Pizza, hot dogs and steak are just a few of this Midwestern city’s staples, with barbecue being the next on the docket. While it’s still making a name for itself in the barbecue world, Chicago has begun to up the ante when it comes to its barbecue offerings. While it doesn’t have a defined "style," the city’s best barbecue spots are mixing it up with dry rubs, wet rubs and a variety of sauces to appease any barbecue lover — despite their premonitions that Chicago isn’t a barbecue town. Barbecue snobs will want to try one of these five Chicago rib joints to be proven wrong — or right.
What could be better than beer, bourbon and barbecue? Nothing, which is why the Pork Shoppe serves up all three on its menu. For those who can’t decide between baby back or St. Louis spare ribs, the half and half menu item offers guests the best of both worlds. A $5 glass of Makers Mark or one of the other five whiskeys available adds an extra kick to the meal, while a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon is a more traditional beverage of choice.
The ribs served at The Smoke Daddy are slow-cooked each day in the "Lil Red Smoker," using Hickory, Apple and Cherry woods. Now a Wicker Park institution since starting in 1994, the rhythm and blues restaurant is known for its Smoke Daddy rib dinners, which come with two sides. The most popular is the restaurant’s baked beans, topped off with bacon for a truly meaty experience. Apart from the barbecue, locals also come for the assortment of free live blues, rock and alt country music every day of the week.
The house-made rubs that flavor the meats at Chicago Q Restaurant are just one of the perks of this upscale, Southern-inspired barbecue restaurant. Offering three different kinds of ribs, the Kobe beef ribs are the house favorite, with only a limited supply available each day. Top them off with either an Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce or a South Carolina mustard sauce. Appetizers such as chargrilled blue point oysters and fried green tomatoes enhance the Southern cuisine influence. Top of the meal with one of the several bourbon flights available.
Established in 1932, Twin Anchors is one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago and is located in a circa-1881 Old Town building. It has always been known for its barbecue sauce-drenched baby-back ribs — so popular that Frank Sinatra frequented the joint throughout his life. The restaurant has also been featured in two films: Return to Me, directed by long-time patron Bonnie Hunt, and The Dark Knight. Its red tables and wooden chairs provide the perfect spot to taste some of the famous ribs, slathered in its Prohibition Sauce. A side of onion rings or crinkle-cut fries make the meal. In true Chicago form, a filet mignon or New York strip steak is also available on the menu.
Smoque BBQ preaches the importance of balancing all three key barbecue techniques: the art of smoking meat, matched with a quality dry rub and topped off with a tangy, house-made sauce. The restaurant believes in this balance so much that it creates specific sauces for specific kinds of meats. It serves both baby back and St. Louis cut spare ribs for those customers with a preference. However, they recommend the St. Louis cut spare ribs — trimmed of all the fat, but still meaty enough to soak up all that smoky flavor — for the most authentic experience.