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Real BBQ in Chicagoland

I'm looking for places that could meet the KCBS BBQ standard for making real "Q". Interested in select group of opinions, recommendations and critiques of real BBQ places in the Chicagoland area. Here are the criteria.

So what qualifies?
* They key word here is SMOKER, they MUST have and use one on the premises!
* Places that use traditional BBQ woods to slow cook; hickory, oak, apple wood etc. And not just lump charcoal or briquettes or God help us, gas!
* Meat that is presented with the sauce on the side, or if it’s on, it’s lightly basted at the end of the cooking process. Not BBQ stew!
* Places that offer the "Holy Trinity" of BBQ; They MUST offer ribs (baby-back or spare or both), pulled pork AND beef brisket, all three to qualify. Bonus points if they can actually cook them all well. Quality meats slow cooked for hours in a smoker, 4+ hr for ribs, 15-20 for shoulders/butts or briskets.
* Places that offer smoked turkey, ham, bologna, pork tenderloin, fish etc are a definite bonus
* Chicken is an optional “ok to offer”, so are rib tips.
* Sides; should offer fresh cut or at least good quality French fries, homemade coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans etc.

And what does NOT qualify?
* OK, let’s not argue about them, although they are good for what they are, and to all those who like them, please understand, they just don't fit this particular list’s criteria; Anchor Bar, Portillo's, Carson's, Weber Grill.
* Anyplace that bakes, boils, steams, or braises the meat, no exceptions!
* BBQ painters; those places that paint BBQ sauce on the pre-cooked meat (usually baked/boiled) with BBQ sauce, and then char grill it for a minute(almost always over gas) to get a crust or grill marks and then call it BBQ.
* Grilled food in general - if it's prepared over high heat (cooked at over 250 degrees) or cooked fast like a hamburger, it’s not BBQ.
* “Faux Q” or fake BBQ, pressed, frozen, or processed shredded pork sandwiches don’t fit here, i.e. the McRib sandwich.

Try to think of Famous Dave's or Bandanna's menu as the basic benchmark to start from and now work your way up. They both offer pretty much this basic menu and do a fair job (maybe a 6 out of 10 points) especially for being large chains.

Personally, I'm looking for places that are Memphis or Texas style as opposed to the Deep South, Carolina's or KC, but any of the true regional BBQ styles are indeed welcome.

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  1. Well, I'd strongly disagree with the assertion that "real bbq" requires the inclusion of brisket -- I like it but in my opinion, Chicago's best bbq places don't have it and don't need it. Pork's my thing. I also tend to shy away from baby backs b/c they can't stand up to long hours of smoking like spareribs. And while I guess I can see smoking butt for 15 hours, it does depend on size . . . some can take as little as 8-10 hours and be properly smoked. And sorry, but some of my recs have bad sides . . . but I'm there for pork and smoke, not sides, so oh well. But we can continue these debates another day.

    Have you tried Honey 1, Uncle John's, Barbara Ann's or Lem's? All offer outstanding examples of traditionally smoked spareribs (also offering chicken, pork, tips and links), and all four serve w/ sauce on the side (might need to request though). Honey 1 is the one I most frequent since it's convenient to where I live (north side). My favorite of the four really depends upon the particular day.

    Smoque is one place that I like quite a bit and it cooks brisket. It uses a Southern Pride smoker, unlike the above spots.

    Honky Tonk BBQ which just opened in Pilsen also uses the Southern Pride and also does brisket. I enjoyed Honky Tonk's food this summer at a couple of street festivals, but have not tried their newly opened restaurant.

    Finally, the brisket offered by Whole Foods at a couple of their locations is also prepared using a Southern Pride smoker and is surprisingly good, although a little moist for my liking.

    In any event, I think you and I can agree that Twin Anchors serves "meat jello" and not bbq.

    6 Replies
    1. re: BRB

      Yep I've sure tried a few of places mentioned in your post and many others not listed too! I'm just kind of waiting to see a few posts before I weigh in on all of them.

      You say you would "strongly disagree" with me huh? Well that's OK. Your entitled to your honest opinion, but that wont change my mind. I stand firm that doing a good Brisket is key, if a place cant do a respectable brisket they probably aren't that great anyway. Brisket is the toughest things to cook in the BBQ world, with ribs being a close second, shoulder is a cake walk; call it BBQ 101, I personally find it no challenge to prepare them myself.

      Baby backs can easily go 4-5 hrs, and your right, unlike spares which can go for maybe 6. I smoke my babybacks 4-5 but its really a moisture thing. Any Brisket pulled before 15 hrs is usually not very good, while butts/shoulders can get away with a 10 hr and still be right, but lets face it longer is usually better

      Sides are really a plus, but not a mandatory points thing, if a place offers them, they should at least try to make them tasty, right? Right!

      lastly, your right we agree, Twin Anchors ribs are meat jello....

      1. re: abf005

        I also have to disagree with you. Chicago-style barbecue (there is such a thing) travelled up the Mississippi River Valley with the great migration of the early 20th century from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas via Memphis, St. Louis, Kentucky and Southern Illinois. It is all about pork and chicken. There were no cattle in that part of the country. Brisket is strictly a Texas thing, which travelled north with the cattle drives. Kansas City had the unique advantage of being at the cross-roads of both migrations thanks to the railroads.

        I also disagree with you that brisket is the toughest to cook. I think spare ribs and tips are much harder to do right. Personally, I consider barbecue to be all about pork (and the occasional chicken). I guess Chicagoans just prefer our briskets brined and cured. Not that I would turn up my nose at a decent smoked brisket sandwich.

        BBQ Bob's on Howard street does all those things, as well as beef ribs, however their quality is very inconsistent. They use a Southern Pride smoker like Smoque, but their turnover isn't fast enough to insure fresh product. If you happen to get something fresh from the smoker, it is pretty good. Otherwise, it can be pretty awful. Their Lemon Pie is delicious though.

        1. re: Roger Spark

          Please re- read my post; I did not ask for "Chicago style BBQ", I ask for “Real BBQ” as defined by KCBS standards (Kansas City Barbeque Society). I also specifically asked for Texas or Memphis styles and not the Deep South (which is like Chicago south side) or the Carolina's (pork), but said all styles would be welcome discussion. I’m not seeking to find out what style is superior, since I already have a predisposition towards Texas, I was looking for who else does great “Q” around here in between my trips down to the “BBQ holy lands”.

          I know Chicago has its own BBQ style, and I am also very aware of how it came to be, and how its origins are with the Black Underground Railroad & subsequent northern migrations that brought it up north. All that aside, I’ve never been impressed with it. IMO; it’s greasy, typically over smoked to the point that the taste is more of sauce and smoke and not of the meats flavor. Another thing I’ve noticed is that Chicago BBQ places commonly over smoke the meat to the point it can be very dark, bitter and dry or even charred on the outside edges. Typically I find these places are using over sauced lower quality meats, (rib tips especially) or have the meat soaking in the sauce just simmering. I also find they offer fried catfish and hot links that are also very greasy and not to my liking. But that’s my opinion based on 15 or so places that I’ve tried here and in the ‘burbs.

          We will have to agree to disagree on Brisket. Having been a serious BBQ cook for many years, I know it is by far the toughest meat to smoke. But you don't have to take my expert opinion on it, go ahead and just ask anyone who competes on the circuit or writes about it, and I think you’ll see they all pretty much concur with me. The two main reasons are first the brisket must hold temp at a fat melting plateau for a very long period of time in order to break down the collagen and tenderize the meat, this is reason you see 15-24 hr cook times on smoked briskets. Second is the moisture, with such a long cook time keeping it moist is the other challenge. Realize, that smoked Brisket is cooked to tenderness and not doneness (as in just hitting 160-170 degrees and the meat is safe to eat according to the FDA).

          Ribs are only tough in that the time window for making proper juicy ribs is short, and the time distance between under cooked and overdone is about 30 min to an hour in a smoker and almost none on a grill. That's why on a regular grill you never even stand a chance! But rib tips? Cooking the scraps isn’t a challenge! Especially since most places tend to stew theirs in BBQ sauce usually after they pull the spares out first anyway!

