And Other BBQs You Never Imagined
By Samantha Schwalm
There is Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis, South Carolina and taking the best from all regions, Chicago style. Whatever your favorite type is, we all call it Barbecue. Barbecue varies from region to region, but simply put, it is a highly seasoned piece of meat cooked at a low temperature typically over wood chips, for a long period of time. Fortunately, for those of us in Chicago, we can find almost any kind of Barbecue we find ourselves craving.
Smoked Barbeque Ribs.
Memphis Style barbecue is a type of BBQ characterized by dry rubs and a sweet-tangy barbecue sauce. Traditionally pork based, Memphis style usual serves pulled pork and ribs. The meat is slowly smoked over a wood fire for maximum flavor. One of the best places in Chicago to find excellent Memphis style BBQ, is Smoque. Located on the 3800 block of North Pulaski, it is a neighborhood joint, which was started by five guys with a passion for Barbecue. All of the sauces and rubs are made in house. It is a BYOB, but get there early. They do not take reservations, at this cafeteria style ordering place, and they have been known to run out of some of their fan favorite brisket.
Kansas City makes a strong case for the world’s barbecue capital and is home to more than one hundred barbecue restaurants. You can trace the city’s barbecue origins to Henry Perry, a Tennessee native who opened a smoked meat stand in the city’s garment district in 1908. He served beef, ribs, possum and raccoon. When Perry died in 1940, his stand was taken over by Charlie Bryant, who in turn, sold it to his brother Arthur. Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue is now considered an American Barbecue landmark. Today KC Barbecue still uses a variety of meats (such as pork, beef, sausage, and chicken). It is smoked over hickory wood, and covered with a tomato based sauce. It is usually served with a side of baked beans and coleslaw. Smoke Daddy located at 1804 West Division is serving up some of the best KC style burnt ends in Chicago.
Pulled Pork on Cornbread from Limelight Catering.
Contrary to the other styles of barbecue, St Louis BBQ, is usually grilled, peppered, and then heavily sauced. In fact, St. Louis consumes more barbecue sauce than any other place in the country. The pulled pork is usually served with a scoop of coleslaw on top. A newer addition to the Chicago area, is Dinosaur BBQ. Although, its origins are from Syracuse, New York, (in fact it is an institution in Syracuse), this St. Louis style barbecue joint, was frequented often by president Clinton, during his presidency, and was served at the wedding rehearsal dinner of this Classic Chicago Magazine contributor.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Kabat and Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Hylant enjoying Dinosaur Barbeque.
I would be remiss, if I did not discuss South Carolina Barbecue. This region of the country is known for their “Carolina Gold” Sauce. This mustard based sauce is made from a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and other spices. In the coastal region of South Carolina, they smoke the entire hog. In other parts of the state they smoke shoulders and hams. If you are looking for authentic South Carolina barbecue in Chicago, then Lillie‘s Q is a must. It is named after Chef Charlie McKenna‘s grandmother, who taught him to cook in Greenville, SC. This Bucktown eatery will not disappoint.
I cannot talk about Barbecue without mentioning Chicago! This city’s style of barbecue is cooked over a hardwood (such as elm or hickory) in an aquarium-style smoker. These smokers, a staple in Chicago barbecue restaurants, have sliding glass doors, attached to a draft vent, and are typically six to eight feet long. They are known to smoke predominately ribs, rib tips, and Hot Links. Hot links are spicy homemade sausages. The meat is doused with sweet-spicy sauce and is often served over slices of white bread. Chicago’s South Side has a long tradition of barbecue. However, if you find yourself on the North side, you have to go to Twin Anchors. This casual BBQ joint located on Sedgwick, is a Chicago rite of passage. They do not take reservations, but the bar should have enough room for you to grab a few drinks before you sit down.
The good news is, whether you live on the South, North, East or West side of Chicago, there is most likely a wonderful barbecue place in your neighborhood. So grab an ice cold beer or even a whiskey, pick a part of town, and get sampling!
Samantha Schwalm is owner of Paris Kabat Catering, providing personal chef and cooking services in Chicago. She can be followed on Instagram: paris_kabat_catering and at FB: Paris Kabat Catering.