Slab Barbecue has unique take on South Side classics

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are barbecue joints scattered throughout the South Side, but few make all of their sides from scratch and offer St. Louis-style ribs.

A visit to Slab Barbecue can include all of the above, plus the expected hot links and tips.

Slab started out in Chatham 10 years ago and recently moved to South Shore. It's clearly a family affair, but not just a husband and wife team - their kids all chip in as well. There's even an extended family of sorts, including a pitmaster with years of experience and regular customers.

There is no mistaking that you're in a South Side barbecue joint at Slab. The smells and sounds indicate pork ribs and tips are being smoked and chopped to-order. But at Slab, the key is really the dry rub.

"It's the rub that we make. Special rub that we make, that I've put together, over the years, from my experiences," said owner James Trice. "We have a rub that goes on the chicken and the ribs."

The rub marinates for two days before anything hits the grate of the aquarium-style smoker, also known as a pit. Trice prefers to offer a St. Louis-style rib, which provides a wider and longer surface area than the usual baby back.

"We don't want the tip to be a part of the rib," he said.

But the wood also plays a role in seasoning. They use 100 percent hickory, and as any pitmaster will tell you, you need to keep an eye on the flame, heat and smoke, and know when to hose it down to stay in control.

South Side tradition dictates that you top your barbecue with fries, but here the fries are made from fresh cut red potatoes, first blanched, then fried to-order. Then on goes your sauce: hot, mild, or a mix of the two.

Finally, a small cup of excellent, creamy coleslaw and a few slices of white bread are added to the order before it's completely wrapped up in foil for the drive home. There is nowhere to sit here, so all orders are take-out.

In addition to the ribs, tips, hot links and chicken, you should save room for sides, since all of them are homemade by Trice's wife. There are smoky baked beans, creamy potato salad, and a mac and cheese that rivals anyone's mom's.

A thick cheese sauce envelops the cooked macaroni, and more grated cheese is added on top before baking. The result is a multi-layered comfort dish of gooey cheese and toothsome pasta.

The same attention is paid to their outstanding collard greens, which are cooked slowly with smoked turkey - a slightly healthier alternative to the traditional ham hock.

"Because we want something different from the other restaurants in the community, on the South Side and West Side," said Trice of the collard green recipe.

Slab BBQ
1918 E. 71st St.

In Steve's Extra Course Video, he shows some of the restaurant's other surprises, including grilled chicken and smoked turkey legs.

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Steve checks out the smoked turkey legs on offer at Slab Barbecue.

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