          1. re: abf005

            In the Western suburbs, there is a place called Gematos on Ogden Ave in Naperville. It is circled by car dealers, and kind of "different" looking, but there are piles of wood outside the place, and they smoke everything onsite. They have the best brisket and ribs I've had before. If you especially want brisket, try this place. Ribs are easy to cook - - I have a smoker and do them all the time. Brisket is quite the challenge.

            1. re: abf005

              abf005 -
              I think we'd all agree that texas has some great q. I have an uncle in the dfw area that I visit every chance I get so's I can get me somma that q - trust me, I know 1st hand that Texas has great q.

              I also think that for as many ppl who think ribs are the slathered in sauce meat jello stuff that Chicago is somehow known for, there is a growing number of meat jello detractors (such as myself,) which is why the real q joints are starting to pop up around town here. There are a few spots to get what you're looking for that have been mentioned. In ten years or so, there may be a few more. If "Texas" q has not been done right to your standards, then throw your hat in the ring. From my upbringing in Chicago, however, I do like spares and tips done the Chicago wood way - I.e. Barbara Ann's BBQ and Motel :-), and Uncle John's (sauce on the side, please.) It's fine and dandy that you want what you deem "real q," but don't be surprised if it's not up to your standards, since we are in Chicago, and not in KC, or Texas. You can call Chicago meat jello q wrong, and bad all you want to, but it doesn't change the fact that people are still buying it. You can call our woodsmoked spares and tips wrong and bad all you want to, but I for one happen to like Uncle John's tips (sauce on the side, please.)

              You might just not find Texas Q up to your standards here, but I won't find thin crust pizza up to my standards in Texas. OR Vietnamese food. OR an Italian beef sammich. OR Thai food. OR Indian food. OR African food. OR Korean. OR Swedish. OR Japanese. I MIGHT even have the gall to say OR higher end Mexican. And there are more....

              Yes, Texas wins hands down for Q, but we're newbies in the grand scheme of things dealing with Texas q restaurants. Maybe if decide to show us what's up, and open up a joint, you will help get us some more respect for all things brisket. I love a good brisket, and I eat it all day long when I visit my unc, but man, I do love me some smoked tips, and hot links Chicago style (smoked, mind you - no meat jello for me!)

          2. re: abf005

            Brisket is Texas barbecue. that is NOT Chicago's style. Chicago style Que is more in the manner of Memphis, which means PORK. and that is ribs and rib tips. Rib Tips are a Chicago specialty, as are Hot Links.

            Coleman's on the West Side, Lems, The Original Painted Doll, Ribs and Bibs... those are the places we go for REAL Que......

        2. I have to disagree with the starting concept that "Real BBQ" is that which is defined by KCBS guidelines.

          That said I'm not aware of anyplace in Chicago that meets your requirements - hardwood smoking AND serving ribs, pulled pork, and brisket.

          THAT said . . . I don't care. I go to these places to get what I want, not to apply some silly litmus test that allegedly determines whether or not they are serving "real bbq".

          I happen to really like a good tips and links combo and two of my faves - Uncle John's and Honey 1 - serve up exactly what I crave. Neither, however, serve brisket and Uncle John's (gasp!) doesn't even serve pulled pork. Doesn't make their ribs/tips/links taste any less delicious, though.

          As far as the premise that brisket is the toughest to cook - meh. It's just a matter of patience in my experience.

          We DO agree that all the meat jello places are crap, though. :)

          1. Ok installment number one of my reviews:
            Lake County Reviews:

            Hillary’s BBQ - 1617 14th Street North Chicago (also in Waukegan & Kenosha)
            Typical “Chicago Style” or Deep South BBQ kind of joint. Their specialty is the rib tips, but they also have spare ribs, pulled pork, and brisket as well. There is also fried catfish and hot links on the menu. All food is smoked in a Southern Pride smoker using hickory logs. The sauce is a spicy/sweet, thick, but a bit heavy on the vinegar. Typical of most Chicago style places the food is heavily sauced and almost hard to tell what the flavor of the meat really is. Not bad for what it is.

            Brothers Ribs - 1565 S Lake St (US Highway 45) Mundelein, IL http://ylunch.com/ylunchfax6000460060...
            Probably the best BBQ I’ve had in Lake County! They have all the key ingredients; Ribs, tips, Brisket, Pulled Pork, and few others and all are done very well. Sauce is tangy/sweet and smokey thick(sort of KC Masterpiece in style) Smoker on site and always nice people at the counter. The prices seem more than reasonable and the sides are good enough to call a bonus.

            Full Slab - 34500 N US Highway 45 - Third Lake, IL
            This relatively new place opened about a year ago, and as the closest BBQ place to my house if it had been awesome they would have had a lock on a serious repeat customer. Unfortunately the food was just OK and not exciting. Full Slab has a full BBQ menu, and if I had to pick one good item here it was the smoked sausage links. The portions were meager and overpriced; for example my coleslaw and potato salads were served in a tiny Dixie cups typically used for hot sauce or ketchup. There is a smoker on premises, but when asked about it, one of the owners struggled to explain what it was and what woods they used to smoke with, maybe they didn’t want to give away the secret, I dunno.

            Famous Dave's - 99 E Townline Rd. Vernon Hills, IL
            I know, it’s an evil chain right? Well this is one chain I actually like, most of the time these guys get it close to right, the food is in generous if not over abundant quantities, and it’s usually fresh and if you want something that’s consistent, they’ve pretty much have nailed it. While IMO the Brisket is usually mushy (overcooked), the ribs are decent, and the pulled pork is good. The sides are really good and the hot links are the closest thing I have found in Chicago to a Texas smoked sausage. Sauces, there are about 6 representing the main BBQ regions/styles and they all are pretty decent representations.

            Richards Chicken & Ribs - 900 W Rollins Rd, Round Lake Beach
            Hickory smoked Ribs and Fried chicken! Good fried chicken, not bad ribs, mine were just a bit too heavy on the sticky thick sauce. I didn’t see any other BBQ items on the menu, but since Lake County seems to have under 10 smokers in use at restaurants, I thought I’d list them.

            Vaughan's Broasted Chicken - 2240 E Grand Ave, Lindenhurst, IL 60046
            I haven’t been here yet, in fact I found out recently they added BBQ to their regular menu, if someone has tried it please post, I'm curious to know more about them.

            Herm's Barbecue 311 W Depot St Antioch, IL 60002 (used to be in Waukegan on Sunset
            )I hate to do this, but this was about the worst Brisket I’ve ever had, and that includes the bad ones form when I was learning how to smoke briskets as well! The ribs were OK and the tips are what they do best. Overall not one of my favorites and not one I’d go back to either.

            I’ll start on my Cook county places next…

            Hillary's Barbecue
            1617 14th St, North Chicago, IL 60064

            Lewis St, Waukegan, IL

            Brothers Ribs
            1565 S Lake St, Mundelein, IL

            The Full Slab
            34500 N US Highway 45, Third Lake, IL

            Famous Dave's
            99 E Townline Rd, Vernon Hills, IL 60061

            Richards Chicken & Ribs
            900 W Rollins Rd, Round Lake, IL 60073

            Vaughan's Broasted Chicken
            2240 E Grand Ave, Lindenhurst, IL 60046

            Herm's Barbecue
            311 W Depot St, Antioch, IL 60002

            2 Replies
            1. re: abf005

              "Typical of most Chicago style places the food is heavily sauced and almost hard to tell what the flavor of the meat really is."

              I still don't understand why you think this is true. A simple request for sauce on the side is not a problem for a real bbq place. Usually, the real q places don't sauce the meat during the cooking. There are quite a few of them around town. Not sure why if you don't like sauce slathered over everything, (neither do I, by the way) you would refuse to get it on the side.

