If you ask us, BBQ is best left to the professionals. Between the tenderness of the meat, the tangy flavor of the sauce and the layers of smokiness, there are a lot of elements to this genre that require serious skill (or at the very least, a good smoker). The best BBQ restaurants in Chicago will do all the hard work for you, so all you’ll have to do is show up and clean your plate (though, TBH, that might be quite a tall order in and of itself). We’ve rounded up 15 of the most impressive spots in the city, plus one in the Chicagoland area that’s well worth a short drive.

Best bbq restaurants in Chicago Offset
Offset

1. Offset BBQ

  • Neighborhood: Humboldt Park
  • Yelp Rating: 5 stars
If the perfect 5-star Yelp rating doesn’t sell you on this Humboldt Park haunt right off the bat, the mouthwatering photos of its unconventional dishes will. Sure, you’ve got the classics, like smoked pork shoulder or pulled chicken, but there’s also plenty of novel twists for those with more adventurous palettes (the BBQueso fundido and chicken-fried ribs come to mind). Its owners, Carlo Carani and Doug Pompa, who have more than 40 years in the restaurant industry combined (including a stint at Chicago’s own Smoke Daddy), told Block Club Chicago in January 2021 that they set out to bring the city a “culmination of things we like and things we’ve experienced.” Explained Pompa: “We have respect and love for the craft of barbecue and found some different ways to utilize… the smoker.

773-360-7753, 1720 N. Califonia Ave., Chicago, IL, 60647, offsetbbq.com

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Best bbq restaurants Chicago Smoque
Ken Goodman/Smoque

2. Smoque BBQ

  • Neighborhood: Irving Park
  • Yelp Rating: 4.5 stars
If it’s classic BBQ you’re after, you’ll find it in spades at Chicago staple Smoque. From the brisket sandwiches (sliced, chopped or in pulled pork form), tacos and platters to the rib dinners (baby back? St. Louis style? Pick your poison), it’s all here, and it’s all hearty. While the rest of the menu is fairly simple (mac and cheese, baked beans, all the usual suspects), it’s a formula that’s been working for the restaurant since its opening in 2006. Since then, Smoque has earned itself spots in the prestigious Michelin guide as a repeated Bib Gourmand winner, but perhaps more importantly, it has garnered a legion of loyal fans who swear its meat is tender, smoky and flavorful with every bite.

773-545-7427, 3800 N. Pulaski, Chicago, IL, 60641; smoquebbq.com

3. Honky Tonk BBQ

  • Neighborhood: Pilsen
  • Yelp Rating: 3.5 stars
If you’re a fan of Memphis-style dry rubs with wood-roasted meats over charcoal (sauce on the side), you’re a fan of Pilsen’s Honky Tonk BBQ. No natural gas or electric touches the prime brisket or pork here, all of which is slow-roasted for 14 hours. The result? A charred, flavorful exterior with a juicy, smoky inside. (These baby back ribs didn’t take home first place two years in a row at Chicago’s Rib-a-que for nothing!) You’ll have your choice of three different toppings (Chicago Sweet, Memphis Tangy or Carolina Mustard-Butter Garlic), and if you need a break in between stuffing your gullet, you’ll have plenty to entertain you—there’s a stage for live music where cover bands regularly perform.

312-226-7427, 1213 W. 18th St., Chicago, IL, 60608; honkytonkbbq.com

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Best BBQ in Chicago Soul   Smoke
Soul & Smoke

4. Soul & Smoke

  • Neighborhood: Fulton Market
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
While its home base is just one town over in Evanston, Soul & Smoke’s Time Out Market residency is quickly making it *the* BBQ destination for hungry Chicagoans in the area. Led by husband-and-wife duo D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick, this place is barbecue, but elevated—which makes complete sense when you consider Carter’s fine dining background. Gourmands are losing their minds over the rib tips with apple slaw and the not-to-be missed signature mac and cheese, which uses an extra-creamy three cheese blend to give it its gooey goodness.

312-637-3888, Time Out Market Chicago, 916 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL, 60607; soulandsmoke.com

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BBQ restaurants in Chicago Twin Anchors
Twin Anchors/Facebook

5. Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern

  • Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
Twin Anchors is not only one of the oldest BBQ restaurants in the city, it’s one of the oldest restaurants—period. Dating back to 1932 (!), this family-owned venue has had a lot of time to perfect its slow-roasted chicken, “Prohibition sauce” (a unique blend of brown sugar, black cracked pepper and ghost pepper) and barbecue pork sandwich—and don’t even get us started on the baby back ribs. Frank Sinatra was certainly impressed by them—he was a regular here who reportedly told the staff to “keep ‘em coming!” As third generation owner Paul Tuzi perhaps put it best, “We aren’t just running a restaurant. Every night, we are throwing a party for 300 people in a living museum! That is what makes it such a pleasure."

