Rib Tips & Hot Links
Chicago isn't the only city to give rib tips the limelight, but we seem to care about the humble style more than anyone else. Featuring hunks of fatty, smoke-laden meat (not to mention the shards of cartilage and bone in every other bite), plus hefty smoked sausages, this is as close to Chicago-style barbecue as it gets. Uncle John's has the edge on the sausage side of things, but the deeply smoky tips at Honey 1 and Lem's both do more than just hold their own.
Though rib tips are Chicago's real speciality, a number of places are managing to kick out quality racks, too. That includes both Honey 1 (pictured) and Uncle John's. But it doesn't stop there: Smoque's juicy spare ribs get a Memphis-style dry rub before spending time with apple and oak smoke. Chicago Q's offerings are easily the most expensive (competitive ribs go for $33.75) and are kind of unpredictable, but occasionally can be on the mark.
Pulled pork is ubiquitous but relatively unloved—always available, but rarely the star. To see it done right, you need to visit Lillie's Q in Bucktown, where a former fine dining chef has turned his attention to quality barbecue. Charlie McKenna (Tru) actually won the pork shoulder category at Memphis in May in 2007, and his pulled pork proves why: supremely succulent without being fatty, pulled pork never had it so good.
When it comes to brisket in Chicago, the only real competitor is Smoque. The beef is tender but hasn't yet turned to mush. The smoke flavor is prominent, but the flavor of the meat is still the most important part.
Smoque (reviewed here)
Brisket isn't the only thing we've taken from Texas. That said, instead of trying to replicate the Lone Star state's unique sausages, a couple places are simply purchasing straight from the source. Both Barn & Company and Smoque use Mikeska Texas Sausage.
While the main que' categories have been covered, this doesn't even begin to cover all the smoked meat options around town. As great as the pulled pork at Lillie's Q is (and it is), the tri-tip may actually be the highlight. The Pork Shoppe managed to convince me that pork pastrami should be on more menus. A number of barbecue joints serve chili, but none is quite as addictive as the brisket offering at Chicago Q.