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James Lemons, Owner of Lem's Bar-B-Q, Has Died

Funeral is scheduled for Friday for operator of family-owned Chicago barbecue icon.

James Lemons
James Lemons
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Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

James Lemons, the owner and operator of Lem's Bar-B-Q, the South Side institution that helped define Chicago's barbecue style, died on Sunday, according to Callahan Funeral Home. Lemons, along with brothers Bruce and Myles, in 1968 opened the second Lem's in Chatham, credited as the first restaurant to serve up Chicago's iconic rib tips. The news was first posted on Facebook. Lemons was 87.

Lemons and his brothers grew up in Indianola, Miss. Myles Lemons, the oldest, opened the first Lem's in 1951. James Lemons was later brought on as the chef for the second location, and was the last brother involved in the family business. There's only one Lem's currently in operation, hailed as a barbecue icon not just in Chicago, but across the country. It's also one of Eater Chicago's 9 essential barbecue spots in Chicago.

A public viewing is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday at Callahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St. Visitation will take place 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, followed by the funeral at 7:30 p.m. at New Covenant Baptist Church, 754 E. 77th St.

Lem's BBQ House

311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619 (773) 994-2428 Visit Website