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Apr 13, 2011 09:40 AM

Looking for Best Ribs in Chicago - 2011 Updates Preferably Southside, but will travel

The Naperville Rib Fest is still several months away (July), and I have an awesome Jones for BBQ Ribs right now! I grew up eating ribs and other BBQ made at home, by a good friend of my family, who was originally from Shreveport, LA and who's family was well known it that area for their family run rib joints. I haven't had really good BBQ since he moved back to Shreveport and that was in 2005!

Since then, I have been underwhelmed and unimpressed, and/or downright disgusted by what the Chicago BBQ scene has had to offer. There are several post about Chicago BBQ on here, but the most recent I found was from 2007.

I've heard good and bad things about all these places:

Lem's BBQ House
Uncle John's BBQ
Ribs 'N Bibs
Honey 1 BBQ
Smoque BBQ
Lillie Q
Gale Street Inn
Fat Willy's Rib Shack

Please Help Me Chowhounds! How has the Best BBQ Ribs, tips, and hot links in Chicago now?

Thank you!

3800 N Pulaski Rd Ste 2, Chicago, IL 60641

Fat Willy's Rib Shack
2416 W Schubert Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

11860 S Cicero Ave, Alsip, IL 60803

Gale Street Inn
935 Diamond Lake Rd, Mundelein, IL 60060

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  1. Retail BBQ is a mildly fickle thing. For consistently great "Chicago Aquarium Smoker" tips and links, my vote would be for Uncle John's on 69th.

    Your list is not broken down correctly for searching.
    These are Chicago Aquarium Smoker Joints:
    Lem's BBQ House
    Uncle John's BBQ
    Ribs 'N Bibs
    Honey 1 BBQ
    Smoque is more of a Texas Q joint.

    Fat Willies is Carolina style (I think)
    Lillie Q might be Carolina as well, or a blend of Carolina and Texas, but it is NOT a Chicago Aq joint.

    Gale Street is not BBQ. I think they bake their food, and put sauce on it, and call it bbq.

    Another few worthwhile places for:
    Exsenator's (Chicago Aquarium Joint. Very good, but Very pricey)
    Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen (I think this would be considered Carolina style as well)

    Depending on what you like about your friend's ribs may be very telling on what you might consider good ribs in Chicago.

    Honky Tonk BBQ
    1213 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

    3 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      This was just the type of advice I was looking for. Thanks gordeaux.

      Went to Uncle John's on Saturday 4/16/11. I listened to the advice of other reviewers and ordered a Jumbo Link and Tip combo.

      The tips were cool. Not great, but cool. Nice size, tender, not too fatty or too charred. The links were beyond excellent. Great size, hot but not too hot. A pleasant heat that lingers in the back of your throat. Firm, but not to hard or mushy. Darn near perfect.

      A jumbo came with 4 links, 4 pieces of bread, and a decent portion of tips and fries for $13.00. Well worth the $.

      I will be back, most likely tomorrow, to try the actual ribs and to order more tips.

      Uncle John's Bar-B-Q
      337 E 69th St, Chicago, IL 60637

      1. re: mwilliams0408

        The links do steal the show here, but when is tips are on, it's insanely good. The tips are decent to really good most of the time. I'm spoiled tho. I can make tips and spares at home better than anyplace I've had in Chicagoland. Uncle John's is the only place that is worth my $ for tips. I buy a 30lb box of his links every year tho. Those links are special. Just remember, retail bbq can be pretty fickle stuff. Smoque and Uncle John's rate high for me in terms of consistency. Smoque is Texas q, and UJ's is Chicago q. Different beasts.

        1. re: mwilliams0408

          Made it back to Uncle John's to review the actual ribs on 4/29/11. Ordered a half slab and hot link combo, mild. It came with 6 bones and 1 hot link. As before, the hot link stole the show, however, the ribs weren't bad. Like the rib tips they were not too fatty, not too charred. They were juicy and tender, enough. They were not fall off the bone, but were easy to pull off the bone. I would have preferred they were a little more tender.

