Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, March 2

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


sandor / January 5, 2004 12:04 PM

Some of the best I've had in the city has been at Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division. But I'm also fond of Smokin' Woody's, 4160 N. Lincoln, mainly because it's local and has an exuberant chef who schmoozes with crowd. I've even seen him stand outside his restaurant during the local North Center Ribfest -- which is a mere block away from his place but, inexplicably, doesn't include S.W. as a participant -- handing out rib tips for free. It's not the best BBQ in the city, but it's fun.

Alice / January 5, 2004 12:50 PM

When I lived in Hyde Park, ordering BBQ from Ribs n'Bibs on 53rd and Dorchester was a ritual. But, sadly, in all the times we ordered from there, we never got any bibs.

Pete / January 5, 2004 12:52 PM

Fat Terry's Rib Crib in the suburban hinterlands of Shorewood (just west of Joliet). Best pulled pork sandwich I've ever had, (gooey) hands down. Fat Terry's is one of the few things in my culturally blighted suburban area that is better than what I had as a city dweller.

Craig / January 5, 2004 12:56 PM

Hecky's BBQ in Evanston... why? Because "It's the sauce".

...and the fact that they overuse "quotes" on "all" their handpainted "signs".

daruma / January 5, 2004 1:19 PM

I also vote for Smoke Daddy, with unusually good fries. Burgundy Inn is another place that has good bbq, whether it be ribs or chicken. Carsons has a great bbq pork sandwich (take-out), it's huge!

Andrew / January 5, 2004 1:29 PM

Another vote for Hecky's, although they're carryout only.

For dine-in, I like Fireside Restaurant, over on Ravenswood at Rosehill. Smoky, sweet and spicy all at once. Yum!

Seth Zurer / January 5, 2004 1:30 PM

Lem's Lem's Lem's. All other barbecue pales to lily white in comparison. on 75th St, 3 blocks east of the Dan Ryan. A brief chowhound search will reward the bbq-hungry.

Benjy / January 5, 2004 2:09 PM

Fat's Matt's in Atlanta... however this has been a problem since I moved back to Chicago 2 years ago. I've yet to find anything that compares to the true southern BBQI became adicted to down there. But I've never been to some of those mentioned here so maybe there's hope yet for Chi Town BBQ.

A lex / January 5, 2004 2:36 PM

Memphis, Tennessee.

paul / January 5, 2004 2:48 PM

Another vote for Hecky's. Although for the price, they ought to give you more than one slice of white bread.

If you want sit-down (or delivery) ribs in Evanston, Merle's is a good second best, and you can get several varieties - wet or dry, St.Louis or Texas.

An honorable mention for the ribs from Green Door Tavern, at Huron and Orleans. They have a tasty sweet-orangey sauce.

jennifer / January 5, 2004 3:15 PM

Yet another vote for Smoke Daddy. And, for comfort food, if you can deal with aging frat-boys and trixies, Cullen's has THE best garlic mashed potatoes I have ever tasted, and growing up in both Irish and German families, I've had plenty of mashed potatoes in my life!

mike m / January 5, 2004 3:30 PM

Head out to the south/south-west suburbs and try the ribs at The Patio - Fantastic barbecue ribs and chicken and decently priced...

Other than The Patio, drive southbound on the Dan Ryan on a warm Friday evening (I'm trying to remember, but I think around 75th Street?) and follow your nose. There are tons of places that you can actually smell all the way from the expressway that will leave your mouth watering...

Jeff / January 5, 2004 3:45 PM

Debating the "Best Barbecue in Chicago" is like arguing "Favorite Mountain in Kansas." The real stuff just isn't here. Not that I've found anyway, and I've been looking.

Like Alex said: Memphis. Select pork shoulders hickory-smoked for 5-12 hours, sweet-tomato-based sauces with a bit of cocoa for richness. There's *nothing* like it anywhere. Silly people will tell you about The Rendezvous (in Memphis), but that's a Greek barbecue joint that oven-bakes. Not bad, but not Memphis-style.

I may have to have some stuff shipped in from Interstate or Corky's come spring. Even frozen, shipped, and reheated, it'll knock your damn socks off.

alison / January 5, 2004 4:10 PM

I love Rajun Cajun in Hyde Park. They don't really have BBQ (and as a vegetarian I couldn't comment on that anyway) BUT they do have both Indian and Soul food and both are excellent. It's very satisfying to know that in one place you can get both saag paneer and collard greens or fried chicken with a side of lentil daal.

