Helpful ReplyIs Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ?

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MiamiDon
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2009/11/30 10:54:20 (permalink)

Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ?

 
It is, at least according to this article" />
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the grillman
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 11:04:24 (permalink)
I've had plenty of barbecue in both Chicago and Memphis.

Memphis, hands down.
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 11:18:01 (permalink)
Mempis is FAR better NQAI.
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tiki
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 12:44:36 (permalink)
In a word---NO!
#4
saps
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 12:51:44 (permalink) ☄ Helpful
Which places did you guys go to in order to base your opinions?
#5
Born in OKC
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 13:05:26 (permalink)
I am sure that in during the migration that saw so many Southern blacks move north and west during segregation times, or the Depression, or to find jobs during the Second War, that the numbers must have included capable pit men who went to Chicago.  I doubt those skills have been forgotten.  But I for one will need more convincing.
 
This does look like a something that wants more investigation.  I'd be willing to sample from a list although IMO the great fun for foodies in Chicago is ethinic food other than southern home cooking.  For the moment I'll stick with Memphis and note that previous posters have not even mentioned Interstate which I assume is still in business.
#6
MilwFoodlovers
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 14:30:08 (permalink)
Yeah, Born in OKC, my favorites in Memphis are The Cozy Corner and Interstate, two of the best BBQ places I've been to. It could be Smoque is just that good. I've a friend that swears by it. We have a place in Milwaukee, Speed Queen, that I enjoy better than anyplace I've tasted in KC or Chicago but I'm not ready to proclaim Milwaukee as an American BBQ stop. One good Q joint does not a city make. Lists come down to personal tastes and favorites anyway. My SIL hates smoky bacon; go figure.
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 14:44:11 (permalink) ☄ Helpful
Point #1: Granted, it's only been a couple of hours since you all have posted, but I'm still waiting to see the answer to saps question above.  All you naysayers are basing your opinions on what?  Which Chicago 'Que joints have you personally visited, and likewise, which spots in Memphis are you personally acquainted with?  I don't necessarily disagree with your assertions, but if you haven't actually put Chicago Barbecue or Memphis Barbecue in your own personal mouth and compared them for yourself, you've got no business posting your unfounded opinion here.  The First Amendment guarantees your right to state your opinion, but that doesn't always mean you should.

Point #2. As a lifelong Chicagoan who is very proud of our culinary scene, I would have a hard time agreeing with the proposition that Chicago 'Que, in the broad overview, is better than what you would find in Memphis.  Certain spots might be as good as some others in Memphis, but in general I don't think you can make a case for ours being any better.

I've eaten at a number of the Chicago places mentioned in the article, including Smoque, Leon's, and Honey 1.  They all put out an exemplary product.  Mrs. Roadhouse and I dined recently at Payne's in Memphis on our return trip from New Orleans.  Payne's came highly recommended by the Stern's in their 500 Things To Eat Before It's Too Late volume. It was also rated very highly by Vince Staten and Greg Johnson in Real Barbecue, being given their "As good as we've ever had" designation.

Our experience matched what we'd read.  Outstanding pulled pork and chopped beef sandwiches (we skipped the ribs because we knew we would be eating more Barbecue in a few hours at Triple E BBQ in Marion, Illinois) topped with a tangy mustard slaw that I still can't get out of my mind, and just a splash of their brilliant sauce (an area I know just a little bit about).  The meat was a perfect mix of crispy chewy outer crust and tender smoky inner meat.

I've had pulled pork from both Smoque and Honey 1 (Leon's specializes in ribs; I don't think they've ever had pulled pork on their menu), and while both put out a respectable product that I will continue to purchase and enjoy, neither of 'em are putting out anything like what Payne's is doing.

Michael Nagrant, the author of the article in question is a fine food writer with an objective palate.  I think he might need to get a little more down and dirty in sampling real Memphis Barbecue before he compares it to Chicago's greasehouses.  Rendezvous and Corky's are not exactly bastions of greatness when it comes to smoked meats.

We've got some great 'Que in isolated spots around town, but we don't have the same kind of generations old Barbecue culture that exists as a generality in Memphis.

Buddy
#8
1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 15:46:17 (permalink)
Its interesting that somehow the 4 iconic regions have all been reduced to 1 menu item each in the eyes of the world.
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 15:49:22 (permalink)
Bill,

Are you referring to the predominant types of meat served in these regions or a style of preparation?  I'm assuming the four regions you refer to are Texas, the Carolinas, Kansas City, and Memphis.  If not, please clarify.

