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Sep 15, 2005 06:04 PM

Leon's BBQ

  • g

My father owns the three Leon's BBQ places in Chicago and from June 2004 to April 2005, I operated a Leon's BBQ of Chicago (Daughter of the Original) in Hammond, Indiana on Kennedy Avenue.

Unfortunately, we were forced to close due to a disagreement with the owner of the Escalade building, Frank Burns, where we rented space.

I've been told Mr. Burns reopened the place as a bbq restaurant, but I had no idea he is claiming to be related to me and my dad. So, please feel free to spread the word --we have NO family members selling bbq in Hammond, Indiana.

Sorry if you missed us while we were open in Hammond, however, within a few months we hope to REOPEN a Leon's BBQ of Chicago restaurant in a new location in Hammond, and pick up where we left off -- serving the kind of excellent bbq that has kept my Dad in business here in Chicago for over 60 years

Also, since we slow cook our ribs and tips DAILY on a smoke filled pit in the tradition of my Dad and other "old timers" -- there was and WILL BE the most mouth-watering aroma of hickory smoked bbq pouring out of our smoke stack every single day!

Hope to see you soon.

Gwen Wood
Daughter of the Original Leon's BBQ

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  1. I am from Gary originally,but I have been in Indy for 16 years now. Every time I go home I head for Leon's on 79th. Before my family knows I am back in town,I am headed for Leon's. I wish I had known you had a location in Hammond,could have saved myself some gas.(haha) Believe me it's well worth the trip though. Leon's beats Kenny's,Carson's,Lem's, or anybody else for that matter. Trust me I know. I am also a BBQ brat,my dad had a rib house (as they were called ) in Gary for 30 years,so I know what is supposed to be done. Indianapolis has the worst bbq of any large city,I've ever been to. It's sad. You ask for fries and they really are startled. So,I wind up cooking my own,no matter what the weather. They don't have a clue as to what a hotlink is. They serve some type of bright red hotdog type thing. Anyway,looking forward to going home AND to Leon's next weekend..Continued success.

    1 Reply
    1. re: missinchi

      I am from Indy, and while I agree that they are not a "BBQ town" there are some great spots to try. True they won't have fries (at least most don't) and no idea what a hot link is, but some great ribs and sauces are to be had.

      My favorite, Ma and Pa's, around 26th and MLK Jr St
      and King Ribs, ONLY the one on Keystone near 38th street.

      Great ribs, great hot sauce at ma and Pa's. no links, but still satisfies the cue craving

    2. Hi - I'm curious. I worked at Leon's Barbecue in San Fransisco in the 80s. Has he franschised? Because Leon did not have a daughter called Gwen, then. :-)

      6 Replies
      1. re: Songbird2

        I don't think Leon Finney, Sr. had a location of Leon's in SFO. I suspect you're referring to an establishment with the same or a similar name but different owners. Finney and his family unsuccessfully franchised some locations here in Chicago, though. I know Rev. Leon Finney, Jr., but don't know if he has a sister.

        1. re: gomexico

          I worked for Leon McHenry. He had 2 restaurants - one on Sloat and the other on the cable car route - street name escapes me. Interesting that there are other places with the same name. Thanks

          1. re: gomexico

            Hi! Just wanted to post a note to say that you’re correct – my father is NOT affiliated with those who own the San Francisco “Leon’s BBQ” establishment. However, your statement that “Finney and his family unsuccessfully franchised some locations here in Chicago” is incorrect.

            Although my Dad did assist and encourage family members and loyal employees to open their own bbq restaurants in the Chicago area as well as in Hammond, Indiana – he did NOT set up any franchises of his three “Leon’s BBQ, The Original” restaurants, located on Chicago’s South side. Also, as you noted, Leon Jr., is his son, but he’s NOT his ONLY son – there are 2 other living sons and one who is deceased (Cleon Berry). Additionally, our Dad has 3 daughters of which I am the oldest.

            Finally, to those of you who hold fond memories of my Dad’s succulent bbq ribs, tips, links, fries & chicken – all drenched in a pool of a bbq sauce of his own making – please know that NOTHING & I mean NOTHING – made him happier than getting up each morning knowing that his Chicago community had proven to him – year after year – that he’d succeeded in delivering a product that folks kept coming back for time and time again over the 60-year period he owned, operated, & managed those 3 bbq places located on 59th, 79th & 83rd Streets on the South Side of Chicago.

