Honky Tonk Barbecue
When he trucked his pulled pork down to the legendary Memphis in May barbecue competition over the summer, Honky Tonk’s Willie Wagner picked up third place, quite a feat given the playing field. Not surprisingly, at his country-fried sit-down spot in Pilsen, pulled pork is the star of the show—even when the weekend band helps the joint live up to its name. 1213 W 18th St, 312-226-7427.
Corkage fee $1 per person
Best nearby liquor store Lush Wine & Spirits (1306 S Halsted St, 312-738-1900)—Heather Shouse
The amount of barbecued brisket this simple counter-service spot goes through should put owner Barry Sorkin on the pension plan of the American Beef Association. The man did his homework in the Brisket Belt of Texas, and it pays off in the form of buttery-soft meat sporting a thin, crusted spice cap. It’s offered sliced or chopped; we prefer the latter for a good mix of pink-hued smokiness, luscious fat and crunchy spice rub. 3800 N Pulaski Rd, 773-545-7427.
Corkage fee None
Best nearby liquor store Miska’s (4212 W Irving Park Rd, 773-685-8171)
Honey 1 BBQ
Father-and-son team Robert Adams Jr. and Sr. have a way with pork, from their meaty spareribs that sport a touch of a telltale smoke ring—from time over smoldering hickory wood—to savory hot links bursting with juice and delivering just the right amount of heat. For the indecisive: The rib-tips-and-hot-link combo offers the best of both worlds. 2241 N Western Ave, 773-227-5130.
Corkage fee None
Best nearby wine store Provenance (2528 N California Ave, 773-384-0699)
Best nearby beer store Danny’s Buy Low (2220 N Western Ave, 773-489-3622)
BEER Kansas City barbecue legend Ollie Gates once told me that his eponymous restaurants serve red soda because “nothin’s better at washing away the smoke and spice so you can take another bite.” I believed him, until I started drinking American wheat beer with my barbecue. Now, don’t get confused and grab a German wheat—the banana notes will be cloying, and the signature clove flavors will compete with the barbecue’s rub. Stick with crisp domestic wheats that have a healthy dose of carbonation to cleanse the palate and a good citrusy hop bite (no lemon wedge needed). Three Floyds’ Gumballhead or Bell’s Oberon are both good bets. —Heather Shouse
WINE There is no food more American than barbecue, and there is no wine more American than zinfandel. Happily, these two match not just in nationality but in flavor. Flavors as bold as those in ’cue demand a wine that can keep up. (But do yourself a favor and pop that zin in the fridge for ten minutes; chilling sedates the wine’s alcohol, keeping it from burning your throat as it goes down.) Wineries like Renwood and Peachy Canyon have zins priced from less than $20 to more than $50, and play nicely with brisket and hot links. But if you have yet to shake off the anti-U.S. feelings from the Bush years, try another option: those big, inky reds from Argentina called malbecs (like Susana Balbo’s Crios Malbec, an affordable classic). Argentina may not use the same spices we do, but it’s no stranger to grilled meats. —David Tamarkin