Category Archives: BBQ Joints

Chicago q : Modern BBQ in Chicago

Chicago q Smoked Kobe Beef Brisket and Fries

We had heard rumors of this place for some time and when Steve Dolinsky reported that “Chicago q is the city’s first “elegant” BBQ palace” we knew the time had come. We were delighted to hear that Lee Ann Whippen of BBQ Pitmasters fame was the Chef and Partner, we knew we had yet another special BBQ place in Chicago. Lee Ann has moved to Chicago to make this place something special and that speaks to the mix of authentic competition and Virginia BBQ. Combine that with an atmosphere that you can only find in the Chicago Gold Coast, they did a fantastic job. The decor is like a chic Southern Plantation meets modern casual restaurant space. It is wide open with a cool bar, great dining area and a couple of private rooms including flat screens for watching sports.  They also do carry out which they said is a huge part of their business.

Staff was really knowledgeable and this was an important part of the experience. When we mentioned that we owned a BBQ store we were treated to visits from the General Manager as well as Lee Ann herself! Lee Ann was really friendly, shared some of her experience of Chicago and was happy to spend the time and energy needed to make the place a success. Our waiter was awesome too, he was very attentive and even got us a kitchen tour, complete with a look at the smoker! This place is the real deal, a gorgeous kitchen complete with a smoker that is gas fired, but real smoking wood stacked right next to it.

We had to try the Kobe beef brisket and went for the Competition Spare Ribs as well as baked beans, fries and mac and cheese for the sides. BBQ is served with the sauce on the side, one is a mild sauce and the other has a little spice to it. The Kobe Beef Brisket was a little dry for my tastes, but very tasty and had a great smoke flavor. The bark on the outside exposed the Lee Ann Whippen Family signature rub “Pig Powder”, which tells me that it was cooked right but needed sauce to make it delicious. The Competition style Spare’s were so damn moist and pink that they pulled right off the bone. They had a great glaze to them which was tasty and perfectly complimented the rub. When we took our kitchen tour we noticed that each rack is wrapped in foil, just like most do in competition and pulled out of the smoker just before serving to you.

The sides is where you could taste all the love. We have heard that their onion rings are not to be missed, sorry we missed them. The Mac and Cheese was special, not

Chicago q Competition Style Ribs, tender and smokey delicious.

your run of the mill side dish, and we loved it. Overall, it was great to have something this authentic and special in Chicago. It is a great atmosphere and the prices are reasonable based on the neighborhood and the level of service you receive. They have a balance of southern hospitality and fine dining. You could go there to watch a game in the bar, carry out, have a nice dining experience with friends or enjoy a large party in one of their signature private rooms. Exciting to see Modern BBQ hit Chicago, and to have a real BBQ Pitmaster and a high standard of service complete the experience.

You can book a reservation right from their site, I would recommend one as you never know in Chicago. They are kid friendly, casual dining and have more on the menu than just BBQ (The qBurger sounds out of this world).

Lillie’s Q BBQ: Chicago Steps Up It’s Game

Lillie's Q BBQ in Chicago, Love that Sign!

As soon as we heard that Chef Charlie McKenna a true competition Pit Master, a winner at Memphis in May, was opening a BBQ place in Chicago we were very intrigued and we made a point of getting to it the first couple of weeks Lillie’s Q was open. I have been there three different times and each time I have been very impressed with the quality of the food, the service and especially the atmosphere.

Named after his Grandmother, Lillie, McKenna brings real BBQ to the Chicago food scene in a great little space on North Ave, on the edge of Bucktown/Wicker Park. The place has great beers on tap and all sorts of specialty drinks with Moonshine at the heart of most of them. Moonshine is to BBQ as Saki is to Sushi! They have a wide open space, cool wood tables and some booths with a huge slop sink at the back for cleaning the BBQ sauce off.

We started with the fried pickles, which are a quality dill pickle fried in a very light and delicious almost tempura batter. This is served with a ranch dressing that has to be homemade. In looking over the menu, brisket is missing, and I asked Charlie straight up, “Why no brisket?” He stated that he wanted to put Tri Tip on the menu instead and being that he competes Memphis BBQ Association, makes sense to me. (Tri tip is done perfectly by the way.) So for our tasting, we tried a slab of

Babyback's at Lillie's Q BBQ, easy on the sauce and huge on the flavor!

ribs, pulled chicken, pulled pork and of course slices of tri tip. The sides, we went with Mac and Cheese, Bacon Green Beans, Baked Beans, “Carolina Dirt Dusted” Fries and Sweet Potato Fries.

The ribs had an awesome smoke flavor as did all of the meats because you will not find a gas line on Lillie’s Q smoker. McKenna has two custom built, gravity fed, charcoal fueled smokers under a hood in the kitchen. Best part, a BBQ Guru fuels the fire so it was about as close as you could get to true competition BBQ in a restaurant setting. The pork was tender with a nice smokey pink appearance, as was the chicken, a surprise as far as pulled chicken goes, tender and flavorful. The tri

Perfect Smoke Ring on Lillie's Q Tri-Tip, flavorful medallions of beef that are as tender as Beef Tenderloin!

tip was something special, a great appearance of smoke lined the outside with a great rub flavor and tender as all get out. In subsequent visits I have had all of these as a sandwich, highly recommended as he serves them on a soft buttered brioche roll that is divine!

As for sauce, he serves everything dry, another sign that this guy knows BBQ. On the table are five different sauces from all over the BBQ spectrum. Smoky, Hot Smoky (My Favorite), Carolina Gold, Carolina and Ivory. The Ivory is a mayonnaise based sauce which with all of these sauces, you can really sauce it up any way you want. The presentation is on trays, and we have never even gotten into all the other specialties that they have like Shrimp and Grits or the Low Country Boil. This is the real deal, food has been consistently good and the service is awesome too. Have made this a dinner standard before we  go to see the Chicago Blackhawks and they get us in and out within 30 minutes or they let you dine and enjoy! Make it a point to check it out if you are in Chicago, or are looking for some authentic BBQ in Chicago.

Follow them on Twitter @LilliesQChicago and have a look at these other stellar reviews Grub Street Chicago, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine.

Dining In Austin: Food Fight! Lockhart BBQ Challenge (Smitty’s Vs. Black’s)

Lockhart is on my “Bucket List” and after reading this review from Dining in Austin‘s Mariah McElroy I know exactly how I would do it. I mean other than spending a couple of days there, how do you try Black’s, Smitty’s and Kreuz Market in just one trip? Dispatch your friends and reconvene in the Lockhart Municipal park for a food tasting challenge, that’s how!

Printed on permission of Dining in Austin:

Food Fight! Lockhart BBQ Challenge

One reason I love my friends: they’re foodies too. One hot Sunday afternoon, we all decided to carpool down to Lockhart and conduct a thoroughly scientific comparison of the Lockhart BBQ joints. Upon reaching Lockhart, we were disappointed to learn that Kreuz Market is closed on Sundays so we had to do a comparison of the 3 remaining BBQ joints, Black’s and Smitty’s.

At precisely the same time, a carload of us went to Black’s and a carload of us went to Smitty’s so the BBQ would be fresh and purchased at the same time. We decided, at a minimum, to get brisket, ribs, sausage, potato salad and cold slaw. We could also make an executive decision to get other additions we thought looked tasty. Then, we’d all meet up at the city park for a delicious picnic of BBQ.

I was in the carload that went to Black’s. When we arrived, I was stuck by how old fashioned the whole town looked. There was a beautiful old courthouse and town square. But unlike Fredricksburg, there weren’t kitschy country stores in the town square. It had a slightly depressed old Texas feel. Clearly, the only thing people come to Lockhart for is the BBQ.

Black’s looks much like the rest of Lockhart. Old, a little run down, and 100% Texas country. The exterior looks more like a deer feed/hardware store than a BBQ restaurant.

But once you step into Black’s, it’s an oasis of Texas BBQ. The first thing you’ll notice are the impressive selection of home cooked sides. Many more sides than I’ve seen at any other Texas BBQ joint.

The meat is kept in an ingenious meat locker and is cut fresh when you order it.

Once we had procured our meat and sides, we went to the municipal park to conduct our thoroughly scientific taste test. In this picture, the Black’s offerings are in the front and the Smitty’s offerings are in the back.

