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A chef holds down a slab of brisket and slices it into thin pieces.
The smoked brisket at Green Street Smoked Meats is among Chicago’s best.
Nicholas James/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s Essential Barbecue Restaurants

Feast on ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and other smoky delights

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The smoked brisket at Green Street Smoked Meats is among Chicago’s best.
| Nicholas James/Eater Chicago

Chicago is far from the South but residents here know a thing or two about barbecue. From tender Texas brisket to succulent St. Louis ribs, and vinegary Carolina pork to Chinese char siu, Chicagoans have come close to perfecting various styles of smoked meats. To help narrow down the long list of places in the city to find finger-licking food, check out the following 20 pit masters who have mastered the craft.

For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Soul & Smoke - Evanston

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Chef D’Andre Carter and wife Heather Bublick have brought back barbecue glory to Evanston, a suburb with a legacy of smoked meats thanks to Hecky’s, Merle’s, and more. Carter, a South Side Chicago native, has shown an obsession for barbecue with Texas-style brisket, tender baby backs, and more. The operation also has a ghost kitchen in Avondale, a stall in the Time Out Market Chicago in Fulton Market, and a food truck.

www.neiljohnburger.com

ATX Bodega

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Those who can’t get to Austin, Texas, might as well head to Ravenswood to sample the goods at ATX Bodega. The specialties here are Texas-style favorites: tacos, birria, and quesadillas made with smoked beef and pork. There’s also brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder by the pound.

Earl's BBQ

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This Jefferson Park spot lures fans with items like a brisket burrito and pulled pork poutine, for breakfast. Other favorites include smoked salmon, rib tips, and smoked polish sausage. Earl’s is equipped with a handy drive-thru, ideal for social distancing, and has a handful of picnic tables for outdoor dining. A sister restaurant, Ella’s BBQ in Lincoln Park, is also open.

Smoque BBQ

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The place that started Chicago’s barbecue renaissance is well-known and beloved by smoked meats enthusiasts. Smoque holds a long-standing spot on the Eater 38 thanks to its melting pot of styles. The meaty St. Louis ribs are slathered with a Memphis-style dry rub and smoked over apple and oak, while the moist and tender brisket by way of Texas is one of the finest in town. Sides are no afterthought, either, as homemade mac and cheese, brisket chili, and BBQ beans are all excellent. Staff have set up a covered and socially-distanced patio that’s also BYOB. A second restaurant, Smoque Steak, featuring, yes, smoked steaks, is scheduled to open in the fall.

A pile of brisket
Smoque’s wildly popular brisket
Smoque BBQ [Official Photo]

Lexington Betty Smoke House

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Pit master Dominque Leach, who worked at fine-dining restaurant Spiaggia before opening her own establishment, smokes her meats using applewood and offers pork and turkey rib tips, smoked chicken, and brisket. She describes her barbecue style as Central Texas-meets-Memphis. Get the goods at Leach’s North Avenue restaurant or her recently-opened second location in Pullman.

Chicago Q

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Barbecue and the Gold Coast don’t sound like they quite go together (especially with valet parking), but hey, this joint is run by Art Smith, Oprah’s former personal chef. Chicago Q prides itself not only the quality of its meats — which run the full barbecue gamut of pig, beef, chicken, and links, plus gator, in the styles of the Carolinas, Texas, Tennessee, and Missouri — but also of its bourbon.

3 Little Pigs Chi

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Henry Cai learned the art of Chinese barbecue from his father, Qi Cai, and he’s deploying it to great effect at 3 Little Pigs. Originally an Instagram restaurant, 3 Little Pigs is now a carry-out operation in Humboldt Park, though Cai hopes to expand to a full-service operation with a dining room restaurant later this year. In the meantime, enjoy his succulent char siu and pork belly skewers, as well as non-barbecue items like a salt and pepper chicken sandwich.

Bro-N-Laws Bar-B-Q

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South Side-style barbecue is, understandably, a rarity on the other parts of town. This Humboldt Park spot is the welcome exception to that norm, utilizing an aquarium smoker to produce tasty rib and turkey tips, links, and slabs of ribs. There’s a non-pork smoker, too, for folks with dietary restrictions.

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BBQ turkey tips

A post shared by Tyrone Davis Weeks (@westside_bigmoney45) on

Lillie’s Q

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After nine years in business, Charlie McKenna’s popular Wicker Park restaurant has made some changes. The menu has expanded to include new items like Texas brisket and pimento cheese sausage while the service is now counter. Old favorites — fried pickles, tri tips — remain, as do Lillie’s Q’s lineup of bottled sauces, which range from tangy Carolina Gold to a mayonnaise-based Alabama white barbecue sauce. McKenna relocated to a new space inside West Town brewery District Brew Yards in 2020.