            Sadly, our Dad passed away April 4, 2008, after suffering the devastating consequences of Alzheimer’s Disease – which, as of November 2002, rendered him TOTALLY incapable of competently managing his bbq restaurants or any of his other business and personal affairs.

            As often happens when the “unexpected” happens BEFORE one is prepared – on or about November 2002 – all that our Dad spent his entire life building fell into the hands of others who, unfortunately, did NOT posses his work ethic, wisdom, integrity, or, the commitment to produce & offer the best product possible for sale in the bbq marketplace of Chicago.

            Knowing how much those bbq places meant to our Dad, it is heartbreaking to learn that all three of his places have gone out of business; and, that the 83rd Street store has been sold to a non-family member.

            Sad as THAT is – it would be even sadder if ANYONE who remembers the bbq our Dad created and offered to his customers “back in the day” will, in ANY way, judge HIM or HIS name, on the product that has been offered by the operators of his 3 stores, from the time of his mental demise resulting from his 2002 dementia, up to his physical death in 2008.

            Instead, I’m hoping that ALL of you who had the pleasure of tasting the (original) Leon’s BBQ, will agree that Leon D. Finney, Sr. of LEON’S BBQ, CHICAGO, earned and deserves a far better legacy than what might otherwise be attributed to him! With much Love & Remembrance, “Daughter of the Original Leon’s BBQ.” Aloha, Gwen Wood, Honolulu, Hawaii (9/11/2010)

            1. re: gwood917

              Hello Ms. gwood917

              I was/am a faithful customer of the Great Leon's. I am sad to learn that they are closed for good!!! For the past year I wondered what happened to the restaurant??? I remember my dad who is also deceased loved the one on 83rd and Cottage Grove. I'm 34 now but as a child I would ask him "why do you love the one on 83rd st."??? He would say with a hungry smile "This is the Original so and i'm just so used to going here"!! So for all my child hood I just went to that one!!! Until one day in my 20's I decided to venture off and try the other two. I would have to say to YOU Ms.Gwen Wood
              that your father GOD rest his soul,had a MASTER PIECE !!!!! A FIVE STAR TASTE at ALL three locations !!!! I'm here speaking the truth America that Leon's BarBQ was the BEST in ChicagoLand !!!! Ms. Wood even when my friends would want to try other places I'd be the main one saying "Let's hit Leons cause think about it good food dog and a low price man"!!! So needless to say I would get them to go to Leon's most of the time!!!!!!! hahahaha :)
              (order of wings, mild sauce) !!! Was my favorite. Then I got into the wing/tip/link combo !!!! Just writing this to you Ms. Wood makes me feel good !!! Just me knowing that I can reach someone that had a FINE Restaurant !!!!

              Leon's Bar-B-Q
              1640 E 79th St, Chicago, IL 60649

              1. re: Wndycty5

                Dear Windycty5

                This is a BELATED, but very sincere THANK YOU for the kind & generous remarks you posted about the pleasant memories you have of my Dad's (Leon D. Finney Sr, of Leon's BBQ) restaurants that were so warmly received by those who, for at least 6 decades, chose to get their bbq from any one of his 3 South Side Chicago locations. Although circumstances in 2006 required that my husband & I return home from Chicago to Honolulu, Hawaii ~ we have yet to give up on the idea of re-establishing a comparable Leon’s BBQ restaurant either here in Honolulu or in Chicago or in Hammond, IN ~ that will pay homage to my Dad’s 60+ year legacy & life long determination to offer to his customers excellent service along with serving the best bbq products available at the most affordable prices possible . This was the hallmark of the three “Original Leon's BBQ of Chicago" restaurants and it continues to be an attribute I hope to someday replicate in honor of my Dad, Leon D. Finney, Sr. (1916 - 2008).

                Sincerely, Gwen Wood

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Gwen: I am a writer and I am working on a history of Chicago Barbecue. Could you contact me so I can ask you some info about the history of Leon's? meathead at

            2 Replies
            1. re: ribmeister

              "Ribmeister" ~ I look forward to beiing in touch with you asap to provide whatever information I can offer regarding the history of my Dad's Leon's BBQ Restaurants. I appreciate your interest and am grateful you consider "Leon's BBQ" worthy of inclusion in the history of Chicago Barbecue that you're currently researching.

              Warm Regards,
              Gwen Wood

              1. re: gwood917

                Gwen: I never did hear from you. Please write to me at meathead at
                Just remove the spaces and change at to the symbol. I do this to discourage spambots from harvesting my email address.