Blackwood BBQ
Photograph: Huge GaldonesBlackwood BBQ

The 20 best barbecue restaurants in Chicago

Devour pulled pork sandwiches, racks of ribs, tender brisket and much more at these stellar smokehouses.

Written by: Jeffy Mai
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Chicago doesn’t have the same prestigious reputation as other barbecue meccas, but there are undoubtedly great smokehouses all across the city. From sticky, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs to tender pulled pork, local pit masters have mastered the craft of smoking meats. They’re also dabbling in specialties from other regions, meaning you can chow on on Texas brisket at Smoque and Green Street Smoked Meats or St. Louis ribs at Offset. And if you’re not familiar with Chicago-style barbecue, head to South Side favorites like Lem’s and Honey 1 BBQ for delicious rib tips and hot links. These spots are also perfect for some of the best cheap eats or delivery and takeout, in case you don’t want to get messy in public. So check out our guide to the best barbecue restaurants in Chicago and start fasting for a meaty feast.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Barbecue
  • West Loop

Inspired by traditions from all across the country, you can savor melt-in-your-mouth Texas-style brisket, succulent Carolina pulled pork and finger-licking rib tips prepared the Chicago way at County BBQ—each perfectly complemented by three house-made sauces.

Best BBQ in Chicago

  • Barbecue
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

From the restaurant group behind fan-favorite spots Au Cheval and Bavette's comes this equally meaty concept that specializes in Texas-style barbecue. Hop in the line that snakes around the bar and grab a cocktail while you wait for your turn at the counter. Guests can choose from coffee-rubbed brisket, juicy chicken legs, saucy pulled pork and ruby-red pastrami. Load your tray with classic sides—like baked beans studded with pork belly and elote-style street corn—before you snag a picnic table on the covered patio.

  • Barbecue
  • Greater Grand Crossing
  • price 2 of 4

If you didn’t know that Chicago had its own style of barbecue, try South Side barbecue at Lem’s. Made in an aquarium-style smoker, the most commonly cooked meats are rib tips and hot links. Lem’s is takeout only, so you’ll need to get your rib tips, which have a thin, vinegary sauce and charred outer edges hiding pink, juicy pork, to go.

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  • Barbecue
  • Grand Boulevard
  • price 1 of 4

The father-and-son team behind this rib spot know a thing or two about barbecue—they hail from a part of Arkansas renowned for smoked meats. They moved their barbecue operation from Bucktown to Bronzeville, swapping tables for a takeout only joint. But even though you'll need to figure out where to eat (tip: drive to the lakefront), the slabs of meaty, tender spareribs; a whole mess of rib tips; a plate of hot links and juicy smoked chicken are still tops.

  • Barbecue
  • Humboldt Park
  • price 2 of 4

Founded by a pair of Chicago restaurant industry veterans who each spent time in the kitchen at Wicker Park barbecue institution Smoke Daddy, Offset BBQ smokes chicken, pork, brisket, ribs and turkey, serving them by the pound or as part of salads, sandwiches and rice bowls. Barbecue purists can order a rack of St. Louis-style ribs or some smoked wings to enjoy, but everyone else should sample dishes like a smoked beef dip sandwich (served with horseradish sauce and au jus for dipping) or the smoked beef sausage. Whatever you order, make sure to try it with a bit of the housemade pineapple Huli Q sauce.

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  • Barbecue
  • Suburbs

Fancy a barbecue dinner in Berwyn? Founding chef John Manion took over the kitchen at FitzGerald's in 2021, serving everything from brisket to char-grilled oysters that guests can enjoy while taking in a show. With a menu centered around smoked meats and creole-inspired dishes (like po'boys and cornbread served with cajun honey butter), the offerings at Babygold Barbecue are meant to be paired with twangy country tunes or an adventerous jazz combo. And vegetarians aren't left out—Manion serves a smoked, BBQ-spiced cauliflower that you can douse in the house mustard gold barbecue sauce for an added kick. Babygold has opened a second outpost inside food hall From Here On.

  • Barbecue
  • Irving Park
  • price 1 of 4

At this now-famous Northwest Side barbecue joint, St. Louis spareribs are near-perfect—juicy, pull-apart tender, with subtle smokiness that doesn’t overwhelm the tangy spice rub—while pillow-soft chicken’s slick, seasoned skin gives way to meat that’s partially pink from smoke and fully flavorful. But it’s the brisket that has folks coming from far and wide. The beautifully marbled beef is given just the right treatment—it’s the stuff that shows Texans that Chicago knows ’cue too.

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  • Barbecue
  • New City

Don't let this Mexican-inspired BBQ joint go unnoticed. Located in "The Plant," a Back of the Yards business incubator, Heffer has already developed quite a loyal following despite not having a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The humble menu features popular mashups of cuisines (think: queso and smoked esquites), but Heffer's specialties are definitely the brisket and chicken wings. It's also dedicated to game day catering, so make sure to order brisket by the pan and wings by the 50s.

