Chicago's 12 Hottest BBQ Joints

By Sarah Freeman  |  July 13, 2015
Credit: Nick Murway

It's as simple as meat and fire — a cooking style built into our very nature. Add some carefully selected wood, keep the heat low and you have BBQ. Chicago's proximity to Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City make it a melting pot of 'cue styles. Read on to find the best spots to get your smoked-meat fix.

  • Credit: Gladones Photography

    Blackwood BBQ

    Expect lines out the door at this rapidly expanding, fast-casual BBQ concept serving breakfast, lunch and now dinner at the West Loop location. The original opened in The Loop in 2013, followed by a second in the West Loop. Order a sandwich, salad or platter, with a choice of pulled pork, beef or chicken, accompanied by a choice of regional sauces.

    Must-Order: Beef brisket sandwich with Chicago-style BBQ sauce

    Multiple locations

  • Bub City

    The perfect mix of saucy meat and live country music make this a popular River North spot. If you can stomach the crowds sucking down frozen pomegranate margaritas (they really are delicious, so we recommend joining them), there is noteworthy BBQ to be had at this Lettuce Entertain You restaurant and music hall.

    Must-Order: Berkshire pulled pork

    435 N. Clark St.; 312-610-4200

  • Chicago Q

    BBQ can be a messy affair with all that sauce and meat drippings, but that's not the case at this classy 'cue hub. Pitmaster Lee Ann Whippen made a name for herself on the competitive circuit before opening the Gold Coast restaurant that offers elevated takes on the classics — think Kobe beef brisket and ribs. It also features an impressive bourbon selection served in flights, straight up or in cocktails like mint juleps.

    Must-Order: Babyback ribs

    1160 N. Dearborn St.; 312-642-1160

  • County Barbeque

    The team behind DMK sets their sights on smoked meats on the South Side with this laid-back BBQ joint covered in plaid and American flags. Chef Erick Williams executes a regional menu with several styles represented, including St. Louis spareribs and Texas brisket. A whiskey-driven drink menu and top-notch sides make this a welcome addition to the scene. 

    Must-Order: Chicago rib tips

    1352 W. Taylor St.; 312-929-2528

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

    Since 1988, pitmaster John Stage has been slow-smoking meats for his now nationally acclaimed BBQ chain. What started as a single smokehouse in Syracuse, NY, has since expanded to several East Coast locations and one Chicago location. To get ready for the Midwest, Stage spent time studying Chicago’s BBQ scene to come up with a few options unique to this location, including pork three ways — smoked crispy pork belly, house hot link sausage and St. Louis ribs.

    Must-Order: BBQ wings, with a choice of mild, hot and hottest

    923 W. Weed St.; 312-462-1053

  • Green Street Smoked Meats

    Dripping with cool (and meat fat), Brendan Sodikoff’s take on a Texas BBQ joint is built into a repurposed warehouse with concrete floors, exposed beams and a massive smoker. It's used to prepare tender brisket, pork belly, ribs, whole chickens and hot links served by the half-pound. Grab a PBR or Lone Star out of the beer-filled sink and take a seat at one of the picnic tables for a down-and-dirty dining experience.

    Must-Order: Frito pie with brisket chili

    112 N. Green St.; 312-754-0431

  • Honky Tonk BBQ

    Representing Memphis-style BBQ is award-winning pitmaster Willie Eagner, who opened his restaurant and bar in 2007. Beef short ribs, rib tips, brisket, whole chickens and hot links are cooked over a wood-burning fire and served with a side of slaw and a pretzel roll. At the bar, savor the house special, Bacon & Brew, including an old-style pint and side of bacon candy.

    Must-Order: Bacon candy

    1800 S. Racine Ave.; 312-226-7427

  • Credit: John Philp

    Husky Hog BBQ

    Owners Joseph and Lauren Woodel are veterans who competed on the BBQ circuit for five years before bringing scent of smoked meats to Bridgeport. The shop — an extension of their popular BBQ truck — specializes in a hybrid of Memphis- and Kansas City–style 'cue with smoked meat seasoned with a dry rub and served with a selection of full-bodied sauces ranging from honey mustard to “hot hot hot.”

    Must-Order: El Toro sandwich filled with chopped burnt ends, sliced beef brisket and fried onion rings

    335 W. 31st St.; 773-442-2769

  • Lillie’s Q

    Chef Charlie McKenna knows his way around some meat. Both the original and the French Market counter are in full swing, serving up delectable smoked meats and crave-worthy sides including fried pickles, pimento cheese, hushpuppies and smoked chicken wings. No meal is complete without a sweet finish of banana pudding or seasonal shortcake.

    Must-Order: Pulled chicken

    Multiple locations

  • Smalls Smoke Shack

    Size doesn't matter at all at this little blue BBQ joint. It makes a splash with a mix of nontraditional and Asian-influenced 'cue. Glazed St. Louis ribs and pulled pork are served with sides of toasted garlic rice while smoked brisket can be served in a Korean bibimbop with assorted vegetables, steamed rice, fried egg, kimchi, pickled daikon and chile paste. In addition to the smoked-meat selection, it also offers some of the best fried chicken in the city.

    Must-Order: Brisket (or brisket bibimbop)

    4009 N. Albany Ave.; 312-857-4221

  • The Smoke Daddy

    Opened in 1994, the restaurant takes a retro rock 'n' roll approach with red vinyl booths and a checkered floor. In terms of BBQ, call it Kansas City–style, with influences from other Midwestern 'cue meccas. All meats are smoked over hickory and served with the house sauce, which you can also take home in bottles. Live music is played seven nights a week. A recently opened patio keeps this Wicker Park restaurant packed.

    Must-Order: Burnt ends

    1804 W. Division St.; 773-772-6656

  • Smoque BBQ

    Barry Sorkin and his team of meat experts have perfected the art of slow-cooking ribs and brisket over wood. An appearance on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives told the rest of the world what Chicago already knew: that the tender meat and signature sauce was worth the trip to Irving Park. It’s BYO, so feel free to bring along your own beer, but be warned that this popular joint usually has a line that winds to the door.

    Must-Order: St. Louis ribs

    3800 N. Pulaski Rd. #2; 773-545-7427