The Best BBQ Joints Right Here In Chicago

There comes a time in every Chicagoan's summer world when nothing but slow-cooked, sauce-smothered barbecue will do. Barbecue recipes are typically guarded like the crown jewels—you'll never know how they do it, and good luck trying find out. Our secret, though (and we're spilling it!), is that you don't have to slave over a slow-roaster or fire pit for hours when you can sample the sweet-and-spicy spoils at one of Chicago's totally legit barbecue spots. Everyone has a favorite (and we want to hear yours!), but if you're short of inspiration, just read on to find out who won our hearts...and bellies.
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Lillie’s Q
Chicago is no stranger to swine, and there are many arguments about where to get the best piggie in the city. We're coming right out and saying that the best pulled-pork sandwich in Chicago is at Lillie's Q. Aside from that little gem, and the five—yes five—amazing sauces that we find it difficult to chose from, Lillie's has a gorgeous interior that really elevates your experience. You might need that, considering you're about to eat with your hands. Lillie's Q, 1856 West North Avenue (at Wolcott Street); 773-772-5500. ‎
Smoque BBQ
Let's slow things down. Way down. Barbecue is the tortoise of cuisine, and Smoque is living proof. Their 12-hour prep and sweet, tangy, we'll-take-a-gallon-of-it sauce will have you appreciating the time, effort, and creativity that goes into all things Smoque. Do not, repeat do not, skip the peach cobbler for dessert. Smoque, 3800 North Pulaski Road # 2 (at Grace Street); 773-545-7427.
Honky Tonk BBQ
Honky Tonk BBQ knows how to give diners the real deal from start to finish. In addition to the meat-focused, super-sized main dishes, this is one joint that doesn't forget the importance of a killer side-dish. We're partial to fried green tomatoes and cornbread muffins, but hey, do you. Before you leave, taste the magic of the (amazing!) bacon candy, and immediately pencil in your return visit. Honky Tonk BBQ, 1213 West 18th Street (at South Racine Street); 312-226-7427.
Barbara Ann's
Pretty much every city and region lays claim to the best BBQ in the country. And usually it takes a road trip to enjoy an area’s unique style and flavor. If you're partial to Mississippi-style barbecue, and think an all-female pit crew is truly badass, you need to try Barbara Ann's. The oak, charcoal, and hickory fire is maintained by ladies who know what they're doing—but they'll never tell you how. We're cool with secrets. They're delicious. Barbara Ann's, 7617 South Cottage Grove Avenue (between 76th & 77th streets); 773-651-5300.
Merle’s
We would be remiss if we left out the Evanston barbecue restaurant that pays homage to Texas, the state that cranks out more delicious barbecue than all the others put together. At Merle's, you can choose from Chicago- or Texas-style barbecue sauce on the slow-cooked meat of your choice. We'd do both, but that's just us. The mac-and-cheese is mmm-inspiring, so don't leave without passing around this necessary side dish. We'll find out how you liked it once your food coma wears off. Merle's, 1727 Benson Avenue (between Church Street and Elgin Road); 847-475-7766.
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