              1. re: gordeaux

                I always ask; how is it served? with sauce on or on the side, if they answer on, then obviously I request it to be on the side, no big deal. But I also want to have a chef/cook present the food the way they intended it should be, so I will order a small portion or extra item "their way". It's all very scientific...

                My reason for my views on the sauce are twofold; one I'm diabetic, that stuff in any large quantity is a killer for me. Two: as I've mentioned before, I prefer Texas Style BBQ which is *almost* always served sauce on the side. I once had a Texas Pit-man tell me that that if you bury a turd in enough sauce it'll turn out good, but that serving the meat naked is a show of a mans confidence on the pit.

            2. Smoke Daddy

              smoke daddy
              chicago, il, chicago, il

              1. Count me among those who think the original query was designed, intentionally or not, so that Chicago will fail. If any food has regional styles it's barbecue, and insisting on one regional style as the template for all others is simply missing the diversity and interest of the cuisine. Looking for Texas brisket in Chicago is pointless because there wasn't migration from Texas to Chicago. Barbecue came here from the deep South and so it's going to overwhelmingly reflect that; the fact that you take the MAIN item that sums up Chicago barbecue, rib tips, and relegate it to the "ok to offer" category (after smoked bologna!) shows how far off this approach is. That's like ignoring crab cakes in Maryland because you want Alaskan salmon.

                In short, you mention Famous Dave's, and I expect you can find a number of chain-type places like that which could be in any city in America, and meet your generic criteria for hitting all the expected choices from all different regional styles. If you want to see what barbecue is like as a regional cuisine, however, you're going to have to get past expectations set in one city and appreciate the differences and specialties over the similarities.

                11 Replies
                  1. re: Roger Spark

                    Amen; it's like condemning an Italian restaurant that specializes in Sicilian cuisine for not serving polenta.

                  2. re: Morton Arthur Eaton

                    It only means that Chicago will fail only to the extent that he doesn't want what Chicagoans have traditionally called barbecue. It is clear that the most popular barbecue places in Chicago have arguably been places like Twin Anchors, Robinsons, and Carsons. Those places turn out barbecue anomalies whether they are popular or not.

                    As we know, there ARE great BBQ places in town that have been around forever and are never mentioned in the same breath as other Chicago establishments (I'm thinking of Lems). There are also a lot of newer barbecue restaurants that have done away with meat boiling and have come a lot closer to what most people think of as barbecue (I'm thinking of Smoke Daddy, Honey 1, Smoque).

                    Never in the OP did he ask for "Chicago-style barbecue." He asked for styles that were specifically outside of what Chicago calls barbecue. Frankly, I don't blame him.

                    AND, it's clear that it's not quite an impossible question: there have been plenty of places mentioned which would satisfy his requirements.

                    My only concern with his request is that he requires ribs, pork, AND brisket. Although you'd find that in most, if not all, the Chicago restaurants (whether they're good or not) I would imagine that at least some traditional barbecue barbecue places wouldn't have all three. I'm thinking of places in the South that might not have brisket (or maybe even ribs) or parts of Texas with no pork. Even in Kansas City it was a long time before Gates carried pulled pork (it's more available now).

                    1. re: rubinow

                      "Although you'd find that in most, if not all, the Chicago restaurants (whether they're good or not)"

                      Not true. Honey 1, Lem's, Barbara Ann's, Uncle John's, all the south and west side barbecue places of stature are pork places, no brisket, and many don't even have pulled pork-- it's all ribs, rib tips and links. That IS an authentic Chicago style of true smoked barbecue, which has nothing to do with the boil-b-q offered at the Twin Anchors and Carson's of the world. Yet his rules don't just stop at ruling out the latter-- they completely eliminate the south side barbecue tradition for lacking brisket, baked beans, automatic sauce on the side and other accoutrements of, simply, a different style of barbecue.

                      1. re: rubinow

                        I think so far, rubinow appears to be the only person who has actually grasped the point of my starting this thread. There is more anger and controversy and question of intentions than restaurant recommendations and critiques so far! Seems like a few too many people are stuck on the Brisket request and the fact that great brisket does not exist in Chicago outside of a few Jewish deli’s.

                        But, I never asked for or questioned Chicago style BBQ, its origins, or limited menu choices. I simply asked for "other style" places in much the same way that other posters have requested where to find “real” NY pizza or great Philly cheesesteaks in Chicagoland,so don’t act like its sacrilegious!

                        Lastly, yes, I indeed asked for Texas & Memphis style places (as an EXAMPLE), this is true. BUT, I also said in my OP "but any of the true regional BBQ styles are indeed welcome" as well.

                        Ironically Chicago has produced some of the best BBQ cooks in the country; i.e. Dr. BBQ, & the Cancer Sucks BBQ team of Naperville (who won the Jack Daniels last year and is competing in it again this weekend to keep the title of National BBQ Grand Champions).

                        So my point is this; where are those KCBS competitors’ restaurants? Where do they practice? Who else is out there like them? After all, obviously that style is available here in Chicago! So point me and those who love BBQ to those hidden gems, and let’s stop the debate about making Chicago look bad or how many lbs of jello ribs are getting served to the masses every day!

                        While at the KCBS event last week in Libertyville (Lamb Farm) I ran into a Chicago team that was serving up some kick-ass Q; they’re from Westmont, IL and also run a restaurant called Uncle Bub’s: www.unclebubs.com , now that’s what I’m after!

                        Uncle Bub's BBQ
                        132 S Cass Ave, Westmont, IL 60559

                        1. re: abf005

                          "But, I never asked for or questioned Chicago style BBQ, its origins, or limited menu choices"

                          "I'm looking for places that could meet the KCBS BBQ standard for making real "Q".

                          Yeah, I can't see why anybody'd take THAT as a slam on Chicago's Q.

                          Anyway, the thread's full of restaurant recommendations, from Honey 1 to Lem's to Exsenator. They just don't meet criteria imposed from some other region.

                          1. re: abf005

                            Ab -

                            Are you actually stating that you did not post this:
                            "I stand firm that doing a good Brisket is key, if a place cant do a respectable brisket they probably aren't that great anyway."

                            We can most definitely infer that you are stating that the places that do not offer brisket "probably aren't that great." This is what I was "stuck" on - so to speak. We can only read what you've written, not what you meant.

                            1. re: gordeaux

                              G: No I haven't waffled, and I still stand by the original statement that: "doing a good Brisket is key, if a place cant do a respectable brisket they probably aren't that great anyway." It's a whole package thing, I desire to go somewhere where ALL the menu items are offered and are all of them are outstanding.

                              Now that's not to say I wouldn't go to back to or try a "one trick pony" type of place that only did ribs for example, and be hugely impressed with them, its just means I would not have found my BBQ nirvana.

                              1. re: abf005

                                < It's a whole package thing, I desire to go somewhere where ALL the menu items are offered and are all of them are outstanding.> then you better skip Chicago. Brisket doesn't go with Chicago 'que. I have never heard of a place that does it the way you are talking about. Fwiw, I don't consider the Carson's style Barbecue.

                                I'd be taking you to Lem's or Coleman's, but you won't find brisket at those places. Just pork or chicken

                            2. re: abf005

                              On a recent trip to Uncle Bub's, the platter was served up almost ice cold. The Chicken was chilly to the touch. They do have some tasty Q, but getting cold food is creepy and gross. We stopped going there 'cos everything started to taste like bad hotdogs--gave it another go, and we got cold food. (with the exception of my burnt ends, which were fabbo) Um--Bub's is off the twig for now.

                              1. re: qzq

                                Uncle Bubs service can be spotty at times. I have had orders lost, and other service issues.

                                But as far as bbq in the western suburbs it is the best thing we have(kind of like being the talles midget). I typically only go for lunch nowdays for a pulled pork sandwich.

                        2. I don't really care if it meets the litany of qualifications. Honey 1 is the best in town.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Helper Monkey

                            I see allot of recs for Honey1 (including Check Please) and I have to say that I found Hecky's & Hillary's to be much better versions of that Southside Chicago style BBQ.