  • Barbecue
  • South Shore
  • price 1 of 4

Husband-wife couple James and Tonya Trice do wondrous things with the aquarium smoker at their South Shore joint, Slab. Upon entering, you’re greeted by a pile of hickory wood and enticing smells. St. Louis ribs, chicken, spicy rib tips, giant turkey legs and juicy hot links make up the Chicago-style menu, but the X factor is the dry rub that the pork's marinated in for two days. The smoked meats are finished with a tangy sauce and served with hand-cut fries.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Barbecue
  • Pullman
  • price 1 of 4

Influenced by Central Texas- and Memphis-style barbecue, pit master Dominique Leach offers a variety of applewood-smoked meats at her Pullman restaurant, which took over One Eleven Food Hall. Chow down on meaty rib tips or tender brisket, and don’t be afraid to apply a liberal amount of the barbecue sauce that’s inspired by Chicago’s legendary mild sauce. Save room, too, for soulful sides like candied yams and collard greens.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Barbecue
  • Sauganash, Forest Glen

What’s better than a place specializing in smoked meats and doughnuts? The fact that you don’t have to get out of the car for them. This Jefferson Park smokehouse offers a rare amenity—a drive-thru. So even if you have your furry best friend along for the ride, you can still grab mouthwatering ribs covered in your choice of homemade barbecue sauce. Oh and it goes without saying, but the fresh doughnuts are a must-try as well.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Barbecue
  • Logan Square

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If you've ever craved a juicy slice of brisket while sipping cocktails at your favorite bar, Umamicue can make your dreams come true. Operating out of Logan Square bar Spilt Milk's kitchen, pitmaster Charles Wong brings smoked flavors to a variety of umami-laden favorites. Umamicue marries Texas-style barbecue with Vietnamese inspiration, churning out smoked brisket egg rolls, smoked crab rangoon and a pork belly banh mi with a special Umamicue sauce. Vegans fear not—Umamicue has a number of lion’s mane mushroom options.

  • Barbecue
  • New City

Former general manager of Luella’s Southern Kitchen Tyris Bell (and great-grandson to the restaurant’s namesake) transformed a Southern family tradition into a full-fledged barbecue concept in Canaryville. Priding itself on “BBQ with a twist,” Bell Heir’s specials range from buttermilk fried chicken wings, smothered fries topped with smoked brisket, pulled pork nachos and an unbeatable brisket mac and cheese sprinkled with bacon for good measure. For inventive barbecue that still tastes like a home-cooked meal, you can’t go wrong with Bell Heir’s.

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  • Barbecue
  • Lower West Side
  • price 2 of 4

Success on the competition circuit and local festivals prompted Willie Wagner to set up a permanent home for his “Memphis-style,” dry-rubbed barbecue in Pilsen. The smoky pulled pork clocks in at one of the best around. Tender, juicy chicken comes in second for best bets, with puckery slaw and meaty beans right behind it. Make a night of it with the lively bands that play in the attached bar on the weekends.

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  • Breweries
  • River West/West Town

Lillie's Q gave up its stylish home in Wicker Park a few years back, but it has since taken up residence at District Brew Yards in West Loop—a sprawling space with pour-you-own taps from local breweries. Thankfully, you'll still find all of chef-owner Charlie McKenna's classic dishes intact, including the smoked tri-tip sandwich and sausage links stuffed with pimento cheese.

  • Barbecue
  • Rush & Division
  • price 3 of 4

Art Smith knows his way around a barbecue pit, and he shows off his prowess at Chicago q in the Gold Coast. The venue itself is cute as a button, especially in the summertime, when the patio is lined with a white picket fence, twinkling lights and comfy couches for lounging around. But don't let the exterior fool you—Smith is serious about his smoked meats, with pulled pork shoulder, baby back ribs and prime brisket on the menu. Combos like the Pit Boss Platter—which is loaded with hot links, pulled pork, ribs, prime brisket and pulled chicken—make it easy to try a bit of everything on offer.

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  • Barbecue
  • Wicker Park
  • price 2 of 4

Gluttony grabs hold in this kitschy kitchen, and it doesn’t let go until the band plays its last bluesy, rockabilly note. So skip the brisket, ignore the chicken, and resist filling up on the addictive sweet-potato fries: You need to reserve your hunger for the Smoke Daddy Rib Sampler. It’s an intimidating pile of baby back ribs, spareribs and rib tips. But don’t worry: The pink, smoky meat pulls off the bone easily and the full flavors inspire bite after bite, so you’ll have no trouble cleaning your plate. And if the cramped confines of the original Wicker Park don't suit you, there's a more spacious second location across the street from the Friendly Confines in Wrigleyville.

  • Barbecue
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Nothing’s changed much in the nine decades since this Old Town rib institution started packing in the crowds, and that’s okay with us. Once in a while, we’ll still cram our way into the old tavern to wait among the masses (no reservations are taken) for the falling-off-the-bone, baked-then-grilled baby backs with a side of the “zesty” (really tangy) sauce. Add a side of the pork-flecked baked beans and an Old Style, and it’s a perfect Chicago meal.

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  • Barbecue
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

This Lettuce Entertain You joint offers an exhaustive menu of oil-dappled starters (think fried pickles and jumbo wings), barbecued meats, fried chicken, mac and cheese, sides and sandos. The 18-hour brisket ain't half bad, but the baby back ribs are where it's at. Pair 'em with a side of tater tots and an order of skillet cornbread. And be warned: you're going to subjected to some live country music if you're dining in during the latter half of the week.

  • Barbecue
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

With a handful of locations situated throughout downtown Chicago, you don't have to go far to cure barbecue cravings at lunchtime. Simply pick your protein—brisket, jackfruit, pulled pork, etc.—and decide on a vehicle with which to funnel it into your mouth. Aside from stacking your meat on a buttered brioche bun, you can also get it tucked into tacos or served atop a loaded chopped salad. The tough part is picking your sauce, though we're quite fond of the vinegar-based North Carolina style as well as the local Chicago style, which is simmered with Old Style lager.

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