Green Street Smoked Meats

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Hogsalt Hospitality operates a variety of successful restaurants, including a cafeteria-style smokehouse located inside a former West Loop warehouse. Texas-inspired meats, like brisket, pastrami, pork belly, and ribs, are sold by the half pound. The simple menu also offers several sides as well as Frito pie topped with brisket chili. Green Street offers patio seating as well as delivery and carryout.

A smattering of barbecue meats and side dishes
Pick up the good stuff in half-pound increments at Green Street.
Green Street Smoked Meats [Official Photo]

Babygold BBQ

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Chef John Manion knows his way around a kitchen. When Wicker Park was at its apex of cool, Mas along Division Street was one of the hottest spots around. Before Fulton Market grew into a magnet for brands, La Sirena Clandestina gave Chicago a taste of Brazil. His Latin steakhouse, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, continues to reinvent itself in West Loop. Now, Manion has taken all that meaty experience and applied it to barbecue inside FitzGerald’s, one of the Chicago area’s most loved music venues. Babygold is style agnostic, plucking from a variety of regional traditions to offer top-notch baby-back ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. A giant combo platter is dubbed “Berwyn Style.” Berwyn has marketed itself as a one suburb that doesn’t feel like a suburb. But with Babygold, Chicagoans may actually have a reason to venture out. Veggie options are available.

Babygold Barbecue is killing it in Berwyn.
FitzGeralds/DTKindler Photography

Honky Tonk BBQ

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Pitmaster Willie Wagner honed his skills on the competition circuit before opening a Wild West-themed smoked meats destination in Pilsen. His Memphis-style, dry-rubbed barbecue includes brisket, baby back and St. Louis ribs, smoked chicken, and some of the city’s finest pulled pork.

Pickup or delivery?

Posted by Honky Tonk Bbq on Friday, April 24, 2020

Honey 1 BBQ

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Arkansas native Robert Adams runs this acclaimed barbecue spot with his son Robert Jr. and together the two slow-cook their meats over wood fire in a glass-walled “aquarium” smoker. The result is tender, meaty, and lean spare ribs, rib tips, hot links, and pulled pork that’s gained a devoted following. And in keeping with the spirit of other South Side spots, they also offer non-BBQ items such as chicken wings, smoked chicken, fried fish dinners, and burgers.

Leon's Barbecue

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Patrons won’t find seating or virtually any type of amenity at this South Side staple but they will enjoy grilled slabs of ribs, tender rib tips, and succulent hot links. Call ahead to place an order or be prepared to wait as lines are common. Leon’s operates a second location on 106th Street.

Uncle J's BBQ

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Chicago's barbecue community shed many tears when longtime local stalwart Uncle John's BBQ closed. But pitmaster Mack Sevier's daughter spawned this under-the-radar spot that appropriates many of Uncle John's favorites, including the fantastic rib tips and hot links.

Uncle J’s Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Trice’s Original Slab Bar-B-Que

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Slab is a family-owned smoke stack that serves links, rib tips, chicken, and baby-back and St. Louis-style ribs. The South Shore restaurant uses hickory in its aquarium-style smokers. Slab also makes its side dishes — fries, cole slaw, and macaroni and cheese — on site.

Lem's BBQ House

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Chicagoans’ love of rib tips and its popularity can be traced back to this small South Side smoke shack. Lem’s has been an institution for more than 60 years, serving smoky, finger-licking tips with a tangy, vinegary sauce. There’s little else available on the menu except for some juicy hot links and fried chicken, but everyone should head to 75th Street to understand why the lines stretch out the door.

Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe

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A popular spot in the southern suburbs, Chuck’s is a blend of Cajun-Creole, Mexican, and Southern cooking. The barbecue is cooked low and slow and stands up to any competitor in Chicago. The brisket and rib tips are standouts but diners should get the sampler platter for a taste of two or three meats. Staff have set up a covered outdoor patio. A second Chuck’s outpost is located in Darien.

The Full Slab

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This cozy Chatham spot serves up St. Louis-style ribs, rib tips, wings, turkey tips, and more. Former pharmaceutical engineer Samuel Gilbert claims his travels to barbecue hotspots like Memphis and North Carolina gave him a chance to study the craft. The restaurant is takeout and delivery-only.

