Lee Ann Whippen knows her way around a Southern Pride smoker. Having been a fixture on the competition circuit for 14 years, the Virginia restaurateur was lured to the Gold Coast last month, to open unquestionably the city's most elegant barbeque joint.
"We're using dry rubs, and different dry rubs, to compliment each of the meats, and different woods. For example, we're smoking salmon, we're using sugar maple and we're using light Q rub. And on our pork ribs we're using Pig Powder and we're smoking with apple and hickory wood," said Whippen.
And those ribs - both spare and baby back - come out after several hours, with the tell-tale pink smoke ring intact. Whippen also sells a more expensive "competition-level" rack of ribs, which require a bit more care.
"It's not a recipe per se, but it's just really watching what's happening. The carmelization. We take apple juice, we spray it if it looks like it's drying out. It's not like we say 'okay, let's hit it every half hour with apple juice," Whippen said.
Pulled pork is soft, pliable and as tender as anywhere this side of North Carolina. Whippen uses wagyu beef - the domestic cousin to kobe - for her brisket, which is dry-rubbed and smoked for up to 14 hours.
"You will notice on our sliced brisket that there's no fat on it. At all. It is all rendered out over the, you know, slow method. My philosophy is not to sauce the meat. Sauce is strictly as a compliment, on the side," said Whippen.
Sides are also worth noting: from brisket-studded baked beans to hearty mac and cheese, even thin and crispy onion rings. All make fine add-ons to the smokey chicken, beef and pork. The upscale surroundings - and the prices - are uncommon for local barbeque.. but Whippen says at its core, it's still just smoked meat.
"But it's not so pretentious where you can't pick up a rib and, you know, eat the meat right off the bone," Whippen said.
Now don't let the upscale decor and the valet parking fool you. Chicago Q means business - from the brisket and the chicken, to the pork and the ribs - they just happen to serve it in, how shall I say, more 'elegant' surroundings.
1160 N. Dearborn
Some other great BBQ joints:
1856 W. North Ave.
3800 N. Pulaski Rd.
339 E. 69th St.
2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., North Chicago
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.