island seeming very crowded but that place is so long and narrow that only a few customers would give that impression.

                Leon’s seems to do pretty good business so a lot of people must like their barbecue. I guess that includes me; their hot sauce is up there with my favorites. In any case, Leon himself seems to be doing pretty well. Have you ever noticed the white Rolls-Royce driving around with the LEON RIB plates?