I-57 Rib House

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Located right off Interstate 57, this no-frills shack puts the spotlight on poultry, serving barbecue that’s a bit less common in the form of turkey tips and turkey links. Traditional rib tips and hot links are also available for carryout and delivery.

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Soul & Smoke - Evanston

www.neiljohnburger.com

Chef D’Andre Carter and wife Heather Bublick have brought back barbecue glory to Evanston, a suburb with a legacy of smoked meats thanks to Hecky’s, Merle’s, and more. Carter, a South Side Chicago native, has shown an obsession for barbecue with Texas-style brisket, tender baby backs, and more. The operation also has a ghost kitchen in Avondale, a stall in the Time Out Market Chicago in Fulton Market, and a food truck.

www.neiljohnburger.com

ATX Bodega

Those who can’t get to Austin, Texas, might as well head to Ravenswood to sample the goods at ATX Bodega. The specialties here are Texas-style favorites: tacos, birria, and quesadillas made with smoked beef and pork. There’s also brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder by the pound.

Earl's BBQ

This Jefferson Park spot lures fans with items like a brisket burrito and pulled pork poutine, for breakfast. Other favorites include smoked salmon, rib tips, and smoked polish sausage. Earl’s is equipped with a handy drive-thru, ideal for social distancing, and has a handful of picnic tables for outdoor dining. A sister restaurant, Ella’s BBQ in Lincoln Park, is also open.

Smoque BBQ

A pile of brisket
Smoque’s wildly popular brisket
Smoque BBQ [Official Photo]

The place that started Chicago’s barbecue renaissance is well-known and beloved by smoked meats enthusiasts. Smoque holds a long-standing spot on the Eater 38 thanks to its melting pot of styles. The meaty St. Louis ribs are slathered with a Memphis-style dry rub and smoked over apple and oak, while the moist and tender brisket by way of Texas is one of the finest in town. Sides are no afterthought, either, as homemade mac and cheese, brisket chili, and BBQ beans are all excellent. Staff have set up a covered and socially-distanced patio that’s also BYOB. A second restaurant, Smoque Steak, featuring, yes, smoked steaks, is scheduled to open in the fall.

A pile of brisket
Smoque’s wildly popular brisket
Smoque BBQ [Official Photo]

Lexington Betty Smoke House

Pit master Dominque Leach, who worked at fine-dining restaurant Spiaggia before opening her own establishment, smokes her meats using applewood and offers pork and turkey rib tips, smoked chicken, and brisket. She describes her barbecue style as Central Texas-meets-Memphis. Get the goods at Leach’s North Avenue restaurant or her recently-opened second location in Pullman.

Chicago Q

Barbecue and the Gold Coast don’t sound like they quite go together (especially with valet parking), but hey, this joint is run by Art Smith, Oprah’s former personal chef. Chicago Q prides itself not only the quality of its meats — which run the full barbecue gamut of pig, beef, chicken, and links, plus gator, in the styles of the Carolinas, Texas, Tennessee, and Missouri — but also of its bourbon.

3 Little Pigs Chi

Henry Cai learned the art of Chinese barbecue from his father, Qi Cai, and he’s deploying it to great effect at 3 Little Pigs. Originally an Instagram restaurant, 3 Little Pigs is now a carry-out operation in Humboldt Park, though Cai hopes to expand to a full-service operation with a dining room restaurant later this year. In the meantime, enjoy his succulent char siu and pork belly skewers, as well as non-barbecue items like a salt and pepper chicken sandwich.

Bro-N-Laws Bar-B-Q

South Side-style barbecue is, understandably, a rarity on the other parts of town. This Humboldt Park spot is the welcome exception to that norm, utilizing an aquarium smoker to produce tasty rib and turkey tips, links, and slabs of ribs. There’s a non-pork smoker, too, for folks with dietary restrictions.

View this post on Instagram

BBQ turkey tips

A post shared by Tyrone Davis Weeks (@westside_bigmoney45) on

Lillie’s Q

After nine years in business, Charlie McKenna’s popular Wicker Park restaurant has made some changes. The menu has expanded to include new items like Texas brisket and pimento cheese sausage while the service is now counter. Old favorites — fried pickles, tri tips — remain, as do Lillie’s Q’s lineup of bottled sauces, which range from tangy Carolina Gold to a mayonnaise-based Alabama white barbecue sauce. McKenna relocated to a new space inside West Town brewery District Brew Yards in 2020.