                            So far though, even the BBQ heavy weights like Honey1 & Hecky's just haven't even impressed me with the one thing they supposedly do so great. I guess I am not as easily impressed with "just OK" BBQ as most.

                          2. Famous Daves is to BBQ what the Olive Garden is to Italian. If you're happy with that, end your search.

                            39 Replies
                            1. re: Leper

                              Nope, and that why the search continues on!!

                              Even the most average person has to admittedly concede that if a chain outdoes about 90% of the locals restaurants, that it gives you strong indication of the poor quality available out there right?

                              It's like being in a town where Dominoes is rated the best Pizza and you know better.

                              Being a both a BBQ fan a Chicagoan I refuse to accept we have no solid offerings in the BBQ category. I understand that in NYC they are experiencing a surge of BBQ with new places opening up all the time. In a recent Food Network special they said that the highest percent of new restaurants opening in 2006 & 2007 were ones that offered BBQ. Maybe that trend will hit here next, I know that new ones like Smoque & the Full Slab have started to open up around here in the last couple of years.

                              1. re: abf005

                                "Even the most average person has to admittedly concede that if a chain outdoes about 90% of the locals restaurants, that it gives you strong indication of the poor quality available out there right?"

                                But no one else agrees with you that that's happening.

                                1. re: Morton Arthur Eaton

                                  "But no one else agrees with you that that's happening." That doesn’t mean much to me really, there may be folks out there who are not posting since they can see the giant cowpie I’ve stepped into, asking for what I did!

                                  I still think we’re still not hearing from enough people to reach any conclusions, but then again, I started a thread looking for what I LIKE, and not what was the consensus favorite either.

                                  All in all, I will say this thread is turning out a few interesting new recs, and as I re-read all the above posts here is what I saw:

                                  1. Honey1
                                  2. Lem's
                                  3. Barbara Ann's
                                  4. Uncle John's
                                  5. Smoke Daddy
                                  6. Coleman's
                                  7. The Original Painted Doll
                                  8. Ribs and Bibs
                                  9. Gematos
                                  10. BBQ Bob's
                                  11. Smoque
                                  12. Honky Tonk BBQ

                                  It’s nice to see a few new names tossed out since I don’t think most of them (about 8) have never been recommended before on Chowhound prior to this thread.

                                  1. re: abf005

                                    All of those except The Original Painted Doll have been discussed, many very extensively, on chowhound before. Some might not have been recommended, but that's because (like Gemato's), they aren't worth recommending.

                                    Exsenator's, I-57, and the south side Leon's have all been widely discussed here as well, and are worth visiting.

                                    Virtually none of these places serve brisket or pulled pork, but many of them smoke excellent tips, links, and spare ribs.

                                    1. re: abf005

                                      "I still think we’re still not hearing from enough people to reach any conclusions."

                                      Well, it sounds like you've reached a conclusion, which was pretty much a foregone one.

                                      Premise: A BBQ MUST offer ribs (baby-back or spare or both), pulled pork AND beef brisket, all three to qualify as real BBQ.

                                      Fact: With the exception, perhaps, of Smoque (which you should try)most Chicago BBQs do not have or emphasize beef or smoked briskets.

                                      Conclusion; Chicago does not have real BBQ, or, at the best, very much of it.

                                      Anyone who accepts your premise is likely to come to the above conclusion, Whether that premise has any validity, however, seems to be what this discussion is all about.

                                      By the way, I was also on the KCBS site, and altho I could have missed it, I didn't find any standard that required a BBQ shack to offer all three items to be considered a true BBQ. All I found was the fact that all 3, along with chicken, qualify as contenders for competitions. Again, I could have missed it, but even if it's there, it doesn't necessarily mean the premise is a valid one, although it would lend it some authority.

                                      Anyway, be sure to try Smoque one of these days.

                                      1. re: jbw

                                        The KCBS standards speak more to the prep and methods for cooking and judging rather than what restaurant menus and which competition meats can be submitted to get judged. Obviously since Memphis in May is all pork, the KC Royal is mixed beef & pork as is the Jack Daniels invitational, it's obvious that's its not a KCBS rule about presenting mixed meat at a competition, BUT it is a KCBS thing on how they are prepared and judged, and I'm looking for places that could pass that level of scrutiny.

                                        As I've painstakingly repeated ad nauseum, as the OP its completely about me, what I like and what I am seeking, if that's not to anyone's standards or liking, fine! Get you own thread topic going and set up your own criteria!!

                                        I will try Smoque, its been on my ever so long list of places to get to and eat. I will also endeavor to hit many of the others mentioned in this thread that I've missed over the years as well.

                                      2. re: abf005

                                        Hi again, ab -

                                        Which of these 12 have you NOT been to yet?

                                        1. re: gordeaux

                                          Of the above listed 12, I've only been to Honey1. Which means I now have 11 new places to try.

                                          Being as I live far up north in Gurnee and work in the loop, most of the places I tend to hit are usually on the Northside or northern burb's.

                                          Keep in mind, that missing from the list (but places that I've been to) were Hecky's, Fat Willy's, Texan Barbeque (Algonquin) and few others that my aging mind is not recalling right now.

                                          I know it doesn't sound like much right there, but if you add up the countless jello ribs joints that I was sent to when this all started, and add in the Lake County & Southern Wisconsin places its actually quite a few places that I've hit in my quest to find good Q.

                                          All told, I've hit around 25-30 places around the Chicagoland area. Not enough to be an absolute authority on Chicago BBQ, but enough to start to see many trends and similarities.

                                          Nationwide that list of places I've frequented grows to well over 200, having traveled extensively in places where BBQ is easily (or only)the best food in town.

                                          1. re: abf005

                                            "I know it doesn't sound like much right there, but if you add up the countless jello ribs joints that I was sent to when this all started, and add in the Lake County & Southern Wisconsin places its actually quite a few places that I've hit in my quest to find good Q."

                                            ..Lookin' for love in all the wrong places...

                                            I would suggest you put Smoque, and Honky Tonk BBQ on the top of your list for trying brisket. (I haven't been to Smoke Daddy or Fat Willy's, so I won't comment/recommend)

                                            For Chicago Q, I would cross Coleman's, and Ribs and Bibs OFF of your list. Lem's, Barbara Ann's, and Uncle John's are consistently better IMO. Of those three (For Chicago Q,) I would rate them:
                                            1. Uncle John's Tips and Links
                                            2. Barbara Ann's Tips and Links
                                            3. Lem's spares.

                                            If you eat any more meat jello, that's your own fault for not checking here first. Remember, there are ppl in Chicago that think the meat jello style is good. So, if you ask a stranger where to get good ribs, and they reply with "Carson's," or "The Fireplace Inn," then it's your own fault if you go.

                                            Now, on to this "Original Painted Doll."
                                            Who's got intel on this place?

                                            1. re: gordeaux

                                              "If you eat any more meat jello, that's your own fault for not checking here first. Remember, there are ppl in Chicago that think the meat jello style is good. So, if you ask a stranger where to get good ribs, and they reply with "Carson's," or "The Fireplace Inn," then it's your own fault if you go. "

                                              Yeah, keep in mind allot of it it was prior to finding this site and some other sites and search tools to ferret out those places! Guess you have to kiss allot of toads...

                                              One note; being as I've never been much of a fan of either rib tips or Chicago style hot links, this may be a hard list to complete. But I've always liked the Texas style smoked (Elgin) beef links and hot links down there whenever I can partake. So I'll give the first one or two places a go, and if they are just more of the same-o same-o, then I'll just have to stick to my trusty Cookshack & Masterbuilt smokers to keep getting what I really crave! Thanks for the recommendations-

                                              1. re: gordeaux

                                                I'm trying to figure out if all this is serious. Do I laugh or cry? Someone has to rise and admit that no self respecting foodie would be caught dead in some of the places listed here. For one thing, the so-called "jello meat" (not my term) is obviously popular for a reason. This higher than thou attitude is really off the charts. Take Carsons - some of us have enjoyed it for many years running. Ditto for Twin Anchors for people I know. Are we all wrong? Not likely. There's a reason these have thrived - loyal following, good service, great food, great portions. If I really want a rundown shack by the highway somewhere I'll know where to go. But if I want a reliable meal in a decent setting with pleasant surroundings I'll also know. And the word is "tender and juicy" for heavens sake (not "jello"). Sheesh!

