CHICAGO (WLS) --Chicago lost the men behind such beloved institutions as Uncle John's and Lem's last year, which leaves just one veteran pit master still tending to his beef and pork with a critical eye. You'll find him in the kitchen every day, among the sounds of burning wood and busy meat cleavers.
Robert Adams learned his trade in Arkansas, but he's spent the past 48 years in Chicago. After a brief stint on the West Side, then a decade in Bucktown, he moved his Honey 1 Barbecue to Bronzeville last year, where he continues burning through hard oak wood each day, positioning them in his aquarium-style smoker, to coax intense flavor out of his most popular items.
"Hot links, tips, ribs, smoked chicken," said Adams, matter-of-factly.
That chicken is among the best in Chicago, as are his ribs and tips. The links are made off-site, to his specifications, and they're not for the timid.
"A lot of spice. Lots of spice," he said.
Orders are chopped a few feet from the smoker, and usually come with white bread, doused in sauce, but to appreciate the smoke ring, get the sauce on the side; the tips are fine without it.
"Tips is really the same parts of the ribs, just cut the edge off it. Then it's a St. Louis-style rib, and it's the tip that comes right off of it," said Adams.
Adams is a rare breed. He tends the fire - that means frequently hosing it down to control the heat - then checks his product, and most important, knows when things should be moved, turned or pulled off of the fire.
"I'm looking for a real nice brown, I want to cook slow, so it'll be tender, so the skin won't get hard on you," he said.
Adams says he knows he's one of the few men left, doing this sort of work in Chicago, but he's fine with the pressure that comes with being the last of a dying breed.
"I been doin' it so long I'm used to it, and I love doing it, so it's no pressure at all. Bring it on," he said, with a big smile.
Honey 1 BBQ
746 E. 43rd St.
Open 7 days a week
Mon - Thurs. 11 am - 9:30 pm
Fri & Sat 11 am - 11 pm
Sun. 12 - 8 pm