Celebrate National Barbecue Month at 13 of Chicago’s Best Spots

13 of Chicago’s Best Barbecue Spots

May is National Barbecue Month, which means it’s time to channel your inner carnivore. Chicago may not have a nationally recognized barbecue style like the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City do, but these 13 restaurants in the city and ’burbs are churning out authentic finger-licking barbecue fare with their own unique flare. So roll up those sleeves, take a seat, and hunker down to some real-deal smoked meat. 


Smoque is a Chicago institution and for good reason. Pulling on barbecue influences from across the American South, Chef Barry Sorkin has created a mecca of meat for hungry patrons looking for a taste of true barbecue. The St. Louis ribs (a meatier cousin to the baby back variety) and melt-in-your-mouth-tender beef brisket are two of their house specialties, as is the North Carolina-style homemade barbecue sauce, a tomato-based sauce with a vinegary kick. Add on any of their traditional sides like baked beans, mac and cheese and coleslaw and you’ve got yourself a true feast. 3800 N. Pulaski Road #2, Chicago, 773-545-7427

County BBQ

The DMK restaurant group has created some of the best restaurants in the city, and County BBQ is no exception. This Taylor Street spot uses an old-fashioned hickory smoker and aims to honor the traditions of Eastern Carolina, West Texas, Kansas City and Memphis. Try the St. Louis Spare Ribs rubbed with a secret spice blend, the Texas Brisket smoked for 14 hours, and the Slow-Smoked Chicken Leg and Thigh glazed with maple syrup. Drinks are as notable as the food, so be sure to sift through the extensive list of draft beers and distillery whiskeys. 1352 W. Taylor St., Chicago, 312-929-2528 


At Q-BBQ, it’s all about the meat, which can be smoked for up to 22 hours. For the full Q experience, try one of their sampler plates of pulled pork and sliced turkey, with unique additions like spicy wings and pulled chicken. Each plate comes with two sides and an order of hush puppies, so come hungry. And if one to three meats just won’t satisfy, look no further than the Papa Q Platter, a monstrous plate with a portion of all 10 of their smoked meats, two side dishes, and hush puppies. Be sure to wear your stretch pants to indulge in this one. 714 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, 773-281-7800; Additional surburban locations in La Grange, Naperville, Oak Park and Schererville

Q-BBQ’s Papa Q Platter

Green Street Meats

Green Street Meats provides an authentic Texas dining experience, complete with cowboy ephemera, dim lighting, rustic decor, picnic table seating and, of course, incredible barbecue. The menu is simple but bold, with classic sliced brisket and ribs, and fun additions like pastrami, pork belly, and even Frito pie. If red meat isn’t your game, don’t worry — these guys make a mean smoked salmon and smoked chicken leg. Pair with a Peach Vodka Gimlet or Bourbon-spiked Sweet Tea, kick back and enjoy. 112 Green St., Chicago, 312-754-0431 

Green Street Meats in Chicago
Green Street Meats’ ribs and sliced brisket

BBQ Joint

Situated next to its sister restaurant, Taco Joint, on Halsted, the newly opened BBQ Joint is taking classic barbecue favorites and adding a Mexican spin. Try the Mole Pulled Pork, or the Pork Pancita, a pork belly with a Mexican Coke and papilla chile glaze. Sides here get a kick as well with options like Pozole Grits, Mexican Street Corn and Blistered Brussels Sprouts. Wash it all down with one of their festive Margaritas or Mezcalitas for the ultimate fiesta. 1967 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-460-3200


Bluegrass is not a barbecue restaurant by definition, but come Tuesday and Sunday nights, things start to get smoky. Every Tuesday, this North Shore spot centers on ribs — all-you-can-eat ribs that is — served up with tater tots and Peanut Brittle Baked Beans. Sundays are a full-on homage to meat with smoked barbecue chicken, smoked corned beef brisket and, of course, more ribs. If you do decide to visit come Sunday, the restaurant advises you to get there early since the ribs and chicken go quickly. 1636 Old Deerfield Road, Highland Park, 847-831-0595


Few restaurateurs have as much sway in the Evanston community as Hecky Powell, the proprietor of the beloved Hecky’s Barbecue. For 30 years, Powell has been winning over the hearts of diners with his signature meat specialties. Ribs are king here, with both St. Louis and baby back styles to choose from. But, the real showstopper is Powell’s famous barbecue sauce, which has gained so much popularity that “Its the Sauce” has become Hecky’s business slogan. Be sure to load up on the Cajun-spiced fries and a scoop of their famous peach cobbler for dessert. 1902 Greenbay Road, Evanston, 847-492-1182