                                                1. re: j.walker

                                                  Oh, it's DEAD serious. Don't laugh or cry, just keep doin what you're doin. And there are also some who believe that no self respecting foodie would be caught pimping meat jello as real bbq. Meat jello is meat jello. It has its place, and I will eat it from time to time. But if I know someone is looking for bbq ribs, and they are from the parts of the country that take bbq seriously, there's no way I would send them to Carson's, or twin anchors, or Fireside (Fireplace Inn?) I would lose all cue cred. Sorry, it's just how it is in other parts of the country. I agree that the higher than thou attitude is kinda off the charts, but abf is a serious Texas cue person looking for serious Texas cue. Prolly won't find too much of it here, cuz this ain't Texas, and we have our own style.

                                                  And some ppl might take your statements as the most hypocritical thing ever written:

                                                  " Someone has to rise and admit that no self respecting foodie would be caught dead in some of the places listed here."

                                                  "This higher than thou attitude is really off the charts."

                                                  I'm not sure which places you are referring to here. Care to elaborate?

                                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                                    "meat jello is meat jello"

                                                    very well put gordeaux.

                                                  2. re: j.walker

                                                    Finally, something we all can AGREE on!!

                                                    J.W: It really sounds like you need to Google and channel surf a bit more on this topic. Perhaps you need to watch a few TV shows on BBQ such as BBQ University, BBQ with Bobby Flay or Barbecue America and you'll quickly see that it’s a religion with allot of folks all over the country and many here as well, particularly on the Southside, but its appreciation is slowly spreading across to the Northside with places like Honey1 and Smokque and the recommendations given throughout this thread. I hadn’t really made that connection before, but it does seem that the jello guys dominate only on the Northside...

                                                    BBQ is a very competitive art with many established rules for judging, how it is prepared and lastly and most importantly, its taste.

                                                    Even so, I (and many others) would not have nearly as much of an issue with what the meat jello guys made if they would just stop calling it BBQ! Just because something has BBQ sauce on it, does not make it BBQ!! For example; did you ever dip/or pour BBQ sauce over your French fries? I'll bet you didn't call them “BBQ’d fries” if you did, did you? That's because you know the sauce had nothing to do with the preparation because they were still FRIED. Mashed potatoes are still mashed potatoes, with or without the gravy. So apply the same logic here. Meat jello joints are not absolutely not BBQ, period. It’s meat with BBQ sauce. Anyone that sells boiled/braised/steamed meats that simply have BBQ sauce painted on and then either baked or grilled the sauce 10-15 mins to finish has taken a major shortcut to make the food quickly and produce an inferior product.
                                                    Defenders of the jello, you need to understand that it’s not the flavor, popularity, loyalty, service, or even who & how many clients there are eating it, it’s simply the fact that the food has nothing to do with being barbecued! It’s the technology on how it is produced that's in question here. If Famous Dave’s is the Olive Garden of BBQ, then I counter; Twin Anchor’s and its ilk are the Chef Boyardee’s of BBQ.

                                                    And while I may not personally enjoy some of the "styles" we spoke about in this great thread from a taste perspective and personal preference, I certainly RESPECT the effort, care and skill taken by those pitmasters who operate a “rundown shack by the highway somewhere”, and have the guts to create food in a smoker the old fashioned way.

                                                    1. re: abf005

                                                      Let me avoid all the semantics to once again illustrate the logical fallacy applied to barbecue styles in the area. Feel free to take either Twin Anchors or Firehouse as perfectly good examples. Each is well known for its ribs with a tradition spanning many many years and thousands of satisfied customers. Excellent food, comfortable atmosphere, decent prices - in short, successful places that do good and do well. I don't personally know about some of the other locations mentioned in these posts, but I'm pretty sure they don't have the loyal following of the more recognized spots - for a REASON. Since when is tender and juicy like the TA product a bad thing in barbecue ribs? When the guardians of orthodoxy demand that their barbecue be dry, fatty and tasteless you know we've flown off the tracks. Jello meat? OK FINE. An uncomfortable shack does not great barbecue make. The irony is unbelievable. Yikes.

                                                      1. re: j.walker

                                                        "I don't personally know about some of the other locations mentioned in these posts, but I'm pretty sure they don't have the loyal following of the more recognized spots - for a REASON"

                                                        For me, the reason is the same reason there are sites devoted to good food like this one, and plenty of others.

                                                        The same reason that there are lines of ppl cramming into the taquerias that serve pan fried chuck steak, and call it "carne asada"

                                                        The same reason that the tamales sold in the hot dog joints even exist.

                                                        The same reason that people go to subway, and actually think that what they are ordering is really meat.

                                                        The same reason that most Americanized chinese food is just globs of cornstarch, and people actually think it is good Chinese food. While all of the Asian ppl are laughing.

                                                        I personally have no real problem with jello meat ribs, I just really prefer them smoked. To me, they have MUCH more flavor, and are much juicier if smoked correctly. The meat jello ones seem so much more just one dimensional.

                                                        As for the whole BQ shack thing, you are correct in that an uncomfortable shack does not great bq make, but that also holds true for the opposite. TA might be comfortable, but that says nothing about the quality of the food. I do realize the point you were trying to make, but you are full of inconsistencies. And irony? Your statement here is irony:
                                                        "I don't personally know about some of the other locations mentioned in these posts"

                                                        That statement speaks VOLUMES to me about where you are coming from - so to speak.

                                                        In your context, Mcdonald's has a bigger following than Charlie Beinlich's, so McDonald's is better?

                                                        Taco Bell has a bigger following than Las Asada's, or La Pasadita, so Taco Bell is better.

                                                        Where I'm going with this is:
                                                        Those who "don't personally know about some of the other locations mentioned in these posts" are probably the ppl who never will - even though there were a few articles over the summer in the Trib claiming Uncle John's had the best cue in the city. People aren't interested in trying something new. Uj's is on 69th on the SE side of the city, so it is off limits. Taboo. Good food be damned. Whatever. And I can't wait to get back down to Texas to visit my uncle and get some great bar-q from all of their roadside shacks. I also love to go to Uj's and get take out. Guess it's perspective. I'm not scared of the shacks at ALL. This city is so great, and diverse with food, I would consider it a shame to limit myself to not explore the great food options.
                                                        Devon, Argyle, Chinatown, Pilsen, Cottage Grove in the 70's. GREAT foods in seedy spots. I would never limit myself like that. Guess we have different ideas on what a "foodie" is since you have stated that

                                                        "Someone has to rise and admit that no self respecting foodie would be caught dead in some of the places listed here."

                                                        1. re: j.walker

                                                          The point is that you can definitely get tender and juicy ribs by boiling the flavor out of them BUT YOU'VE STILL BOILED THE FLAVOR OUT THEM. You could boil a hamburger and it would be juicy, but who would want to eat it?

                                                          You can also get tender, juicy, and more flavorful ribs (with a better texture) if you smoke the ribs correctly. This is very hard to do and that's one of the reasons why there's such an argument on this board. BTW: if the BBQ is dry, fatty, or tasteless, it was cooked incorrectly.

                                                          You asked why Twin Anchors, Carsons, and the like have such a big following? Maybe it's because the people who swear by those places haven't had good BBQ. Even YOU said you don't know about some of the places listed on this board. Go to them and find out.

                                                          1. re: rubinow

                                                            There's no maybe about it.

                                                            I brought a few tip /link combos and a few slabs of spares from Bba ann's to a super bowl party this year, and people lost their f'n minds eating the stuff. They thought ribs were supposed to be meat jello, and not have any texture or flavor other than the sauce.

