From KC to the Carolinas, the best of authentic BBQ in Chicago

Though it can’t lay claim to signature moves like Kansas City’s tomato- and molasses-slicked BBQ, Memphis pit-cooked dry ribs, or the thin vinegar BBQ sauce of North Carolina, Chicago has made a strong case for its barbecue offerings in recent years. Here are a few newcomers and old standbys alike from The Windy City’s formidable smoked meat scene.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que —the east coast giant brings its massive footprint to town
The ninth outpost of the popular New York–based BBQ chain, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has brought its St. Louis-style ribs, jumbo pit-smoked chicken wings, and brisket to a former manufacturing facility on Weed Street in Lincoln Park. Unique to the Chicago location are items such as twice-cooked lamb shoulder and cleaver-hacked jerk-glazed ribs, pork 3-way (smoked belly, hot links, and St. Louis ribs), and funky fermented coleslaw. With its sprawling, 48-seat outdoor beer garden, you can enjoy those long, sticky summer nights with stickier fingers and a few cold beers.

BBQ for Breakfast? Blackwood’s brisket is worth waking up for
This two-year-old counter service-style BBQ joint in the Loop keeps things simple. Pick your meat (pulled pork, pulled chicken, or beef brisket), pick a style (sandwich, salad, or platter) and pick one of five regional sauces to top it (we like the Kansas City, tangy with a healthy kick of spice). The pulled pork sandwich, richly fatty with a good dose of smoke flavor, is not to be missed. And if you prefer your BBQ at breakfast, try the briskets and gravy, with beef served atop a flaky biscuit and blanketed in creamy gravy.

smalls. smoke shack & more—the tiny spot for big flavors
For the past two years, this small (pun or not), electric blue–painted Irving Park spot has been turning out big BBQ flavors that range in influence from Southeast Asia to the American South. The applewood-smoked brisket is juicy and meltingly tender, laced with shards of crunchy, flavorful bark—or you can have your brisket glazed with soy-maple-sesame BBQ sauce in a flavorful bibimbap. Hulking slabs of St. Louis ribs are marinated in soy sauce, banana ketchup, and lime soda before they’re smoked in the Southern Pride pit. And don’t get us started on the masterful, buttermilk-brined fried chicken. Place your order and head next door to Lizard’s Liquid Lounge, where smalls will bring your meal while you sip a pint.

Smoque BBQ keeps them coming back with tender meats and serious smoke
This Northside joint opened its doors in December of 2006 and helped jumpstart the BBQ renaissance in Chicago. Tender yet toothsome ribs sport a sticky and savory crust, 14-hour smoked brisket comes with sweet BBQ sauce on the side (try it as a sandwich on the pillowy soft bun), applewood and oak-smoked pulled pork is coated in a peppery sauce, and the smoked chicken is a juicy as can be. House-made sides—from tangy, al dente mac and cheese to crunchy slaw—round out a meal that demonstrates what it takes to make great, authentic ‘cue.

Veteran BBQ house Lem’s is the go-to for pork rib tips
The city’s oldest BBQ stand, Lem’s helped put Chicago on the map as a destination for rib tips—pork’s now coveted answer to beef’s burnt ends. Pay a visit to this Southside staple for these fatty, smoky gems—you can get a bucket of them for $30—along with other no-frills classics from the famous juicy hot links to smoky spare ribs doused in vinegary sauce.

Green Street Smoked Meats, local beer, and Frito pie—oh, my!
The lines always seem to be long at this hip, cafeteria-style barbecue joint in a converted warehouse in the trendy West Loop. But they move it along quickly, since the smoked meats and sides here are all sold “each” or by the half-pound. The smoked chicken leg is meltingly tender; the ribs chewy with flavorful bark; brisket (sliced or chopped) is appropriately fatty, savory, and tender. The elevated sides don’t come cheap ($4.95 apiece) but are generously sized, from tangy red cabbage slaw to sweet-savory and crisp broccoli salad. Brisket chili Frito pie will dilute your worst hangover, as may a selection of beers that includes several from Local Option.

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