Hecky's in Evanston
Hecky’s famous ribs

Real Urban BBQ

Chef Jeff Shapiro worked in a string of fine-dining establishments before putting his love of barbecue into brick and mortar. Now with three suburban locations, Real Urban BBQ is serving up simple, succulent house-smoked barbecue. Burnt ends, or the super charred bits chopped off the ends of a slab of brisket, are the specialty around here as are favorites like the 12-hour Smoked Pulled Pork and 14-hour Smoked Brisket. Be sure to order a side of hoecakes (a pancake-like version of cornbread, cooked in a cast iron skillet) for the table to soak up all of that precious barbecue sauce. 610 Central Ave. #177 (within Port Clinton Square), Highland Park, 224-770-4227; Clearwater Plaza at 22nd Street and York Road, 
2119 Clearwater Drive,
 Oak Brook, 630-908-4380; 1260 S. Milwaukee Ave., 
Vernon Hills Town Center,
 Vernon Hills, 847-613-1227

Real Urban BBQ
Real Urban BBQ Smoked Brisket

Ten Mile House

This Evanston neighborhood favorite has been packing in the crowds since it opened just two years ago. While not a barbecue-specific restaurant, there are lots of meaty gems on the menu worth a try. Like the smoked half chicken with a white barbecue sauce (a mayonnaise-based sauce spiked with vinegar, horseradish, and mustard for a kick), the smoked baby back ribs, or, for something a little different, the Smoked Brisket and Pork Shoulder Chili. Even the side dishes here get the smoky treatment, like the BBQ Buttered ‘Shrooms and polenta fries with brisket gravy. 1700 Central St., Evanston, 847-905-0669

Ten Mile House
Ten Mile House’s Polenta Fries with Brisket Gravy

Chicago Q

Nobody does Southern hospitality like Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and successful Chicago restaurateur. So when he decided to open an upscale barbecue restaurant, diners went crazy. Try the whimsical Q Brisket Meatballs, succulent pulled pork shoulder, and Award-Winning Ribs, all doused in your choice of Spicy, Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce or South Carolina Mustard Sauce. Don’t forget about the classic sides like Honey-Butter Cornbread, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Smoked Chipotle Corn. 1160 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-642-1160 

Chicago Q
Chicago Q BBQ Platter with Brisket, Ribs and a Pulled Pork and Chicken Mix

Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse

Hardwood smoked barbecue is the name of the game at Rub’s. The meat options are plentiful here with all the classics like pulled pork, sliced brisket, smoked chicken, hot links, and award-winning St. Louis ribs. All meat choices can either be plated with sides or served up on a toasted brioche bun, making for infinite meal combinations. For some light, briny sides to compliment all this meat, try the Giardiniera Slaw or Texas Caviar. Save room for their famous BBQ Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie, topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. 6954 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773-675-1410


If you’re looking to expand your barbecue horizons beyond the basics, then be sure to pay Smalls a visit. Smalls is an Asian-barbecue fusion restaurant specializing in smoky twists on American barbecue favorites. Smoked Brisket gets doused in Tiger Cry Sauce, a traditional Thai dry-smoked chili sauce, while St. Louis Ribs and Pulled Pork are served up with toasted garlic rice on the side. For the ultimate fusion dish, try the BBQ Brisket or BBQ Pork Bibimbap, loaded with crunchy veggies, kimchi, pickled daikon, and a perfectly fried egg on top. 4009 Albany Ave., Chicago, 312-857-4221

Fat Willy’s Rib Shack

For fast, casual, down-home barbecue served in an unpretentious setting, look no further than Fat Willy’s. This Logan Square spot stays true to the food traditions of the South with a large array of sandwiches ranging from pulled chicken and smoked brisket to a hot link sandwich. Traditional meat platters are also available with a selection of sides like Vinegar Cukes, mashed potatoes and gravy, Green Onion Cornbread, Sweet Potato Tater Tots and, of course, thick slices of Texas Toast, the best makeshift napkin and sauce soaker-upper. 2416 W. Schubert Ave., Chicago, 773-782-1800

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