      2. Great ribs:
        Gale Street Inn

        Worth trying:
        Sweet Baby Ray's
        (try the Green Chile Mac N' Cheese


        Gale Street Inn
        935 Diamond Lake Rd, Mundelein, IL 60060

        1 Reply
        1. re: icecream.islife

          I have to agree with Gordeaux that Gale Street does not have good BBQ ribs....falling off the bone, yes, but they taste like they were boiled....Sweet Baby Rays store on Ashland fortunately closed, as they were purveyors of mediocre ribs.

          My wife loves Smoque, I like Fat Willies, particularly their huge, chewy St. Louis style ribs cut from the sparerib.

        2. Smoque seems very beloved. We made the safari out there a few weeks ago and at 2 PM on a Saturday there was a long line---I can't imagine it on Saturday night. Do not bother with Chicago Q,which is trying to combine "fine restaurant" with "rib joint"---doesn't work.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Querencia

            Thanks Querencia and mkaufman. I will try Smoque next.

          2. Also, does anyone have a review of Ribs Unlimited, off of 79th & Loomis?

            1. So funny!! I'm from Bossier Parish, right next door to Shreveport! While LA isn't "known" for BBQ, people are making awesome BBQ all the time!

              I too have been less than impressed with ribs and BBQ in general in Chicago. I definitely need to get down to the southside to do some more exploring. My BF lived in Austin for a while, so he's well versed in BBQ and has also been disappointed here.

              I'll be interested to hear your opinion of Smoque. I was not impressed. I felt that it's wildly overpriced for the quality. Gale Street Inn wasn't great and certainly not BBQ. I've been to Brand BBQ -- pass. And Smokey Bear's in Albany Park is good, probably the best value. I've heard that Honey 1 is a guy who came to Chicago after Katrina, so I'm interested to try that.

              I'll learn from your experiences!

              Gale Street Inn
              935 Diamond Lake Rd, Mundelein, IL 60060

              6 Replies
              1. re: geg5150

                Smoque's style is smoked meat, with a dry rub. If you're a fan of barbecue that's basted with sauce - and I am - you may be disappointed.

                I wasn't impressed with Honey 1, whose ribs were fatty and whose sauce was just okay. But go there and try it and decide for yourself.

                1. re: geg5150

                  Chicago "Aquarium Smoker" BBQ is not Texas real pit q. Different beasts. I much prefer Texas Q in general, and I'd bet that Texans who are expecting Texas q in Chicago would definitely be disappointed.

                  Smoque is one of the VERY few Texas Q joints in Chicago. They can get away with those prices here. Honey 1 is an Aquarium Smoker joint. If you are expecting anything other than Chicago style Aquarium Smoker ribs, tips and hot links, then you will be disappointed.

                  Thanks for the tip about Smokey Bear's! I'll have to try em out.

                  1. re: geg5150

                    Hello geg5150!

                    My mama's family is originally from throughout LA. I have cousins still in Orleans, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Bossier Parishes. You are correct, whenever they come to visit, we get them on the pit! They can 'que!

                    Try Uncle John's. gordeaux was correct, it is Chicago style "Aquarium Smoker" BBQ. The links are where it's at. I will be back to Uncle John's to try a slab.

                    Next, I'll try Smoque. I enjoy the dry rub Memphis style as much as the sauce covered route. I often tell my husband that good ribs don't need sauce! LOL

                    After Smoque, I'll head to Smokey Bear's and report back on both.

                    Thanks for the tip!

                    1. re: mwilliams0408

                      How about Barbara Ann's? We hope to catch Von Freeman at the New Apartment Lounge in Greater Grand Crossing for his Tuesday night gig our first night in town next month and the Chicago Reader suggested Barbara Ann's BBQ as part of the package. Any thoughts?

                      1. re: gumbolox

                        The last time I had Barbara Ann's BBQ was 3 years ago. IT. WAS. TERRIBLE. The ribs were fatty, charred beyond recognition, and the sauce was week. Do yourself a favor take 10 minutes, and drive over to Uncle John's @ 69th & Calumet. Order hot links, rib tips or the actual ribs. You will not be disappointed.

                    2. re: geg5150

                      Robert Adams Sr. the founder of Honey 1 is from Arkansas and has lived in Chicago since the late 60's.

                      Like most real BBQ places around here the quality is variable. Your best bet is to go at lunch time, or for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays