#1: Lillie's Q
Meat: (10/10) At first, it's hard to pin down why the pulled pork here is so startlingly great. Sure, it's tender and smoky, but so are other versions. Finally, I realized that each bite had an intense meatiness. Some might call that fat, but instead of greasy, the meat just seems more flavorful. Without equal in Chicago.
Toppings: (4/5) The crunchy and vinegary coleslaw is good on its own, but seems specially designed to top this sandwich.
Sauce: (5/5) Make your pick, each and every one of these are awesome.
Bun: (4.5/5) The brioche bun is flavorful and soft, though it does start to break apart towards the end.
Total Score: (23.5/25)
#2: Smoque BBQ
Meat: (9/10) The rub really shines here, so that each bite is well seasoned. The meat itself is very juicy and adequately smoky.
Toppings: (4.5/5) The coleslaw almost seems overly acidic when you taste it alone, but that's because it was meant to be thrown on top the barbecue. Fantastic stuff.
Sauce: (4/5) Like the coleslaw, the very vinegary sauce isn't very good on its own, but it does an excellent job of complimenting the meat.
Bun: (5/5) Basically perfect. Soft and squishy, but strong enough to hold up to all the meat and sauce.
Total Score: (22.5/25)
#3: Honey 1 BBQ
Meat: (8/10) Not as fantastically smoky as Honey 1's rib tips, but there is a healthy smoke ring. Could be juicier, but overall very good.
Toppings: (2/5) The basic chopped coleslaw is indistinct.
Sauce: (5/5) I already knew this, but the sauce here is incredible: tangy, with a faint hint of sweetness.
Bun: (4/5) Not exactly thrilling, but soft white bun did its job without getting in the way.
Total Score: (19/25)
#4: Barn & Company
Meat: (7/10) The texture is right, but I wish there was a bit more smoke.
Toppings: (3/5) Very good, thick pickles come with each order, but you have to buy coleslaw.
Sauce: (4/5) Two very unique sauces.
Bun: (4/5) The soft white bun did the job admirably.
Total Score: (18/25)
#5, tied: Chicago Q
Meat: (6.5/10) Very tender and flavorful, but nearing the dreaded mushy territory. Plus, I couldn't pick up much smokiness.
Toppings: (4/5) Chicago Q excels here. Sandwiches come with tart pickled red onion and thick-cut pickles. Coleslaw adds crunch and acid.
Sauce: (3.5/5) Sauce works with the barbecue, but doesn't add much.
Bun: (3/5) Bun is soft, but slightly too big, adding too much bread to each bite.
Total Score: (17/25)
#5, tied: Bub City
Meat: (7/10) Even though there are some nice crispy bits of bark mixed in, the meat is texturally too soft. It does have a decent amount of smoke.
Toppings: (3.5/5) Coleslaw is so finely chopped it doesn't add much crunch, but it is very tart and also great on its own.
Sauce: (2/5) The Kansas City sauce is terribly sweet, so stay away. The Memphis is better, but still kind of tame.
Bun: (4.5/5) I fell for the extra-squishy bun.
Total Score: (17/25)
#7: The Pork Shoppe
Meat: (8.5/10) It's immediately clear that this is very good stuff. Smoky, fatty, and flavorful.
Toppings: (2.5/5) The mayo-heavy coleslaw doesn't add much to the sandwich.
Sauce: (3.5/5) Decent, if not very distinctive.
Bun: (2/5) The bun isn't terrible, but was definitely subject to some poor execution. The top was way to thick, which lead the thin bottom to disintegrate.
Total Score: (16.5/25)
#8: Fat Willy's Rib Shack
Meat: (8/10) This was the most untraditional of the bunch. You can tell the meat is brined, which leads to a very juicy bite. Still, I wish there was more smoke.
Toppings: (2/5) If the cabbage in the coleslaw was chopped any finer, it'd disintegrate into nothingness.
Sauce: (3/5) Decent stuff.
Bun: (3/5) I was worried about the ciabatta, but is nice and crisp on the outside, which lends a good crunch to each bite.
Total Score: (16/25)
#9: Honky Tonk BBQ
Meat: (7/10) The meat has an obvious smoke ring and a good texture, but it's lean and under seasoned. I really wanted to like this more, but it just tasted a little bland.
Toppings: (3/5) The coleslaw is crisp but lacks acid or vinegar.
Sauce: (3.5/5) The tangy sauce is good, but I actually preferred the garlic mustard one.
Bun: (2/5) The ciabatta roll is unruly and oversized, leading to a dry sandwich.
Total Score: (15.5/25)
#10: Smoke Daddy
Meat: (6/10) It's very tender, but almost to the mushy point. Plus, it's really hard to distinguish due to the sauce.
Toppings: (3/5) The pickles are too thin, but the coleslaw is nice and crunchy.
Sauce: (1/5) It took a while to figure out why I disliked this so much, but then I realized that the sauce has liquid smoke in it. Sure, it bumps up the smoke flavor, but it also tastes artificial and chemically.
Bun: (4/5) Soft and sturdy.
Total Score: (14/25)