Thanks,

Buddy
#10
1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 16:00:34 (permalink)
Just the way that ribs go with Memphis, pulled pork with Carolina, burnt ends with KC, and brisket with Texas. Almost cliches, and yes the difference in style of preparation seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Too much
Food Network, I'm afraid.
Reporting from the great Northwest, where there is no BBQ style or meat.
#11
BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 16:35:43 (permalink)
Interesting; your comment about too much Food Network.  While I'm not a huge fan of much of their programming, I think the one area where they may have done some good is making the entire country aware of what good 'Que is all about and where it is served.  Further, I think the constant exposure to images of good Barbecue and listening to the people who create it, has raised the expectations of folks who were previously in Barbecue deprived areas.

When I was a kid growing up, here in Chicago, unless you went down to the south side (and we never did) ribs were oven cooked or even (shudder) boiled.  Even today, two of Our Town's best known rib joints, Gale Street Inn and Twin Anchors, are still serving oven baked, candied meat jello, and the masses are lining up to get in.

Thanks to the bright light of the Food Network, many of those south side places with their distinctive "aquarium smokers" are finally getting the recognition they deserve.  I couldn't prove it, but, just a few years ago, even a place like Smoque wouldn't have gained the acceptance and remarkable popularity it has achieved without the education that the Food Network has provided.

Bill, I don't disagree with you over the fact that the Food Network has swayed from their original intent to provide education and information in the culinary arts to more or less a good source for food porn.  However, the one good thing they have done, whether they intended to or not, is to have exposed people to what good Barbecue is supposed to look and taste like.

Buddy
#12
1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 16:59:28 (permalink)
Is there an emerging Chicago "style", Buddy?
post edited by bill voss - 2009/11/30 18:36:02
#13
BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 17:28:26 (permalink)
The traditional method in Chicago, used almost universally by the old time south side pit masters is the "aquarium smoker".  This consists of four glass or Plexiglas walls, one of which has an access door built into it, arranged as if to form a giant aquarium.  The enclosure sits on top of a fire pit which is the same size and shape as the four walled enclosure.  Wood and charcoal burn slowly in the fire pit while ribs, chicken, and hot links (brisket and pulled pork are just now gaining in popularity here) sit on a grate above.

Almost twenty years ago, around the same time we were starting Roadhouse Bar-B-Que Sauce, Larry Tucker was starting a greasehouse in the city called N.N. Smokehouse.  Larry was well schooled in the art of real Barbecue and may have been the first person to introduce pulled pork and brisket to Chicago 'Que chompers.  Larry liked to use a certain kind of wood imported from The Philippines for his smoking.  I can't remember the name of the wood, but it added a little extra spiciness to the meat.  Larry was renowned as the best pit master in town and achieved great success at his restaurant.  Unfortunately he suffered a number of business setbacks that do not need to be discussed in a public forum that put him out of business.

Since then, until a few years ago when Smoque opened, there was little new or worthwhile to discuss in Chicago Barbecue.  Even now, with Smoque's success, there is nothing really new.  Smoque's main objective is to emulate the great Barbecue traditions of other regions and bring those traditions to Chicago diners.  They have done this very successfully, putting out an excellent product (in fact, they are catering my daughter's wedding next May), but have not done much to initiate a new, distinctive "Chicago Style" of Barbecue.

In other words, we're lucky to be catching up to the rest of the Barbecue Nation, let alone starting anything new.

Buddy
post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2009/11/30 17:31:46
#14
MilwFoodlovers
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 20:48:24 (permalink)
Bill I agree that when I think of the Rendezvous, I think of dry rubbed ribs. They do nothing for me but obviously they have their fans. I like the Cornish hen at the Cozy Corner and a large pulled pork sanwich topped with hot sauce and slaw from Jim Neely's is my idea of heaven. Whole hog pork from the Carolina drizzled with a cayenne vinegar sauce is also pure ambrosia. In Texas I'm torn between brisket and hot links and usually have both. But point is, you can find good Q just about anywhere but that doesn't mean only great regional treats only in that region. That reporter is just plain wrong or at least that headline is wrong but like Buddy says, it's a free country and everyone is entitled to their opinion.
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relagle
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 22:37:56 (permalink)
i just had the best bbq today at lcs here in kcmo on us50hwy and sni-bar rd been going by it for years and read about it on line and today i stoped  had burnt-ends and W o w better than memphis and any other in kc area
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/11/30 23:23:10 (permalink)
LC's is definitely one of KC's best greasehouses.  A single burnt end sandwich at LC's will feed at least two people.  Add sides of beans, slaw, and fries and it will easily take care of three or four.  Oh yeah, it tastes great too!

