With summer on the mind, few things can (temporarily) calm us Illinoisans—antsy for warmer weather—quite like good grub. But we’re not talking the standard meat and potatoes here, folks. Whether hickory or mesquite, vinegar or mustard, pulled or still clinging to the bone, we’re firing up the grill and smoking all the meats. From north to south, here’s a sampling of Illinois barbecue joints that will leave you wanting seconds and a hearty handful of napkins.
Smoque BBQ, Chicago (Avondale)
As our first stop on this tour de ‘cue, Smoque BBQ stands firmly behind a manifesto that touts a strong passion for their craft and the belief that Chicago-style barbecue has a place in this world. With a focus on doing a few things exceptionally well, you’re sure to find a little piece of meaty nirvana in their full slab of St. Louis Ribs or the Chopped Brisket Platter.
Milt’s BBQ for the Perplexed, Chicago (Lakeview)
Enjoying your fair share of barbecue goodness is not always easy when you’re living that kosher life. That’s where Milt’s BBQ comes in. For what this casual community corner in Lakeview lacks in pork, it makes up for in flavor with plenty of vegetarian options sure to satisfy just about everyone in your party.
Twin Anchors, Chicago (Old Town)
If you’re looking for a bit of old-school flair, consider yourself home at Twin Anchors. Ever since this place opened its doors back in 1932, they’ve been serving up fall-off-the-bone ribs and baked beans like it’s their job. ‘Cause it is. They’ve also been featured in a handful of movies and TV shows, with former regular Frank Sinatra being one of their most widely-known patrons.
Honky Tonk BBQ, Chicago (Pilsen)
Give me some wood-roasted barbecue and a bit of live music while you’re at it! Honky Tonk BBQ is your Pilsen hangout for pulled pork and beef brisket that’s smoked fresh every day, and a Saloon Stage that’s booked Thursday through Sunday. If you have a large party in tow (60+ people), they’ll even help you arrange a whole-hog pig roast.
The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern, Peoria
As we make our way out of the city, on the riverfront of Peoria is where you’ll find The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern. They’re situated in what was once a depot for the Rock Island Railroad, which hustled traveling passengers in and out up until 1978. House-smoked meats and a wide range of beers and cocktails to go with ‘em are what they’re known best for.
Black Dog Smoke and Ale House, Urbana
If you find yourself in Urbana, make it a point to stop in early at the Black Dog Smoke and Ale House. This widely loved local staple fills up fast with customers clamoring for their signature burnt tips. Order up a side of the Blackdog Cornbread, too, baked with green chiles, pit beans, cheese and pulled pork for a meal you won’t soon forget.
Pauly’s BBQ, Arthur
Right off Route 133 is a family owned favorite in Arthur. Pauly’s BBQ is run by a husband-and-wife duo who have been in operation since 2010. Paul smokes the meats while Sarah dishes out homemade pies and cobblers that’ll put the sweetest of ends to your lunch, dinner, and every ordered meal in between.
17th Street Barbecue, Murphysboro
Lard have mercy. What better way to end your quest than at the “barbecue shrine” of 17th Street BBQ in Murphysboro. Having been featured across a number of publications and TV shows alike, order off their menu and you’ll have zero questions as to why pitmaster Mike Mills is often referred to as “The Legend.” Their Baby Back Ribs are the real deal with a 6-hour slow cook time in a pit full of apple and cherry woods.
17th Street BBQ is also a member of Illinois Made, a collection of craftspeople, artists, family-owned businesses, small-batch breweries, distilleries, foodies, and farmers making great products right here in Illinois.