And so you can get a sense of the aesthetics, here are the Black’s meats:

And here are the Smitty’s meats:

So the results!

Sausage – Winner: Tied
Smitty’s was meatier, almost gamey, while Blacks was creamier, with a finer blend. We were all split down the middle, some liking one more than the other. While I usually like a finer blend sausage, this time around I, liked the intense meaty flavor of the Smitty’s sausage better.

Brisket – Winner: Black’s
Black’s outstanding brisket was the winner of the whole meal. It was moist, soft and tender, fell apart. Smitty’s was dry and lack-luster.

Ribs – Winner: (Begrudgingly) Black’s
The Smitty’s ribs were moister but were covered in a sickly sweet red sauce. The ribs at Blacks had a better smoky flavor, but were dry. In the end, most people preferred smoky over sweet. But neither offering was all that great.

Potato Salad – Winner: Smitty’s
I liked the Blacks better, though, but I got overruled by the masses. Black’s potato salad is chunkier with large pieces of potato. Smitty’s potato salad is creamier, but in my opinion is, too mayonnaise-y. I got my fill of mayonnaise potato salad living in the Midwest. I want some mustard in mine now. Oh well.

Cole Slaw – Winner: Smitty’s
Smitty’s slaw used 3 different types of cabbage, carrots, and had a pleasant a peppery aftertaste. It was much more complex (well, as complex as cold slaw can be) than Blacks which only had 1 type of cabbage but was tangy.

Other Sides – Winner: Black’s
While none of the other sides at Black’s were all that spectacular, it won out in sheer volume of available sides. Smitty’s offered potato salad and cold slaw, that’s it. However, Black’s had yams – sweet and gelatinous and all together pretty bad. And creamed corn – much better than the yams, nice and creamy with a hint of tarragon. They also had mashed potatoes – peppery and good with the cream gravy. And macaroni and cheese – basic and not that great.

Overall – Winner: Blacks

The better selection of sides and the clear win in the brisket department let Black’s nose ahead of Smitty’s. However, I must state for the record that neither was the best BBQ I’ve ever had. Except for Black’s brisket. It was quite good, and may possibly be the best brisket I’ve had in Texas (yet).

~Smitty’s – 7
~Black’s – 8

If you love Food, you will love Dining in Austin

17th Street Bar & Grill: Barbecue Mecca

Rubbing Buddha's Belly: The Welcoming 17th Street Piggy

We have had the honor of meeting both Mike and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party and once at Memphis in May. We have “tasted” (never more than just a few ribs) Mike Mills famous Baby Back Ribs, fresh out of the Ole Hickory Smoker in NYC at the Block Party.  We had never been to 17th Street Bar & Grill for the full experience, until last weekend when our pilgrimage brought us to BBQ Mecca.

We gathered the St. Louis BBQ crew, and met at the 17th Street Bar & Grill in O’Fallon Illinois, site of the old St. Louis classic Super Smokers and now home of the world famous Mike Mills BBQ joint. It was more than a joint, a great big restaurant with a large bar and walls lined with press clippings and photos of famous BBQ Pitmaster’s including many historical looking photos of a personal favorite of mine, Ed Mitchell.

We sat family style at a big square table in the back next to the winding staircase and started with some appetizers. First, pulled pork nachos, packed with Jalapeno peppers, cheese and topped with Mike’s tender smokey pulled pork.  Next, smoked chicken wings with a nice smokey flavor, a little heat but were so much more tender and juicy than any deep fried wing could be. Finally, the house sampler arrived, full of smoked hot links, fried pickles,  incredibly crunchy onion rings, more smoked wings and an array of dipping sauces. Fried pickles were a first for me and just awesome!

The St. Louis Family BBQ Crew

In between courses, the warm honey rolls arrived with a delicious cinnamon butter which we only sampled in order to save room for the BBQ onslaught that was coming. The meats arrived and most went with two meat combos of baby backs and brisket. Others had pork shoulder so we passed them around. First, the ribs were so delicious and rich that a half slab was plenty when combined with a second meat. All the meat comes dry, sprinkled with Mike Mills Famous Magic Dust which adds a flavor that works perfectly with the 17th Street sauce and apple smoke flavor.