                                                            I've brought COUNTLESS numbers of people to Las Asada's for tacos made with char grilled skirt steak instead of the chewy pan fried chuck steak that most ppl think tacos are supposed to be made out of, and I can tell you that exactly none of those people will ever eat at places like El Famous or Taco Burrito Palace again. This is the reason why I visit boards like this: to try new places that have good food. Always looking for the best of the best.

                                                            1. re: gordeaux

                                                              Apropos of El Famous, La Asadas and the lot of unknown places that nobody will ever miss, I wish them loads of luck. But that is flatly not the point here. And please do not confuse these spots with those having a lasting mark in our city and affecting styles for years to come, including Carsons and Twin Anchors. The modest, humble barbecue devotees deserve a voice too without getting shouted down by the high priests. Clinging to bygone beliefs may have its quaint charm, but not when it's resistant to all reason and earnest pleas. To paraphrase an old politician: "Extremism in the name of dried out, fatty barbecue is no virtue." In other words, let's ease up on the sanctimony and get the discussion back to its original topic - local barbecue. Has anyone mentioned Bandannas?

                                                              1. re: j.walker

                                                                Never heard of it. Tell us what's up with it?

                                                                1. re: gordeaux

                                                                  Bandanas was mentioned by the OP.

                                                                  It is a chain from St. Louis with locations in Collinsville, Bloomington, and Fairview Heights, IL.

                                                                  Bandanas Barbeque Collinsville
                                                                  4 Commerce Dr, Collinsville, IL 62234

                                                                  Bandanas Barbeque Fairview Heights
                                                                  4608 N Illinois St, Fairview Heights, IL 62208

                                                                  Bandana's Barbq
                                                                  502 Iaa Dr, Bloomington, IL 61701

                                                                  1. re: rubinow

                                                                    Yes Ive been there and I may have listed it as an example of a decent quality chain (better than Famous Dave's but yet still a chain). It is not local to Chicago as it is a St. Louis & East St. Louis area establishment.

                                                                2. re: j.walker

                                                                  "Apropos of El Famous, La Asadas and the lot of unknown places that nobody will ever miss, I wish them loads of luck. But that is flatly not the point here. And please do not confuse these spots with those having a lasting mark in our city and affecting styles for years to come, including Carsons and Twin Anchors."

                                                                  I really think you are speaking for too many people when you claim that these spots will not be missed by anyone, and will not leave any kind of mark. La Pasadita, and Las Asada's (same family ownership) and a few indie taquerias are the reason that people are discovering that steak from a taqueria does not have to be chewy, gristly, garbage meat. There's a new indie gringo place up in Evanston, and new taquerias serving real food are popping up. (Kinda like there are real cue places popping up now)

                                                                  But you are definitely entitled to that opinion. I respect that you can have that opinion, but wholeheartedly disagree because the facts do not support your opinion. But, like you said before:
                                                                  "I don't personally know about some of the other locations mentioned in these posts."
                                                                  "Someone has to rise and admit that no self respecting foodie would be caught dead in some of the places listed here."

                                                                  I'm guess I'm more of an explorer than you, and really don't have any fear of venturing into the unknown. I have found some of the best food in the city that way - regardless of who knows about it or not. I just really don't think your opinion on what is a shack is valid, or what is better than your favorite spots is valid, or what will be missed or not is valid simply because you are comparing to what you do not know for yourself. I've been to TA, and Fireside, and I think Uncle John's or Barbara Ann's blows them out of the water.

                                                          2. re: abf005

                                                            "I (and many others) would not have nearly as much of an issue with what the meat jello guys made if they would just stop calling it BBQ!"

                                                            I don't think this is gonna happen. I've often heard it said on these and other boards that if there's no smoke, there's no BBQ. Well, one other barbecue locus where the smoke doesn't necessarily touch the meat is in the dictionary. This is how Webster's defines "barbecue":

                                                            "1 : to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat (as hot coals)
                                                            2 : to cook in a highly seasoned vinegar sauce"

                                                            Now, I would never consult a dictionary to determine what constitutes good barbecue, but Webster's is a pretty good authority for language usage, and I think we spend a lot of time arguing over what is and is not "BBQ" when BBQ itself has become (and maybe always was) a fairly generic term. Perhaps before discussing it seriously, we need to apply an adjective such as what, e.g., constitutes "good" BBQ or "Texas" BBQ or even, God help us, "Chicago" BBQ. But to try to eliminate the term BBQ from the landscape (and particularly long after our marketing geniuses have gotten ahold of it) unless connected to a specific technique seems to me, however just the cause, to be a losing battle. No matter what our great pitmasters and BBQ mavens say and do, the word "BBQ" will continue to raise its head in smokeless environments, as in "KFC Honey BBQ Sandwich."

                                                            1. re: jbw

                                                              Excellent point - and very well said. About time we had a little balance on the topic. Hat's off!

                                                            2. re: abf005

                                                              so how many traditional pitmasters, of any regional style, do you think watch "bbq with bobby flay" routinely?

                                                              these are completely honest questions-- do you think that "religious" Q cookers learn from watching the tube?

                                                              do you think the north burbs of chicago are the right place to look for "real" Q?

                                                              do you make a distinction between people cooking Q as a team competition, on the smoke circuit; and pro cooks who make Q for a living, every day, in a restaurant/shack/other establishment-- this is a response to your reference to the Jack Daniels championship team from chi-town-- asking where their restaurant is-- do you see the Q designed to win the big competitions as more "real" Q than regional specialty faves?

                                                              i personally would be more apt to go to the regional specialty places which you describe upthread as "one trick ponies". a place which has pulled pork, ribs, AND brisket on the menu would send up red flags, in the same way as a sign on a new restaurant offering "fine chinese, vietnamese, and korean foods--full sushi bar."

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                I have to disagree..

                                                                Pulled pork, ribs and brisket are the staples of bbq, and bbq competitions.

                                                                Your comparison of a bbq place that offers these three staples of true bbq to a place that would offer chinese, vietnamese, korean, food, and a sushi bar is off base.

                                                                As for finding real bbq in Northern Illinois, it is not that hard. There are alot of dedicated people in the area who own smokers, and are students of true bbq. I am one of them. During the summer my smoker is fired up almost every Saturday & Sunday, and during the winter a little less, I am still trying to perfect my recipies for ribs(babyback & St. Louis), pulled pork, and brisket, and I have been at it for over 5 years.

                                                                To me:

                                                                bbq = smoked slow & low

                                                                meat jello = boiled, or baked

                                                                1. re: swsidejim

                                                                  i am not defending meat jello, & i'm not talking about backyard BBQ aficionados who can turn out pulled pork, ribs & brisket at home.

                                                                  i'm talking about BBQ restaurant establishments, people's livelihoods, not hobby cooking. Q restaurants often specialize in regional delicacies the pitmaster is competent in and passionate about, & may not offer items in another Q region's style. the op's insistence on all 3 competition meats under 1 roof means that he's apt to keep eating at bbq chains like famous dave's rather than experiencing the best regional Q his area has to offer.

                                                                  think again before overlooking "limited" menus at small establishments. Q menus are designed to sell *all* the expensive, time, & wood consuming meat the establishment produces-- discarded Q leftovers don't help pay the bills, so a competent pitmaster will offer the regional faves rather than exotic items (like texas brisket in chicago), that may not consistently sell and would be wasted. chains have the traffic to have all the regional styles on the same menu; the small, expert-run shop doesn't have this traffic, must cater to local tastes, & the op should weight his comparison accordingly.

                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                    I understand.

                                                                    I am not a fan of Famous Dave's at all. The local place I go to lucky for me offers ribs, pulled pork, and brisket, and I often get a combo of the three. I do see your point that not all Chicago places offer brisket as it is not as popular up here.

                                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                                  Well put swsidejim- BTW: I've always loved that icon of yours showing the offset smoker! We should talk rib cooking some time.