312-266-1616, 1655 N. Sedgewick St., Chicago, IL, 60614; twinanchorsribs.com

Best bbq Chicago Lillie s Q
Dan Goldberg/Lillie's Q

6. Lillie's Q

  • Neighborhood: West Town
  • Yelp Rating: 3.5 stars
Lillie’s is as essential to BBQ in Chicago as a good rub is to a rib. After taking first place at Memphis in May, Chef Charlie McKenna opened his first Lillie’s in Florida way back in 2008. Two years later, Lillie’s Chicago was born, and it’s been serving up his Southern flavors here ever since. You can drop by this West Town spot for tri-tip (that’s the bottom cut of a sirloin, in case you were wondering) smoked medium rare, a half rack of baby back ribs or Brunswick stew chock-full of tomato, smoked pork and chicken, corn and lima beans. The sauce selection doesn’t suck either, with everything from Carolina and Memphis style to more specialized options (think keto-friendly, zero sugar and more).

773-295-1270, 417 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL, 60622; lilliesq.com

7. Green Street Smoked Meats

  • Neighborhood: West Loop
  • Yelp Rating: 4.5 stars
Any Texas-style BBQ fans in the house? Green Street Smoked Meats is the spot for you. Its menu of house-smoked, backyard brisket, beef short ribs, chicken legs and pork belly (described by reviewers as “soft, juicy and fatty”) is inspired by the state’s central cuisine. Even its dimly lit warehouse aesthetic has an Urban Cowboy feel. Rounding out the experience are its selection of sides, which will keep you on your toes: The broccoli salad, spicy pickles and Frito pie have all seriously piqued our interest.

312-754-0431, 112 N. Green St., Chicago, IL, 60607; greenstreetmeats.com

Best bbq restaurant Chicago Lem s
Lem's Bar-B-Q/Facebook

8. Lem’s Bar-B-Q

  • Neighborhood: Greater Grand Crossing
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
While there’s a variety of meats on the menu here, from fried chicken and fried shrimp to wings, Lem’s is really known for its rib tips and hot links (even better when they’re served together in one of the restaurant’s combo meals). It’s no-frills kind of place (sorry, no turkey tips or brisket here), but that hasn’t seemed to hurt it any—there’s still a regular line of customers just waiting to get a taste of the famous Lem’s original Bar-B-Q sauce. We can’t say we blame them: It's quite a far cry from your run-of-the-mill Sweet Baby Ray’s. Their saice has got a sharper kick that complements the tips to a tee.

773-994-2428, 311 E. 75th St., Chicago, IL, 60619; lemsque.com

Best bbq restaurants Chicago Earl s
Earl's

9. Earl's BBQ

  • Neighborhood: Jefferson Park
  • Yelp Rating: 3.5 stars
One could say that Earl’s BBQ in Jefferson Park is a passion project. Owners Gosia Pieniazek and Art Wnorowsk taught themselves the art of ‘cueing by trial and error. "We cut out just the right amount [of fat] from the brisket we experimented a couple of times to see how the smoker behaves," Wrnorowski told ABC7 in 2017. "We dry-rub the ribs, smoke it four to five hours and again make sure that the spices caramelize nicely on top." Years later, this drive-through joint is still going strong, dishing out full- and half-slab ribs, a brisket burrito, charred corn and pulled pork with verve.

773-628-7870, 4835 N. Austin Ave., Chicago, IL, 60630; earlsbbqchicago.com

Best bbq restaurants in Chicago Lexington
Gaz

10. Lexington Betty Smoke House

  • Neighborhood: Pullman
  • Yelp Rating: 3 stars
Think BBQ’s just a boy’s club? Think again. Lexington Betty is not only headed up by married duo Dominque Leach and Tanisha Leach, Dominique (of Chopped fame) runs the show in the kitchen, too. Her signature dishes pay homage to her grandmother Betty’s home cooking, and she draws upon BBQ flavors and techniques from central Texas and Memphis. The result is a delectable assortment of applewood-smoked pork, rib tips, smoked chicken wings and brisket mac and cheese. Dining with a BBQ atheist? Set them loose on the newly added wagyu beef burger with caramelized onions and aged, smoked gouda.

