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Jan 16, 2007 12:37 AM

Chicago Barbecue

Looking for a fun place for a group of six that has round tables and good barbecue in central Chicago. Thanks

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  1. My favorite place for barbecue is Carson's. The baby back ribs are excellent. If members of your party prefer steaks or prime rib, those are outstanding there as well. (They also have the best cole slaw in town!)

    612 North Wells Street
    Chicago, IL 60610
    (312) 280-9200

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      It's worth adding that Carson's is different in many significant ways from the neighborhood barbecue places mentioned by others below. You'll need to decide what kind of place (and what kind of barbecue) you're looking for, what kind of place you and your companions will enjoy.

      Carson's is a "white tablecloth restaurant" with a steakhouse atmosphere. The neighborhood places are storefronts with small formica tabletops; they do a lot of carry-out business, and at least one (Hecky's) doesn't have any seating at all, at least at its original location (I haven't been to the second one).

      Carson's offers a variety of items, including barbecue baby back ribs, barbecue salmon, steaks of all sort (their optional char crust is very nice), prime rib, etc. The neighborhood places have a menu consisting of barbecue items and not much else.

      The geographical factor may be one of convenience for you. Carson's downtown location is in the River North area, a short walk from Michigan Avenue and from the Loop (I assume these are the areas you are referring to as "central Chicago"). The neighborhood places will all require a ride by cab or public transportation.

      Different people have different taste in barbecue. I really enjoy the barbecue baby backs at Carson's. They have a great barbecue flavor, nice sauce baked on, very meaty with very little fat, and tender and moist, with a slightly chewy texture. I like them a lot, and so do a lot of people; clearly, some others here don't agree. Here on Chowhound, most of us respect differences of opinion and can agree that not everyone likes the same places or the same items.

      Think about which kind of place, and which kind of barbecue, meets YOUR needs best. If you're still not sure, try several of the places and decide for yourself.

    2. While Carson's serves ribs (and lousy ones at that) they hardly qualify as a BBQ joint! Carson's is more of a restaurant & grill than a BBQ place. Or at least its not a BBQ joint in the traditional sense of it being anything like a true Texas, Memphis, KC, or Carolina type place.

      In other words, if a place doesnt even have brisket, pulled pork, smoked Turkey along with ribs it ain't a BBQ place. If they don't slow smoke any of the food, or they lack smokers and as such don't use any of the traditional woods; hickory, post oak, pecan etc. that are associated with true BBQ they ain't BBQ. So in that regard Carson's is more like the Weber Grill, only not as good, they do have a mean chicken liver appetizer and good breads though.

      If you want true BBQ in the this city you have limited options, but the three following options are at least real "Q":
      Fat Willies

      And although I shudder to even say it, the food chain Famous Dave's is a true BBQ restaurant that does have better "Q" than about 80% of the places in town, meaning at least they slow smoke everything fresh everyday.

      Most Chicago restaurants (Anchor bar, Portillos etc) serve boiled ribs and that right there is a real deal-breaker for me.

      8 Replies
      1. re: abf005

        I agree Carsons is not a BBQ joint, and not very good for anyone who knows what real bbq is all about. Carsons = Not smoked, no pink smoke ring, most likely boiled, or baked. Not real BBQ

        Honey 1 is my favorite.

        1. re: abf005

          I second Fat Willy's ( There are a couple of good sized tables inside and it's always fun and laid back.

          Everything I've had there is great -- the corn of the cob is wonderful. As tempting as their desserts always sound, I've never been able to try one . . . too full by the end of the meal!

          1. re: abf005

            Thanks I there's a famous daves right next to me in Long Island and I went there once which was one time to much.

            1. re: grownup55

              If you want real bbq (smoked, pink smoke ring ) go to one of the spots abf005 recommended

              honey 1 is my pick

              Honey 1
              2241 N. western
              Chicago, IL.


            2. very well put abf,

              I agree, to most brisket, turkey legs, etc are not "low end bbq"., but an essential part of bbq.

              1. re: abf005

                Hecky's take out baby backs were a MAJOR disappointment. Overcooked and dry.

                1. Simply stating a point of fact about regional terminology, not trying to make any qualitative judgment here. (There are a lot of Neapolitans who might be equally upset about Chicagoans liberal use of the term "pizza" to describe Gino's, Giordano's, etc. product).

                  By the way have you tried Uncle John's at 69th & Calumet? No briskets, turkey legs, pulled pork, so I guess it can't be called a BBQ as per the poster above, but IMO terrific ribs and links, with plenty evidence of smoke.

                  1. Have you even been to Honey One? They certainly don't boil and/or over sauce their ribs. They have nothing in common with Carson's or Hecky's.

                  2. Anyone willing to take a drive to the south side can try a place at 53rd and dorcester called Ribs and Bibs. This is no Carson's in area, service, or decor, but likewise it will blow the doors off carson's on ribs. Buy a few slabs, bring them home and enjoy some of the best ribs in chi-town for over 40 years.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      i 2nd ribs and bibs, a chicago insititution... they have the most amazing pics on their walls
                      i highly recommend the ribs and slo their super special fried chicken, ask for the hot barbecue sauce if you can handle it, it's magnificent
                      but yeah they have a counter and liek one small round table. they do have 3 or 4 outdoor tables in the spring/summmer tho

                      1. re: jfood

                        imo, Ribs and Bibs has been just about the best 'que in Chicago for years and years and years! My sister now lives in Tinley, and she will still drive in to get them!

                        Also, I like Coleman's on the West Side.

                        I don't care for Carson's ribs, and I don't know anyone who considers them delicious.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          *I* consider Carson's ribs delicious.

                      2. New place that just opened on the corner of Pulaski and Grace is Smoque. Doesn't have round tables is pretty darn good. BYOB. Have had the ribs and brisket, very, very good each. Rough cut fries, good slaw and other sides. Smoque is just south of the Kennedy expy, so accessibility is pretty good.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Spoonforkknife

                          I will second that!!! It is delicious and with the sit-down and take-out traffic, you know it has to be good. Had beef brisket and pulled pork plate. YUMMY!!!! A lot of chicago's finest eat there, so you know it's good.

                          1. re: donnacrocker

                            A lot of chicago's finest eat lunch and dinner at the Potbelly below my office. It's not good.

                        2. I'm pretty sure that Honey 1 has round tables. I think it's pretty "central" in location, being roughly 2100N and 2100 W, but given that the center of the Chicago area based on population seems to be Oakbrook, YMMV :)