Seth Zurer / January 5, 2004 4:12 PM

Jeff, Have you ever been to Lem's? There's no pork shoulder: chicago smokers never really got that into it, but there are phenomenal spareribs with a crusty black char atop incredible pink succulent meat and granuly taut hot links, grilled over smoke to a salty porky perfection. The only issue is that in this kind of weather, there's no good place to eat the ribs at Lems. There's no table or seating area of any sort. In milder seasons I eat my ribs off the hood of my car, but in the winter, I'd probably take them to Jimmy's in hyde park, although every moment they sit in the brown paper bag detracts from their ideal state. You must try Lem's before dismissing chicago cue. It is the best - a whole different universe from the goods on offer at Hecky's and Smoke Daddy. Any place that claims "It's the sauce" clearly has something to hide. The meat at Lem's stands up to the most intense scrutiny without ever having to hide behind a veil of vinegar and ketchup. All this talk makes me wanna go there tonight.

Andrew / January 5, 2004 4:20 PM

Oh no, Hecky's has nothing to hide. Their meat is slow-smoked on premises, but it's the sauce that differentiates it from the rest.

But really, there are so many styles of barbeque, it's somewhat silly to say one is better than another.

Naz / January 5, 2004 4:33 PM

When I posted this question, I was curious as to what the best you could get in Chicago was, never mind if it was authentic or not. That said, I'm about to embark on this BBQ tour of the city, with Lem's high on my list. I knew the South Side had the goods.

kegz / January 5, 2004 4:37 PM

Seth, you should moonlight as a menu writer. You make them ribs sound really tasty.

I went to the North Center ribfest this year and was really disappointed. Value had nothing to do with it; all the ribs I tried were very blah.

Merle's is alright, but I think they used to be better. Hecky's is good, but it's been awhile since I've been there.

I'm going to try Smoke Daddy from all the recommendations here.

Onid / January 5, 2004 6:17 PM

Another "vote" for "Heckys" and "Merle's" just ain't "what" it "used" to be. Also there is a place in Jefferson Park called the 'Galewood Inn' (I think) that is pretty darn good.

d4ve / January 5, 2004 6:33 PM

Soul Veg of course!

Naz / January 5, 2004 7:02 PM

Soul Veg has damn good BBQ Twists. On that veggie note, Gardenburger Riblets are stellar.

suzanne / January 5, 2004 9:00 PM

gardenburger riblets are really tasty, wouldn't know bout the meat treats in chicago though.

Seth Zurer / January 5, 2004 9:11 PM

Didn't Soul Veg close?

Naz / January 5, 2004 10:25 PM

I don't think they closed. I know Vegetarian Gourmet which was also on the South Side did. Then again, I haven't been to Soul Veg in a while.

grace / January 6, 2004 8:55 AM

Having grown up in Chicago and only been exposed to the meat jello sold in say, Twin Anchors, I never thought I liked ribs until I spent a little time in Memphis. Lem's is as close as it gets, I'm a fan of their baby back ribs. Don't trust any place that doesn't have a cord of hardwood stacked outside and RUN from any place that pre-boils.

After Lem's, stop by the Moo & Oink on S. Stony Island and pick up a "All the meat you love to eat" shirt.

Ian / January 6, 2004 9:02 AM

Soul Vegetarian East
205 E. 75th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60619

All Vegan, all natural soul food. This is the exception to the rule that says Vegan food is always healthy...

Best place on earth for Vegan BBQ.

Woof / January 6, 2004 11:05 AM

Smoke Daddy's is excellent and certainly gets a strong vote from me. Brother Jimmy's used to put out pretty darn good southern barbecue (Heavy on the vinegar) but I've heard they closed down awhile ago (sigh). On the far north side of Chicago is a family restaurant called Gale Street Inn that makes an excellent full slab of ribs that is worth checking out if you like the tomato sauce style. Plus you can order up cocktails to complement your meal.

Jeff / January 7, 2004 1:45 AM

Yeah, yeah: I know the topic was really supposed to be about Chicago places. But I'm an arrogant former Memphian and I had to talk up the hometown.

As for local joints, I found Smoke Daddy fairly underwhelming (though the sweet potato fries are good) and neither Hecky's nor Merle's would show up in even a top 50 in the mid-South. I'm still looking for a plate of hickory-smoked Memphis-style goodness.

On your recommendation, I'll give Lem's a shot, Seth.

I do normally prefer pulled pork (ever had barbecue nachos with pulled pork? pulled pork pizza? a boss hog salad (pulled pork over greens and veggies? damn!), but yeah, I could go for some good ribs.

On a related note, I'd like to personally beat the crap out of everyone in this city who tells people new to town to go to Carson's. Their ribs were only marginally better than what you'd get at an Applebee's.

Jeff / January 7, 2004 1:49 AM

I don't suppose there's anyone who knows where I could get some good Carolina-style barbecued pork shoulder, is there? Memphis is number one, but those Carolina folk make a damned fine runner up. All chopped and vinegary with mustard seeds and peppercorns... yum.

Andrew / January 7, 2004 12:13 PM

Seth, you may be thiking of Soul Kitchen, up in Wicker Park, which did recently close.

Jeff, I wish I did -- if you find one, let me know. (Alternatively, we could work on making it ourselves...)

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15