After a decade in Bucktown, Lillie’s Q — a neighborhood pioneer that popularized regional styles of barbecue in Chicago — is moving to a new location. Charlie McKenna’s shop will close in April at 1856 W. North Avenue. McKenna shared the news Tuesday morning via Facebook.
McKenna, when reached Tuesday via text, wrote he had no further comment beyond the social media post. There’s no information yet on Lillie’s Q’s new location. The last day of service inside the restaurant will be Sunday, April 5. McKenna has been thinking about changes for months. Last year, the restaurant switched from table to counter service. The restaurant has faced challenges including a 2013 fire that McKenna referenced on Tuesday.
“We were just getting our feet wet when faced with a heartbreaking setback the fire that threatened to close our doors for good,” Lillie’s Q’s Facebook post read. “Over the next three months, we worked tirelessly to rebuild and reopen. And reopen we did; greeted with an even warmer welcome and given a second chance that we vowed to never take for granted.”
The menu featured baby-back ribs, smoked tri-tip, pulled chicken and pork, hot links, and more. McKenna would experiment with the location over the years, and added a pick-up window, LQ Chicken Shack. The operation has grown beyond a restaurant. McKenna has seen success in bottling his line of barbecue sauces and selling them across the country, including with Amazon. He’s also enjoyed a strong partnership with the United Center, the home of the Chicago Blackhawks and Bulls. The arena has Lillie’s Q stands inside which introduce the brand to customers beyond Bucktown. McKenna also operated another Bucktown restaurant, Dixie. It closed in 2017 after more than a year.
The sauces, from smoky-style Memphis to Northern Alabama white, were a novelty for Chicago barbecue newbies 10 years ago. McKenna banged the drum for smoked meats in town and raised the average consumer’s level of knowledge. Also, when Lillie’s Q opened 10 years ago, Bucktown and Wicker Park was quieter. Bars and restaurants did exist, but its reputation was much different. Lillie’s Q helped usher in a boom for the neighborhood, and forged friendships with restaurants like Piece Pizza where customers can order a pie with McKenna’s sauce.
Stay tuned for information about Lillie’s Q’s new location. Until then, fans have 26 days to visit the original North Avenue barbecue spot.