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Oct 28, 2007 07:55 AM

Looking for Real Chicago BBQ

Abf005 suggested that someone start a separate thread if they don't share his/her criteria imposed from well outside the Chicago BBQ mainstream (as they come from both another city and from the world of BBQ competition, not restaurant BBQ). Seems sensible to me.

Real Chicago BBQ (as opposed to so-called "real BBQ in Chicago") is a regional style with certain characteristics:

1) Oink, not Moo. Even though Chicago was, obviously, a big beef town, real Chicago BBQ came up from the South, from the traditions of sharecroppers who raised a few pigs of their own, not cattle ranchers. So it's all about pork.

2) Primary items: rib tips, baby backs, hot links. Anything else is a bonus. A comprehensive menu is generally not a virtue; the best Chicago BBQ cooks specialize in a few items they love to make. The places that have a little bit of everything tend to be mediocre frathouse faux-honky-tonk joints.

3) Sides don't matter if the meat isn't spectacular. Sauce doesn't matter all that much.

4) Real smoke, from burning wood and charcoal in the process. Not boil-b-q.

And the winners are...

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  1. Good idea!

    For true Chicago Style pork BBQ any list should include:
    3) Honey1
    2) Heckys
    1) Hillary's in North Chicago/Waukegan (which I would give the nod to)

    All h names...

    2 Replies
    1. re: abf005

      First, I think the Hecky's in Evanston is good, but does not compare to Honey 1, Uncle John's, Barbara Ann's or Lem's. On the other hand, the Hecky's at Division/Halsted is downright awful, as I have found out on one visit there, and one takeout order.

      1. re: BRB

        I think more than any other restaurant type BBQ has the most potential to be great one day at a place, OK the next and simply horrid another. I don't doubt you had an off day, as I there are places I know are really good and they've disappointed at times, you just hate for that to be your first impression.

        As to Hecky's, I have experienced the exact oposite. I've ordered in from the Halsted Hecky's (yes, they deliver downtown to the Loop!) on many occasions and found the experience to be fairly consistent and good. Yet my last Evanston experience there was just "OK".

        It all must come down to time of day, day of the week and the lunar phase...

    2. Uncle John's, Barbara Ann's, Honey 1.

      UJ's wins by a mile for the hot links, but all three are superb.

      5 Replies
      1. re: gleam

        I finally went to Uncle John's.


        I like other places that have been mentioned a lot, but the rib tips and those links at Uncle John's were simply amazing. It's in a nowhere neighborhood and it's to-go only, but they're friendly as can be and the food is just outstanding. This is what real Chicago barbecue is all about-- a tiny shack with a smoker and fantastic tips and links.

        1. re: Morton Arthur Eaton

          "It's in a nowhere neighborhood..."

          I'm not so sure the residents of the neighborhood would appreciate this comment.

          1. re: tonyg

            Perhaps not, but it's true. There's very little retail or anything else around, no other reason for 97% of Chicago to be anywhere near there, and no reason to linger. I'm not saying it's a bad or dangerous place, there's just not a lot there.

            1. re: Morton Arthur Eaton

              I dunno about that. It's fairly close to Barbara Ann's, another top notch barbecue joint; Soul Vegetarian East; Lem's Barbecue; Dat Old Fashioned Doughnuts; Uncle Joe's Jerk; and That's-a-Burger (seriously, check that one out for sure).

              And it's not that far from Abundance Bakery on 47th or a ton of great Taquerias on 47th.

              There's an amazing amount of great food near 75th and Cottage Grove, and near MLK and 47th. It's worth exploring.

              Same goes for 95th St, and Halsted south of 95th. Tons of barbecue, jerk chicken, old fashioned bakeries, and other stuff that is hard to find north of Madison.

              1. re: gleam

                I guess I meant standing there and looking around, not what's within a reasonable distance by car.

      2. I'm a big fan of Uncle John's tip link combo w/ sauce on the side. The hot sauce is a little too over the top, so I get both hot and mild to mix. I've tried several of the reg recommendations for Chicago Q, but have yet to find better when they are "on." My opinion so far is that UJ's best day will beat all others on their best day for a tip link combo. Both for meat quality, and value. I also think that UJ's offers a bigger portion than most, but that's just been my experience.

        1. When I used to live in Hyde Park, I would often go to Ribs'n' Bibs, on 53rd a few blocks east of Woodlawn avenue. It is takeout only and my favorite was a half slab with fries. I haven't been back for awhile, but perhaps someone could let us both know how it is now. Thanks!

          1 Reply
          1. re: sgb

            I grew up on Ribs and Bibs. Haven't been there in two years, but from my last experience, if I currently lived next door to Ribs and Bibs, I would probably still bee-line to Uncle J's for q every time.