When the local ’cue aficionados and the most vocal online critics are one and the same (Gary Wiviott, who started foodie site LTHForum.com, wrote the barbecue book Low and Slow), you shouldn’t go into the barbecue business without a thick skin. Handling the task like a pro this year was Charlie McKenna of Lillie’s Q, a veteran of both the competition barbecue circuit (he’s a Memphis in May champ) and the fine-dining world (after cooking at Orlando’s legendary Norman’s, he became sous chef at TRU). At Lillie’s, McKenna smolders pork shoulder into submission over peach wood, imparts a solid smoke ring into baby backs and turns the tri-tip into a lean, steaky signature, strong enough to silence even the harshest critics. 1856 W North Ave (773-772-5500).
Other nominees Brand BBQ Market, Chicago Q, Pork Shoppe, Smokey Bears BBQ House