Low and Slow, Apple Wood Smoked Beef Brisket in the huge Ole Hickory Pit Smoker

The sleeper of the meal, besides the awesome hush puppies and corn muffins (which became the next mornings breakfast) had to be the brisket. It was smokey and very flavorful. The brisket was so tender you could cut it with your fork and it had a smokey bark that just went perfectly with 17th Street Spicy BBQ sauce. We were not surprised at all that it was so delicious, but I went for the baby backs and fell in love with the brisket!

The meal was the kick-off to Donna’s 50th birthday weekend and so our waitress (who promised not to sing or dance) brought out dessert, and it was as good as everything else was.  We were served a delicious bread pudding and a strawberry shortcake that was passed around and enjoyed by all. Huge thanks to Amy Mills Tunnicliffe for the VIP treatment, to the Manager Sue, who took us all out back to see where the magic happens. Last but not least, our server Anna who made us feel like we were visiting family and made sure we tried some hot links!

TimeOut Chicago: Favorite BBQ Joints

TimeOut Chicago is out with their annal BBQ Issue and we just wanted to do Chicago justice and share with you what they have. We can say without question that Big Ed’s and Smoque would be highly recommended. Big Ed brings South Side Chicago BBQ to the North Shore of Chicago and Ed is a great guy with a great restaurant. The others are now on my radar so stay tuned! Please click on the links below to read the issue and drive some well deserved traffic to TimeOut Chicago!Our favorite barbecue joints. By Heather Shouse. Photograph by Nicole Radja.

What makes a good rib? It starts with slow-and-low cooking over hardwood for just the right amount of time. That’s what gives the meat a hint, but not a wallop, of sultry smoke—the thin, pink smoke ring just below the crust of spices is your proof. The next test: A gentle tug should be all it takes to pull the meat from the bone. And finally, it should taste so good you can’t stop thinking about it. For daydream-worthy ribs, try these guys.

Uncle John’s We used to be in love with the hot links, then the tips, next the slab bacon and, recently, the fried chicken. Currently, the ribs have us swooning: firm but well-marbled meat and plenty of it, a solid smoke ring throughout the slab, and minimal seasoning with a tiny kick. 337 E 69th St (773-892-1233; half slab $9, full $14).

Smokin’ M’s You wouldn’t expect much from a strip-mall storefront, but this overlooked joint nails Southern staples (including down-home friendliness). The caramelized spice rub on the slabs of meaty St. Louis cuts (spareribs sans tips) gives them a slightly chewy crust. Underneath lurks a quarter-thin layer of smoke over a full inch of robust pork, and it takes just the right amount of effort to separate the meat from the bone. 7501 Roosevelt Rd, Forest Park (708-488-0123; half slab $11, full $18).

Big Ed’s You might expect a pit master like Big Ed to put up ribs that slam you with fat and smoke. After all, many of Ed’s customers are Chicago Bears, who practice nearby, and football players aren’t known for being nuanced. But while these ribs don’t skimp on the meat, overly fatty they’re not. And the smokiness comes second to the porkiness. Think of these ribs as tackling you with flavor—just, you know, gently. 2501 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, North Chicago (847-578-1901, bigedsllc.com; half slab $12, full $20).

Smoque The baby back and St. Louis ribs get a flavorful Memphis-style dry rub (we tasted paprika, garlic salt and plenty of black pepper) and slow smoke over both apple and oak wood. Delicate diners, go with the baby backs; cut closer to the backbone just under the loin, these deliver lean, but incredibly tender, meat. Ravenous carnivores, go with the St. Louis, the meatier of the two. No one will be disappointed. 3800 N Pulaski Rd (773-545-7427, smoquebbq.com; half slab $10–$11, full $17–$18).

Smokey’s BBQ How can a place execute solid ribs but bobble pulled pork and brisket? Let’s chalk it up to specialization. Menu options such as “Uncle Kenny’s Famous Mediterranean” might lure you, but original is the way to go. The caramelized spices get a glaze late in the game, moistening the exterior into a flavorful, slightly chewy crust. These meaty ribs stand up to the smoke well for good balance in every bite. 5481 N Northwest Hwy (773-763-2328, smokeysbbqchicago.com; half slab $11, full $19).