Green Street Smoked Meats

A smattering of barbecue meats and side dishes
Pick up the good stuff in half-pound increments at Green Street.
Green Street Smoked Meats [Official Photo]

Hogsalt Hospitality operates a variety of successful restaurants, including a cafeteria-style smokehouse located inside a former West Loop warehouse. Texas-inspired meats, like brisket, pastrami, pork belly, and ribs, are sold by the half pound. The simple menu also offers several sides as well as Frito pie topped with brisket chili. Green Street offers patio seating as well as delivery and carryout.

A smattering of barbecue meats and side dishes
Pick up the good stuff in half-pound increments at Green Street.
Green Street Smoked Meats [Official Photo]

Babygold BBQ

Babygold Barbecue is killing it in Berwyn.
FitzGeralds/DTKindler Photography

Chef John Manion knows his way around a kitchen. When Wicker Park was at its apex of cool, Mas along Division Street was one of the hottest spots around. Before Fulton Market grew into a magnet for brands, La Sirena Clandestina gave Chicago a taste of Brazil. His Latin steakhouse, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, continues to reinvent itself in West Loop. Now, Manion has taken all that meaty experience and applied it to barbecue inside FitzGerald’s, one of the Chicago area’s most loved music venues. Babygold is style agnostic, plucking from a variety of regional traditions to offer top-notch baby-back ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. A giant combo platter is dubbed “Berwyn Style.” Berwyn has marketed itself as a one suburb that doesn’t feel like a suburb. But with Babygold, Chicagoans may actually have a reason to venture out. Veggie options are available.

Babygold Barbecue is killing it in Berwyn.
FitzGeralds/DTKindler Photography

Honky Tonk BBQ

Pitmaster Willie Wagner honed his skills on the competition circuit before opening a Wild West-themed smoked meats destination in Pilsen. His Memphis-style, dry-rubbed barbecue includes brisket, baby back and St. Louis ribs, smoked chicken, and some of the city’s finest pulled pork.

Pickup or delivery?

Posted by Honky Tonk Bbq on Friday, April 24, 2020

Honey 1 BBQ

Arkansas native Robert Adams runs this acclaimed barbecue spot with his son Robert Jr. and together the two slow-cook their meats over wood fire in a glass-walled “aquarium” smoker. The result is tender, meaty, and lean spare ribs, rib tips, hot links, and pulled pork that’s gained a devoted following. And in keeping with the spirit of other South Side spots, they also offer non-BBQ items such as chicken wings, smoked chicken, fried fish dinners, and burgers.

Leon's Barbecue

Patrons won’t find seating or virtually any type of amenity at this South Side staple but they will enjoy grilled slabs of ribs, tender rib tips, and succulent hot links. Call ahead to place an order or be prepared to wait as lines are common. Leon’s operates a second location on 106th Street.

Uncle J's BBQ

Uncle J’s Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago's barbecue community shed many tears when longtime local stalwart Uncle John's BBQ closed. But pitmaster Mack Sevier's daughter spawned this under-the-radar spot that appropriates many of Uncle John's favorites, including the fantastic rib tips and hot links.

Uncle J’s Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Trice’s Original Slab Bar-B-Que

Slab is a family-owned smoke stack that serves links, rib tips, chicken, and baby-back and St. Louis-style ribs. The South Shore restaurant uses hickory in its aquarium-style smokers. Slab also makes its side dishes — fries, cole slaw, and macaroni and cheese — on site.

Lem's BBQ House

Chicagoans’ love of rib tips and its popularity can be traced back to this small South Side smoke shack. Lem’s has been an institution for more than 60 years, serving smoky, finger-licking tips with a tangy, vinegary sauce. There’s little else available on the menu except for some juicy hot links and fried chicken, but everyone should head to 75th Street to understand why the lines stretch out the door.

Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe

A popular spot in the southern suburbs, Chuck’s is a blend of Cajun-Creole, Mexican, and Southern cooking. The barbecue is cooked low and slow and stands up to any competitor in Chicago. The brisket and rib tips are standouts but diners should get the sampler platter for a taste of two or three meats. Staff have set up a covered outdoor patio. A second Chuck’s outpost is located in Darien.

The Full Slab

This cozy Chatham spot serves up St. Louis-style ribs, rib tips, wings, turkey tips, and more. Former pharmaceutical engineer Samuel Gilbert claims his travels to barbecue hotspots like Memphis and North Carolina gave him a chance to study the craft. The restaurant is takeout and delivery-only.

I-57 Rib House

Located right off Interstate 57, this no-frills shack puts the spotlight on poultry, serving barbecue that’s a bit less common in the form of turkey tips and turkey links. Traditional rib tips and hot links are also available for carryout and delivery.

Related Maps