773-309-8240, One Eleven Food Hall, 756 E. 111th St., Chicago, IL, 60628; lexingtonbettysmokehouse.com

11. Chicago Q

  • Neighborhood: Gold Coast
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
Typically, you don’t think of barbecue as being particularly upscale (let’s be real: Ribs are a mess), but Chicago Q proves it’s possible. Everything about this place, from the Savannah-style dining room, to the classy bourbon pairings, has an air of elegance. The fare, however, which has been dreamed up by chef-to-the-stars Art Smith (who has made meals for the likes of President Obama and Lady Gaga), stays true to his Southern roots with “regional favorites from the Carolinas, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee.” There are flights of meat (pulled chicken, pulled pork and brisket make up the trifecta), house-made rubs and ribs galore with sauces on the side for optimal enjoyment. Even the mac and cheese is fancy—it comes brûléed!

312-642-1160, 1160 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL, 60610, chicagoqrestaurant.com

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Best bbq restaurants Chicago Carson s
Carson's

12. Carson’s Ribs of Chicago

  • Neighborhood: Streeterville
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
Carson’s Ribs of Chicago may have gotten a facelift in 2018 after more than 40 years with its new, sunnier Streeterville location, but the barbecue the city has come to know and love is still just the same. It’s not boiled, rubbed, tenderized or marinated, but it’s smoked for hours in a hickory wood-burning pit. You can get it in just about any form you want it, be it a slow smoked BBQ pulled pork sandwich, a slab of ribs or a bone-in char-crusted pork chop, and the sides hold their own—the slaw has won awards and the au gratin potatoes are famed.

312-280-9200, 465 E. Illinois St., Chicago, IL, 60611, ribs.com

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13. Joker's Cajun Smokehouse

  • Neighborhood: Logan Square
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
A sister restaurant to John and Kelly Reed’s Joker’s Cajun Kitchen, Joker’s Cajun Smokehouse pairs some of the same authentic Louisiana eats served at its French Market location with the small-batch wood-smoked barbecue here for one seriously tantalizing menu. Pulled pork? Check. St. Louis and baby back ribs? Check. Brisket? Check. Add in the Cajun catfish, chicken and sausage gumbo and hush puppies, and there's not much a Southerner could want for that's not present and accounted for.

312-818-1325, 2416 W. Schubert Ave., Chicago, IL, 60647, jokerssmokehouse.com

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14. Ella's BBQ

  • Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
  • Yelp Rating: 4 stars
Having perfected Earl’s BBQ, husband-and-wife duo Gosia Pieniazek and Art Wnorowsk set their sights on Lincoln Park’s Ella’s BBQ in 2019. Smoking meats over cherry wood daily, this neighborhood shop offers counter BBQ service, and the brisket, which is on the leaner side, is offered in nice family-size portions. We also love its inclusivity—besides the variety of sauces that range from sweet to sour to hot to round the bases of palettes, even vegetarians can get their nosh on here, since there are options for smoked portobello platters and sandwiches in lieu of meat, and power green salads to boot.

312.526-3271, 723 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL, 60614, ellasbbq.com

Best BBQ in Chicago Smoke Daddy
Smoke Daddy

15. Smoke Daddy

  • Neighborhood: Wicker Park
  • Yelp Rating: 3.5 stars
There are three main reasons that Smoke Daddy been a Wicker Park hot spot since the early ‘90s: cold beer, a prime-time spot in one of Chicago’s hottest neighborhoods and last but certainly not least, some damn good barbecue. Make your way through the menu’s copious offerings à la carte or sample it all (or at least a good chunk) with options like the smoked meat platter, which comes with your choice of chicken, pork, brisket or burnt ends (times two) or the “Taste of the Daddy”—all of that, plus baby back or St. Louis ribs.

1804 W. Division St, Chicago, IL, thesmokedaddy.com

Worth the Drive: Big Ed's

  • Neighborhood: Waukegan
  • Yelp Rating: 4.5 stars
Yes, you’ll have to drive to Waukegan to get there. Yes, there’s usually a line that sometimes spans the length of the restaurant. But trust us when we say, there’s good reason for both. Not only does this place have some of the best burnt ends you’ll taste in the Chicagoland area, you’ll get all the comfort food you can handle with the restaurant’s sweet potatoes (a weekend treat, if you can get them before they sell out), baked macaroni and cheese and cornbread muffins. You’ll have your choice of sauce, with Memphis and Kansas City style available, plus Big Ed’s own signature flavor. More than all of that, however, this place goes beyond the food, boasting the warmest, most welcoming staff you’ve ever encountered. One smile from the people behind the counter, and you’ll completely forget about your wait—this is a true family-style business, and you’ll feel like part of it while you’re here.

847-473-5333, 4030 Northpoint Blvd., Waukegan, IL, 60085; bigedsllc.com

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