Rib tips are a Chicago invention and the city’s most famous may come from Lem’s Bar-B-Q, the Chatham restaurant that’s been around since for almost seven decades. Lem’s owners reportedly weren’t very happy the restaurant’s name was used on the menu at Chicago Brewhouse, a restaurant/bar that opened in July on the Chicago Riverwalk. When it opened, the menu included “Chatham Rib Tips with Lem’s BBQ Sauce.” The Lem’s reference has since been removed after Chicago Brewhouse’s owners received a cease-and-desist letter.
In August, a Lem’s regular dined at Chicago Brewhouse and was confused after seeing the menu, according to The Chicago Crusader. He called Lem’s owner Carmen Lemons wondering if Lem’s had begun selling food on the Riverwalk. That wasn’t the case — there was no agreement between the two restaurants. Though around since the 1950s, Lem’s ownership established a trademark in 2006. Lemons directed her attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter to the owners of Chicago Brewhouse, Vaughan Hospitality.
Owner Kevin Vaughan has apologized to Lemons. He told the Crusader that one of his workers purchased the sauce used for the rib tibs from Lem’s. Lemons told the Crusader that Vaughan should have known better; they’ve been around since the 1950s.
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The menu at Chicago Brewhouse features dishes from around the city and it’s shaped like a Chicago map. It’s meant to give tourists a taste of Chicago, to introduce them to flavors and dishes they wouldn’t normally see while staying at a hotel downtown. The Riverwalk is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Other items include elotes from Little Village and chicken tikka masala from Devon Avenue. No other items, besides the rib tips, used another restaurant’s name.
This sort of practice — using another restaurant’s items on a menu — isn’t unusual in Chicago — especially with desserts. Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Logan Square buys tres leches cake from Kristoffer’s Cafe & Bakery in Pilsen. The difference there is the staff at Kristoffer’s knows Mi Tocaya’s workers. They also know that their cake is being served at the restaurant. Over at Old Habits, the food side inside Ludlow Liquors in Logan Square, chef Nick Jirasek uses sauce from Hienie’s Shrimp House, the 71-year-old restaurant on the Southeast Side. The sauce is listed in descriptions on the smoked Buffalo cauliflower and chicken legs.