There’s nothing better than a solid, sticky rack of ribs. Except maybe some tangy pulled pork. Or super tender brisket.
Here, we’ve rounded up the best barbecue that Chicagoland has to offer. So grab your wetnaps and hit up one of these tremendous spots offering your favorite craveable ‘cue dishes.
What It Is: Pulled pork- and brisket-lover and chef/owner Willie Wagner’s ode to all things Memphis-style. Everything here gets cooked over a wood-burning fire, resulting in delicious, smokey ‘cue.
What Our Inspectors Say: A rousing success since it opened in 2007, Honky Tonk BBQ serves up live music and award-winning Memphis-style treats on the southwest side of the city. Though the rollicking bar up front takes its cues from a swinging Wild West saloon, the rear dining room offers a more sedate—though still eclectic—setting for sipping house cocktails and chowing down on sensational smoked meats.
What to Order: If you’re here, go for the gold and start with a bowl of brisket chili—and don’t be shy, add the mac and cheese supplement—before diving into the sampler platter of ribs, smoked chicken, hot links, slaw, corn muffins and two pork and brisket “dinky dunkers.”
What It Is: The cult favorite from Barry Sorkin that has two locations—the original spot on North Pulaski as well as a stall in Revial Food Hall.
What Our Inspectors Say: Smoque opens for lunch at 11:00 a.m., but a crowd of devotees can be found lining up for a barbecue fix long before then. Once inside, peruse the chalkboard menu, then order cafeteria-style before staking your claim among the communal seating while waiting (and salivating).
What to Order: “The half-and-half sandwich, piled with pulled pork and brisket, is the best of both worlds, with chunky shreds of tender pork and spice-rubbed slices of pink-rimmed beef spooned with vinegary barbecue sauce,” note inspectors.
What It Is: South Carolina-native chef/owner Charlie McKenna’s southern-inspired spot named for his grandmother.
What Our Inspectors Say: Bucktown’s urban barbecue shack takes a scholarly approach to ‘cue, as each table bears a caddy stocked with six regionally specific sauces for embellishing the slow-smoked meats to come. Cocktails served in Mason jars are a specialty made from “moonshine” offered at three proof levels, and servers in modern mechanic’s shirts tend to the crowds clamoring for heaps of smoked meats rubbed in “Carolina dirt.”
What to Order: Start with pork rinds with pimiento cheese powder or smoked chicken wings in a house-made sauce before moving to the Taste of LQ platter with a choice of three meats like pulled pork, tri-tip and hot links. Sides include green beans with house-made bacon, collard greens and cornbread with honey butter.
What It Is: One of the oldest restaurants in Chicago dating back to 1932. Known for gloriously-tender baby-back ribs.
What Our Inspectors Say: Within the brick walls that have housed Twin Anchors since 1932, generations have made their way across the checkerboard linoleum floor to throw a quarter in the jukebox and get saucy with a slab of their legendary ribs in one of the curved booths. Though the bar is wall-to-wall on weekends, most weekdays are low-key, with families and groups ready for a casual night out.
What to Order: The aforementioned ribs available in full or half rack and basted with the sauce of your choice. Also up for grabs, a quartet of giant grilled shrimp, a slow-roasted half chicken and a 9-ounce char-broiled filet mignon.
Hero image courtesy of Twin Anchors.