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Denzel Washington Prompts A Chicago Barbecue to Announce a New Location

Washington ate at the 77-year-old chain when he was a kid

89th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet
Denzel Washington at the Oscars in February.
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images
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.

Last week, actor Denzel Washington was seen driving around Chicago in search of Leon’s BBQ, a two-location chain founded in 1940 on the city’s South Side. Washington, an Oscar-winning actor known for movies including Malcolm X, Training Day, and Remember The Titans, couldn’t find the restaurant he remembered eating at as a child. So he got out of his car and asked for directions, taking photos with an adorable 86-year-old woman. The scene was captured on video, and prompted by that viral attention, the owner of Leon’s announced plans to open a new location on Nov. 22 at 1528 E. 63rd Street in Woodlawn.

In its heyday, Leon’s had four locations. The ribs brought a cult-like following, and it was marketed as the best example of Chicago-style barbecue. The reputation came despite a mixed-bag of reviews.

Dr. Leon Finney Jr.’s father founded the barbecue spot 77 years ago. Finney Jr. now runs the chain. He told ABC Chicago’s Windy City Live that he wants to send Washington a case of ribs and two gallons of sauce, “if we can find him.” Good luck, and stay tuned as Leon’s is scheduled to open on Nov. 22 near the corner of 63rd Street and Stony Island Avenue.