Chicago’s barbecue identity roots may not reach down as far as Kansas City’s, but they do have a tasty story. Not only did African Americans bring their music and dreams with them in the migration from the Mississippi Delta – they brought a barbecue style of smoking meats over direct heat to the south side. At the same time, the north side of Chicago was filling up with Eastern Europe immigrants, with a cooking style of boiled meats.
Today, barbecue ribs still bring a division between the North and Southside of Chicago…but what a tasty war!
The four most popular ribs showing up in Chicago are baby back ribs, St. Louis ribs, spareribs, and rib tips. Baby back ribs are found on the high side of the pig, resulting in a leaner and tender meat. Lower down on the rib cage is the Spareribs, resulting in a meatier and fattier meal. St. Louis ribs are spareribs with the tough cartilage trimmed off, making them easier to eat, and rib tips which some have nicknamed “meat candy” are made out of the pieces that were trimmed off.
With a combination of Texas and Kansas City Style baby back ribs, BBQ King Smokehouse tantalized the taste buds of the judges again - at Ribfest Chicago 2017. Two brothers with a passion for cooking have taken first place for 2 years in a row. Their philosophy is simple…and it works. They choose good cuts of meat and smoke them between 4-16 hours with all natural wood and charcoal.
Honey 1 BBQ rib spot is operated by pitmaster Robert Adams Sr. and his son, Robert JR. With a slow hand, they cook slabs of spareribs over hard oak wood several hours in a glass pit (aquarium style) creating a smoky flavor meat that slides off the bones- tender and juicy. Order your sauce on the side because you probably won’t need it after you sink your teeth into some of the best-cooked meat in Chicago.
Bruce & Myles Lemons opened their first store on the South side of Chicago in 1954. Lem’s Bar-B-Q House is known for its flavor-rich rib tips and spice-covered hot links. Aquarium smoker style cooking gives Lem’s spareribs that authentic Chicago barbecue taste, simmered in decades of love, struggles of life, and the genuine taste of Chicago-style ribs.
Five guys with a passion for food joined together and opened Smoque BBQ in 2006. Why are they serving awesome smoked St. Louis ribs? They share it’s all in the balance, “We’ve worked hard to match the right cut of meat with the right rub, wood smoke, sauce, and cooking technique.” These ribs don’t really need a sauce as your teeth sink into a rub of sugar and spice and everything nice.
Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern is one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago (1932) serving tender barbecued baby-back ribs. No pits of smoky wood are blazing anywhere at Twin Anchors. Their famous baby-back ribs are slow cooked in the oven and then sauced over with their favorite sauces to compliment the meat. Frank Sinatra loved Twin Anchors. While ole’ blue eyes would be entertaining in Chicago he would stop over and enjoy some barbecued ribs. His order was “Ribs, and keep ‘em coming.”