                                                                  That would send up Red flags huh?! ROFLMAO Why, too much of a good thing?

                                                                  The beautiful thing about BBQ is its breadth of offerings that appear on many of the menus here and across the nation. I’ve seen, roast beef, pork loin, tenderloins, baloney, sausage, ham, turkey, chicken, hot links, cheeses, fish, nuts/seeds, there’s hot smoking and then there’s cold smoking –you get the picture? A smoker is one of the most versatile outdoor cooking tools out there. And thus, if it can be smoked it can be found on a BBQ menu somewhere!

                                                                  OK the questions, with completely honest answers:

                                                                  “so how many traditional pitmasters, of any regional style, do you think watch "bbq with bobby flay" routinely?”

                                                                  I have no idea the exact number, but if you ever talk with any of these guys , they all know each other’s shows, books, and blogs. Yes!! Of course, the pitmasters (be they a celebrity or circuit pro) read and watch other chef/pitmasters on TV, internet, blogs, bbq forums. And even more so when they are together in person they will discuss BBQ long into the night, the techniques, spices, rubs, brine solutions, temp probs, smokers and even utensils and on and on.

                                                                  “do you think that "religious" Q cookers learn from watching the tube?”

                                                                  It helped me allot, I think one of the best teachers out there is Stephen Raichlen of BBQ University on WTTW. I’ve been cooking and smoking BBQ for many years now and I’m pretty good. But without those shows, bbq blogs, and the unending patience of some great pitmasters to advise me and teach me, I would have never had the guts to enter myself in a rib cookoff that I competed in last year. BTW: my team is Bad-2-da-Bone BBQ

                                                                  “do you think the north burbs of Chicago are the right place to look for "real" Q?”

                                                                  I think anywhere is the right place, in the north burbs we have Hillary’s & Brothers Ribs as great examples of what good Q should be like.

                                                                  “do you make a distinction between people cooking Q as a team competition, on the smoke circuit; and pro cooks who make Q for a living, every day, in a restaurant/shack/other establishment--

                                                                  the same quality rules apply, technique is the same the big difference is the holding and serving of product to a dinner/lunch crowd. In Texas some places offer it up when its readied and if it runs out your SOL. But really the people cooking the bbq and competing are often times one and same, lots of restaurants take their bbq to the circuit and have pro teams, like the guy in Westmont: Uncle Bubs or more famously “Famous Dave’s” and vice verse, Super Smokers was a champion team that opened a restaurant in Eureka, MO that is out of this world. It happens all the time and all over the country.

                                                                  “this is a response to your reference to the Jack Daniels championship team from chi-town-- asking where their restaurant is-- do you see the Q designed to win the big competitions as more "real" Q than regional specialty faves?”

                                                                  Regional specialties? Not really, when I went to Texas, pulled pork, pork ribs (spare & BB)are almost always on the menu every place, but yet *most* people incorrectly assume Texas is just beef. By contrast, while in Virginia, a known pork market, I had no problem finding brisket. It’s what the people know about and are they broadening their views on the possibilities. NY city just had a BBQ epiphany and now all these regional styles are commonly available there, and in reality Chicago is slowly coming around, with a growing awareness.

                                                                  So while sometimes the locals never acquire the taste for anything different and the movements die out, its still all about getting a variety, and isn't Chicago a big enough market that we could easily offer up more than tips and links?? cmon really!! I don't see us shying away from 1000's of ethnic cuisines and varieties of pizza or whatever. So why draw the line at BBQ?

                                                                  1. re: abf005


                                                                    we can talk bbq anytime.

                                                                    the avitar picture is my smoker on our deck overlooking our property out in the sticks by Starved Rock where we live.

                                                                    I am just a novice meat smoker, and have alot to learn. I have a good rub down pat , now I am just perfecting technique, and smoke times for ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder/butt.

                                                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                                                      Baby Backs - 4-5 hrs at 225 or 3.5-4 hrs at 245
                                                                      Spares - add an hour: 5-6 hrs at 225 or 4-5 hrs at 245, look for the rib rack to "flex" from its own weight when you lift in thee center, if it breaks you overcooked, if its stiff as a board keep smoking.

                                                                      Brisket- that's a temp thing- you cook at 225, until you hit 190 internal, but there is a step at which you need to foil (called a Texas crutch) and add broth to keep it moist and create a braising envelope.

                                                                      Check out the Smoking Okie guides at the Cookshack forum: http://www.cookshack.com/index_guides... or just hit the forum direct: http://forum.cookshack.com/eve/forums

                                                                      I'll hit you up later- gotta run-

                                                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                                                        I'm pretty much exactly in the same boat as swsidejim. I've been spoiled because my dad is a bbq "master." Never really had any reason to try it on my own since he is always smokin something up on the wknds. I've been learning his ways, and doing pretty well. Funny story: First time I heard my dad use the F word was when I opened up the lid to his smoker just to check things out for a few minutes. the charcoal he was using started to heat up because of the air, and he saw the red glow out of the corner of his eye, and ran over screaming at me to close the f'n door before I burned the f'n ribs!! He is serious about his cue.

                                                                      2. re: abf005

                                                                        Strange that you would mention Stephen Raichlen of BBQ University. The 4 times I watched his show always involved cooking food on a gas or charcoal grill, never on a smoker. The supposed BBQ purists have shot me down pretty hard for not playing up the difference between "true BBQ" and grilling. I don't share that belief, I say BBQ can be whatever the BBQ-er wants it to be. I'm just sayin'...

                                                                        1. re: YoYoPedro

                                                                          I have to give the man props, Raichlen has been a tremendous postive influence and authority in the BBQ world. He is a classically trained chef who studied in France, and has turned that knowledge and talent into some of the best illustrated and written books & recipes on the market as well as one of the most believable food shows (unlike Rachel Ray) out there.

                                                                          That being said, his show which is sponsored in part by Weber (a great quality product no doubt) which means he chooses to do all of the cooking on either a Weber gas grill or the awesome Weber Ranch charcoal grill (the monster). Unfortunately, he rarely pulls out the the WSM -Weber Smokey Mountain ( www.virtualweberbullet.com ) to cook with, but has several smokers on the set including a WSM, a Brinkmann, and Green Egg. I'm guessing the time constraints of a 30 min show and a 5-20 hr cook time don't mesh very well.

                                                                          Nonetheless, if you listen to his show regularly or read the cookbooks, you'll note that he speaks in high praise of those who use smokers and has instructions and tips for them as well. Last year on his website, he stated that he would be touring with the championship team of Super Smokers so he could compete in a KCBS judged event, I don't know if it happened or not.

                                                                          As to the purists, well I'm not exactly one of them but I know all the logic and arguments. This is the deal; its all about process, temperature and your cooking device.

                                                                          Process; use rubs, injections, marinades, brine's, even cures but NO precooking (boil, bake, etc), and cook low & slow with smoke in discrete amounts.
                                                                          Temp; LOW! under 275 anything higher is GRILLING, 90% of the time the typical cook temp is done at the magic 225 degree temp.
                                                                          Device: a grill set up indirectly (like Raichlen) will do the job but not as well, the main thing is the heat source, gotta have wood or charcoal in the enclosure, some purists dismiss electric & gas smokers that send in pure smoke and easily controled temperatures. I have two electrics on my deck, (I work away from the house, so I cant tend a fire all day and night to get my que.) but the result is almost the same, offsets get better bark but tend to dry out, electrics get more moisture but less bark and no smoke ring (not that you can taste a smoke ring since its an appearance thing based on chemical reactions).

                                                                          Anyway, I like to call it what it is, BBQ and smoking are the same thing low slow and with smoke, grilling is grilling, high temps fast cook times, and well boiling is boiling ain't it??

                                                                  2. re: j.walker

                                                                    j.walker wrote "rundown shack by the highway somewhere"

                                                                    Dude, Honey 1 and Smoque are by no means in rundown shacks by the highway, nor are the settings unpleasant. They are not white-tablecloth places, but they are both places you can sit and have a reasonable meal in a reasonable room.

