Chicago q is the city's first "elegant" BBQ palace

October 8, 2010


Slow-smoked wagyu brisket at Chicago q (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

How good does that brisket look? ‚ Granted, it started out as wagyu - a fattier version, related to the Kobe beef of Japan - and it was dry-rubbed, then smoked over hickory and apple wood for about 13 hours. ‚ See that beautiful, even, pink smoke ring along the right side? ‚ That's another good indicator to aficionados. ‚ But the proof, as they say, is in the pork, and Lee Ann Whippen masters her shoulder and butts as well as anyone else in town. ‚ The Virginia-based competition barbequer recently opened up Chicago q in the Gold Coast, and like Lillie's Q in Bucktown, is going for the "urban barbeque" vibe - nice booze, good music, comfortable chairs and a dining room that could only have been pulled off by a serious interior decorator.

When I first tweeted about it, I called it "Ralph Lauren meets Southern Pride," and I still feel that way. ‚ Whippen has a pair of enormous Southern Pride smokers in the back, cranking out two types of ribs (her "competition" version is more expensive, but damn good) as well as the aforementioned brisket and pork. ‚ Sides are also made with care, including hearty beans embedded with bits of ‚ brisket, and a mac and cheese as gooey and rich as anywhere in town.

But it's really the proteins I tend to focus on when visiting these new BBQ places, and man, there are a ton of them: Rub, Brand, The Pork Shoppe, Smoky Bears...all have opened in the past few months with the exception of Brand, and all of them have too many flaws to warrant return visits. ‚ Like Lillie's, I went into Chicago q an extreme pessimist. ‚ I spoke with a colleague - who is as serious about 'Q as anyone in town - and even he admitted this to me, but we both agreed that this was darn good barbeque, and wondered aloud if the city was ready for "elegant BBQ." ‚ By "elegant," I'm referring to the exhorbitant price points - at least by local standards. ‚ $35 for a rack of competition ribs, and most entrees hover over $20. ‚ Hedge fund managers will no doubt go for the whole pork shoulder with sides for a mere $300. ‚ It's expensive, yes, but when you have to have a valet ($12) for your barbeque joint, you know that it's not going to be .39 wings and $2 tips. ‚ This may not be my everyday go-to barbeque (that would be Smoque, of course), but it's going to be the place I'll take visitors when they want a fun night out in the city with a side of smoky, soul-satisfying 'Q.