Very nice article. For those reluctant to read it due to a fear of too much politics and social injustice mixed in with their 'Que, I'd say the food is the primary focus with regional Chicago BBQ history and technique as a secondary point. The article certainly doesn't ignore race, but there's nothing new in telling the world "Chicago (is) the nation’s most segregated city." I've lived here all my life and it's no secret. Not proud of it, just fact; one that I see getting slowly better, not in inches but in millimeters.
I was lucky enough to be in my late teens/early twenties and attending college in the city when Leon's BBQ
opened up a northside location. Granted it was across the street from the notorious Cabrini Green Housing Development
, but a hunger for great 'Que trumped any sense of danger. Back then, when my metabolism was running at peak performance, a full slab of ribs blanketing a huge mound of fries, all slathered in Leon's amazing sauce*, was considered a single serving. Lordy, I miss those days...
The experience was exactly as Kevin Pang describes it in his article; no indoor seating, lots of bullet proof glass and tempered steel (should have been a tip off, even to us dumb-ass white boys) including a bullet proof turnstile so no potential evildoer could ever have malevolent contact with the staff.
Pang's article focuses on Rib Tips and Hot Links. I've tried both and think I'll stick with Ribs by the slab. His assessment of "the high effort-to-food ratio of rib tips" is exactly what keeps me solidly in the full rib camp. Tips are just too much work as far as my lazy butt is concerned. I think part of the problem is the lack of uniformity. Pitmasters will take a cleaver to a hunk of tips, chopping willy-nilly, creating a pile of random bits and pieces, each one different from another. So when you've got one in your mouth and you're trying to separate meat from gristle and bone, there's no consistency, no tactile tongue memory to say, "Okay this method worked the last time, it should work again now." Each frustrating bite is different from the last with no hope of ever working out a dependable and repeatable meat retrieval system.
Not much to say about Hot Links. They're a fine change of pace, but when it comes to Chicago Style Aquarium Pit Smoked BBQ, Ribs are king with me.
We do occasionally get down to the southside for 'Que, but not often enough. Lem's BBQ
was a featured stop on a past Contingent
Tour a few years back. Maybe this article will inspire a near future return trip. Anyone want to come along for the ride?
* I think it must have been Leon's sauce that got me into the BBQ Sauce business. It was available for a short time as a bottled retail item on many Chicago area supermarket shelves, including out in the suburbs where I lived. Then one day it mysteriously disappeared. That frustrating absence must have been one of my motivating factors for starting Roadhouse Bar-B-Que Sauce. Necessity is the mother...etc..
post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2018/02/08 23:52:26