Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Feb 21, 2013 08:54 AM

Best barbecue rib shack/restaurant

I'm gonna be in Chicago in June and am a huge barbecue fan. I'm thinking, giving the proximity to KC and Memphis, there's gotta be some great barbecue places. Any recommendations and tips on what time to get there to avoid a long line/wait? Gonna be staying downtown, a few nights in the Loop and a few on Mag Mile, so hoping to public transit it or a cheap/short taxi ride...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My favorite is Uncle John's, but that probably requires a car.
    Doable by public transit are Smoque, Honey1, and Barn & Co, among others.

    1. Cool. Of those latter three, which is best/easiest to reach from downtown? I've heard of Smoque and looked into getting there a bit - seems public transit is an option. Are there generally huge lines in the evening?

      2 Replies
      1. re: ChachiLopez

        >> Are there generally huge lines in the evening?

        Yes. They're open all day starting at 11 am. A good time for fresh ribs and minimal waits is either for lunch, or late afternoon, say 4:30 or 5:00.

        Smoque is a few blocks from the Irving Park station on the CTA Blue Line, and Metra's Irving Park commuter rail station is also nearby.

        1. re: ChachiLopez

          I'd hit Honey 1. It's about a half mile north of the Western stop on the Blue Line train. A favorite Chicago combination at our best places is tips and links.
          Can't agree that Chicago is not strong in BBQ.
          If you like music and a fun environment, Honky Tonk is another good place. Also good is Lillie's Q.

        2. While Chicago does have some pretty good barbecue, it's not one of our strengths. And there's no particular local "style"; you can get slow-smoked/dry rub style at Smoque, slow-smoked/sauced baby backs at Carson's (my favorite), slow-smoked/sauced spare ribs at Honey 1, braised/sauced (falling off the bone) at Gale Street Inn, etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            I have to majorly disagree with you, Nsxtasy. There is definitely a particular local "style." Chicago "aquarium smoker" style bbq is definitely a local style of bbq. Honey 1, Uncle John's, Lem's, Exsenators, there are several others that do this style, mainly consisting of spares, tips, and hot links. There are a few hidden in the (for lack of a better term) more mainstream areas of the city, but plenty are in the southern portions, which is why you may hear it called "southside bbq." I have to strongly state that I believe this style of bbq is definitely worthy of being labeled a Chicago Style.

            For the OP, ChachiLopez, I think I'd venture to Smoque if I were you. If you're interested in some Texas style brisket, Smoque is a great choice. Barn And Co would be another great option for you, IMO. If you wanna try some real local Chicago Style bbq, however, I'd give a tip / link combo from Honey 1 a try, but please note, it is NOT Texas bbq, it is NOT Carolina BBQ, and it is not trying to be any of those things. It's cooked at a higher heat so he tips and spares might have a noticably higher amt of fat not rendered out, but that's totally expected and fine, it just is what it is. The hot links have a very sagey flavor, and that flavor can throw ppl off. It's like a spicy breakfast sausage.

          2. I think Smoque is my overall favorite and it is very convenient via the city's Blue line (Irving Park stop). They're also BYO. They tend to be very crowded, as mentioned, but the staff is good about managing the line and tables; they won't let you order until you have a seat, so at least you won't be standing around with a tray of bbq and no way to really eat it.

            Lillie's Q, in Bucktown/Wicker Park, is also very good. Their tri-tip, in particular, is a stand-out and the smoked fried chicken, too. More of a restaurant than a shack, they're pretty close to the Damen blue line stop. They recently started selling food at the city's French Market in the West Loop. The hours and menu are a little more limited, but it might be convenient for you if you're downtown.


            1 Reply
            1. re: danimalarkey

              >> they won't let you order until you have a seat

              Isn't it the other way around? They won't let you take a seat until you've ordered, no?