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Finger lickin’ good: Six trusted Chicago spots for a stellar barbecue experience this summer

By Trent Modglin
This article is courtesy of

Green Street Smoked Meats

This West Loop hotspot has rows of communal seating lighted with lots of tiny lights in a small passageway, as well as an indoor warehouse-type space that feels like a cool hipster dive bar right out of Austin, Texas. Meats are available by the half pound (brisket and pork belly recommended) and draft beers by the pitcher, making this is ideal place to go with a group. Don’t be afraid to snag yourself a Frito pie topped with brisket chili. 112 N. Green.

Lillie’s Q

After nine years as a sit-down BBQ establishment, owner/chef Charlie McKenna made some changes to his award-winning Wicker Park spot this past spring, including moving to expedited counter service, wood-accented walls and new menu items like Texas brisket and pimento cheese sausage. Thankfully, most of the old favorites — housemade moonshine cocktails, Southern fare and bottled sauces to go — remain the same. McKenna’s goal: “Create a Southern-inspired BBQ experience that’s true to regional traditions and reimagined into unique, authentic and delicious flavors.” Sounds good to us. 1856 W. North Ave.

Blackwood BBQ

At this relatively new downtown restaurant, they like to say they’re working on the meal you’ll have for lunch tomorrow before you’ve even gone to bed. That makes sense when you consider their meats spend 15 hours in the smoker, and their mac and cheese takes hours to put together. The menu itself is fairly simple, featuring brisket, smoked sausage and pulled pork and chicken. Insider’s tip: Don’t forget the honey cheddar cornbread, and go for the South Carolina and Alabama sauce mixed together. Just do it. 307 W. Lake St.


Imagine a modernized saloon, and that’s a good place to start in terms of a description of this fun spot in Old Irving Park. Exposed brick walls, rich wood accents, wagon-wheel light fixtures and a tin ceiling give it an inviting vibe. The award-winning ribs are where it all starts, but it’s tough to look past their pulled pork tacos and beer can chicken (Corona-braised shredded chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, and Carolina BBQ mustard, served on a soft Italian roll). Fried pickle chips and Southwest rolls will get you started off right. Pitchfork is also quite proud of their whiskey and bourbon selection, and with more than 150 varieties, it’s easy to see why. 2922 W. Irving Park.

Bub City

Bub City is your place for all things country and barbecue (baby back ribs and smoked wings are recommended) in the heart of River North downtown. Photos of Nashville music stars adorn the walls, acoustic guitarists and bands take to the stage late several nights of the week, and the Southern brunch and Bloody Mary bar are big hits on the weekend. Don’t forget the massive whiskey selection, specialty “back porch tea,” 18-hour beef brisket or fried chicken that’s dipped in buttermilk and doused in secret spices. 435 N. Clark.

Smoke Daddy

The first of its kind in Wicker Park to offer award-winning barbecue and live music seven nights a week, this has been a Chicago institution since 1994. Smoked in house, their pulled meat selection is one of the best in the city, and rotating boozy slushies are a wonderful complement to a hot summer day. Smoke Daddy has live music during the week and opened a second location across the street from Wrigley Field last year. 1804 W. Division.