Grilling and barbecue season fires up

May 28, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Others will choose slow-smoked barbeque, but not everyone can do that at home.

Barbeque is personal. It also breeds unwavering loyalty among its fans. So I realize I'm wading into a potential storm of differing opinions here.

But when you consider that every joint has its own special recipe or technique for making delicious barbeque, it's inevitable some places are going to smoke out the competition.

Every barbeque joint has its gems. The things that make it truly unique. One could argue that nearly everything at Smoque Barbeque in Old Irving Park is stellar - especially the slow-smoked brisket that you can get either chopped or sliced - it's mouth-wateringly tender and meaty, with a great char all-at-once. At Big Ed's in North Chicago - near the Great Lakes Naval Training Center - the pulled pork is flawless: tender, smoky and even better when dressed in the housemade sauce that has the slightest tang to it.

"We have an aquarium style pit that's used in a lot of the BBQ places in the South Side of Chicago. We're smoking with hickory wood for several of hours," said Big Ed's BBQ owner Eddie Nero.

Sides are also of note here: from slow-cooked collard greens to super-cheesy mac-and-cheese; everything is made with great care.

"We believe in quality. We believe in doing it so that it is right the first time. Our customers who have tried it, they like it," said Nero.

On the South Side - along 69th Street in the Park Manor neighborhood - Uncle John's Barbeque is no-nonsense, take-out only, but big Mac Sevier's rib tips are unparalleled. Dry-rubbed and slow-smoked, they're meaty, and yet work nicely with his assertive sauce. Speaking of which, that sauce does double-duty for the spicy-yet-well-balanced hot links.

At the far southeastern tip of the city, the Barbeque Zone sits proudly in the East Side neighborhood. Run by employees from the well-known Leon's on the South Side, it's the spare ribs that shine here.

"Most of the time you've got to stay in the pit and watch the rings and watch whatever you're cooking, because otherwise it won't come out right. It'll burn on you," said Jesus Ferrer of the BBQ Zone.

Once the ribs are dry-rubbed and placed on the aquarium-style smoker, they're constantly monitored, flames from the hickory, apple and cherry wood are kept in check with a hose, and after about two hours, they're removed; the tell-tale sign of a pink smoke ring is evidence these ribs have been done right.

"It should be pink on the outside because you smoke it and it's fresh," said Ferrer.

3800 N. Pulaski Rd.

Uncle John's
339 E. 69th St.

Big Ed's
2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., North Chicago

BBQ Zone
3309 E. 106th St.

Fat Willy's Rib Shack
2416 W. Schubert Ave.

Honey 1 BBQ
2241 N. Western Ave.

The Smoke Daddy
1804 W. Division St.

Barbara Ann's BBQ
7617 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

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