                                                                    1. re: leek

                                                                      Best barbecue I've ever had was in 'rundown shacks' - Archibalds, LCs, Sweatmans, Smittys, Craigs, Paynes. Southern IL too - Shemwells in Cairo, Pulleys in Marion. It's the OP's loss.

                                                                      1. re: burton

                                                                        Burton- you misread, I am the OP and I am the one defending those humble high quality shacks!! Be they in Chicago or anywhere in the country for that matter.

                                                      1. re: veeral

                                                        Baby Back Blues in Plainfield is pretty good, I must say. The place is a dump, decor-wise, but, hell I WANT my BBQ places to be funky. The ribs are tasty, as are the pork and brisket. The prices are right, and your clothes will reek of smoke after you leave (in a good way). The side dishes, especially the cole slaw are right up there. There's nothing on the menu except BBQ-it's a purist place. Those who patronize BBB are rabid about it. This is the closest thing my Wife and I have found to the Southern SONNY'S chain. (q.v.) In fact, during a recent visit to Dixie, Wife said that BBB even had the edge. They play non-commercial blues music, as you might imagine, and the place has a lazy, easy vibe. Just west of I-55 at the Rt. 30 exit. Follow your nose. You might want to consider bringing along real utensils, as the plastic sometimes doesn't cut it. There's no booze, no dress code and no foolin'...a righteous BBQ dive in the burbs.

                                                        1. re: qzq

                                                          Wow! Sounds great! You've got me thinking ROAD TRIP!

                                                          1. re: qzq

                                                            thanks for the tip, this place is on my home from work in the suburbs each night. No booze or beer, eh? Perhaps a quick stop for some carry-out for me.

                                                        2. ...just curious. Has anyone been to Calvins? I have not seen that name in the BBQ thread. And...What is the opinion of Sweet Baby Rays (2 locations)? I've have eaten there a few times and enjoyed it. As for Uncle Bubs, we've had some winners and some losers when eating there. Same for Salt Creek BBQ. And well, I share the opinion of Famous Dave's. It's the Olive Garden of BBQ (if you like that - then enjoy).

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: HomeChef

                                                            I've been to Calvins and gotten the beef sandwich. Not that great. I got the ribs a long time ago (I think). I guess I didn't think much of them if I can't even remember them. I went to Smokin' Woody's a long time ago, too (that's Calvin's other place). I seem to remember that it was OK.

                                                            He smokes the meat there (a plus). I'd be willing to try again.

                                                          2. I think Fat Willy's meets all of your requirements. You might need to ask them to serve the sauce on the side when ordering ribs. For me, it is my favorite BBQ place in the Chicagoland area, by far.


                                                            1. Yeah yeah... the darlings of FoodPornTV... but it is pretty good stuff.

                                                              Smoque BBQ
                                                              Neighborhood: Portage Park
                                                              3800 N. Pulaski Rd.
                                                              Chicago, IL 60641

                                                              What have you found to be "acceptable Q" in your search?

                                                              I'd have to agree, most of what we see is more "acceptable of mediocre" stuff. I l-o-n-g and l-o-w smoke pork shoulder for 12hrs, using apple, oak and maple woods (and... do cheat with charcoal to keep the fire/ heat going). Dry rub that has been sitting on the thing for 48hrs before smoking.

                                                              I love the "meat jello" term... ugh, how HAS Twin Anchor's lasted so long? Kitsch only has som much of an effect, unless you're down for "acceptable of mediocrity".

                                                              1. After return visits to Honey 1, and Smoque on subsequent weekends I am now firmly in the Honey 1 camp for bbq on the north side.

                                                                I love the ribs, hot links, and rib tips at Honey 1, while the brisket at Smoque is excellent, but not good enough to compensate for their ribs.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: swsidejim

                                                                  Jim, I love you man, and if it was anyone else I might be throwing some verbal rocks, so maybe I owe myself a trip back to H1? Thing is, I just can’t get past the fact that they really screwed up my dinner in such a M-A-J-O-R way last time I was there, and I just don’t forgive easily when it comes to food. I mean I’ve had better Q served up as reheated Carson’s it was so bad…
                                                                  Seriously, Honey 1 really put some inferior shit on my plate: I’m talking about 3 full racks of ribs whose meat was so charred beyond recognition and devoid of moisture that they should have come in a Pemmican jerky bag! And if that’s the best they’ve got, then this place isn’t worthy of being in business. You know the more I think about it, I really have to say, who the hell am I kidding? I really feel like this: Screw em’, they aren’t worthy of another $30 donation just to be sure they do or don’t suck, great places would NEVER put garbage like that on a plate and still sell it, they totally blew it!
                                                                  Anyway, let me get on to another local smoke shack; Smoque. I finally made it over there for lunch this past weekend (on Saturday) and my verdict it’s good, not great, not authentic, just good! That being said IMO, it's one the better ones I've had in the Chicago area, but then again, nothing that doesn’t come out my smoker in Chicago is even close to being in a league with even most of the average Texas Q joint's. And you can all hate me for saying it, I really don’t care.
                                                                  Back to the review: we were a good sized party of 6, so we decided to order ala carte and sample some of the main items on the menu; 1 order of sliced brisket, 1 rack of babyback ribs & 1 rack of St Louis (spare) ribs, along with 4 sides and a small salad, the bill totaled out to a whopping $75 bucks!! And that was with us drinking only water and did not include tip!! The meat; the ribs were decent, I did slightly prefer the baby backs over the spares, but both were good. The sliced brisket was also good, but slightly overdone, almost to the point of being mushy from being kept in the holder for too long. Now I know they use only one spice rub for everything and it does seem to give repetitive notes across the board to all the meats, but overall the meat was decent. The sides; the cole slaw was fresh shredded and had huge pieces of cabbage in it, it was OK. The beans were interesting with hunks of brisket meat in there but they were WAAAY too damn sweet, guys: back off the sugar man!! I’m diabetic and those things should have a warning label! The Fries were fresh cut, which was a nice touch. The salad, well it was a salad! The small is big enough to feed two by the way. Overall not bad, but given the choice of driving 45 miles down from Gurnee to eat here vs. firing up my smoker, I’ll do the cooking.

                                                                  Couple more reviews:
                                                                  Thirsty Turtle Bar & BBQ – Antioch: went for the Door County boil & fish fry. The fry was tasty, the shrimp outstanding, and the BBQ ribs were very passable! I'm now curious about the rest of the BBQ offerings; brisket & pulled pork are on the menu and I’m thinking about even taking a 2nd swag at those ribs.

                                                                  Smokin' T's BBQ- Lake Zurich; Absolute crap! I’d go into detail, but suffice it to say that my dining companion and I threw out more that we ate.

                                                                  1. re: abf005

                                                                    glad your posting again abf. Too bad Honey 1 was such a disappointment, I have gone right at opening time to hopefully ensure fresh product. That Thistl Turtle Bar & BBQ sounds good, especially the door county boil and fish fry.

                                                                    I fired up the smoker this last weekend, and smoked some spare ribs using a mixture of cherry wood, apple wood, and green tea leaves. Damn good.

                                                                    1. re: abf005

                                                                      Hecky's is on top of my list of places to try.

                                                                      Before I was exposed to real bbq I actually thought Carson's ribs were not that bad, that coming from someone raised on ribs that were boiled(meat jello) & thin grilled.

                                                                      Once I had ribs down south, and got my own smoker, I learned what real bbq can be & have never wanted to return to Carson's, & have their ribs that are cooked off site, and reheated @ the restaurant.

                                                                2. New place in the northern burbs- Smokin' Ts. Corner of Old McHenry and Rt.22 in Long Grove- near Kemper Lakes Golf Course. Wood smoke, sauce on the side, no brisket- short ribs instead. Great sides- don't miss the beans.


                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: badpants

                                                                    Smokin' T's BBQ- Lake Zurich; Absolute crap! I’d go into detail, but suffice it to say that my dining companion and I threw out more than we ate.