Other current faves in KC include The Woodyard, BB's Lawnside BBQ, and Johnny's Smokehouse.  I had fallen in love with Jones BBQ in KCK back in October, 2008.  by February of 2009 they were out of business; done in by the bad economy.  Too bad, they put out some brilliant 'Que.

Buddy
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1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/01 09:19:55 (permalink)
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/01 12:33:10 (permalink)
Thanks Bill!  I had no idea there was an LTHForumKC!  I'm guessing it was started by Aaron Deacon, a Chicago ex-pat who has relocated to Kansas City.  Funny thing though, to my knowledge he has never posted any information about the site on the original LTH.  Guess I'll need to make this a new regular stop on my daily internet rounds.

Thanks again for the link and the info on Jones BBQ!

Buddy
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Pocosin
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/02 16:19:09 (permalink)
bill voss

Just the way that ribs go with Memphis, pulled pork with Carolina, burnt ends with KC, and brisket with Texas.


This is nitpicky, but it's a pet peeve of mine, so here goes...

North Carolina barbecue is not "pulled pork", it's chopped*, and you will never see the term pulled pork used in any authentic NC bbq restaurant. 

*Caveat:  most Lexington-style places will slice it for you if you want.
post edited by Pocosin - 2009/12/02 16:23:09
#20
1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/02 17:18:56 (permalink)
Pocosin

bill voss

Just the way that ribs go with Memphis, pulled pork with Carolina, burnt ends with KC, and brisket with Texas.


This is nitpicky, but it's a pet peeve of mine, so here goes...

North Carolina barbecue is not "pulled pork", it's chopped*, and you will never see the term pulled pork used in any authentic NC bbq restaurant. 

*Caveat:  most Lexington-style places will slice it for you if you want.

thanks. That's what I was talkin' about. :)


#21
mayor al
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/03 17:25:48 (permalink)
When I think of cities (or regions) for BBQ I think in terms of the various types of meat used, setting aside the Mutton, and the Poultry that isn't "Mainstream 'Que" to me. I like KC, Memphis, Central Texas, Chicago and "Southern" (GA,TN,AL, and some Carolina) I downplay the Carolinas because I really don't care the finely chopped Pork mixed with sauce that is common there.

Ribs, both Pork and Beef, Chunk/pulled/sliced Pork and Brisket are the meats of choice along with some good Sausage and these treats are available at good Que Stands in each of these locations. Picking one city over the others doesn't work for me So long as I can find a good BBQ place in a town, I don't care if it is in Minneapolis or Phoenix, it is worth adding to my target food stops.
#22
tahall62
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/06 11:19:41 (permalink)
in re Buddy "... had no idea there was an LTHForumKC!  I'm guessing it was started by Aaron Deacon, a Chicago ex-pat who has relocated to Kansas City.  Funny thing though, to my knowledge he has never posted any information about the site on the original LTH.  Guess I'll need to make this a new regular stop on my daily internet rounds."

In the LTH Forum, go to the "Beyond Chicagoland" forum, and then the "Kansas City Index". It's been there for a bit under two years.
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BuddyRoadhouse
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/06 16:21:08 (permalink)
And since discovering that link earlier this week, that's exactly what I've been doing tahall!  I've got to tell you though buddy, you KC folks need to kick it into high gear in terms of posting if you're going to make LTHKC as successful and influential as its Chicago sire.  It seems awful quiet there during the day.  What's the deal, do you people all have jobs or something?  Also, sleep is highly overrated.  When I log on in the morning I'd like to see at least ten new posts that took place when the rest of the population was exploring the insides of their eyelids.

Keep the homefires burning; Mrs. Roadhouse and I will be there December 20-29th.

Buddy
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1bbqboy
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/18 10:05:41 (permalink)
Interesting followup here:
 http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/chicagos-bbq-is-worse-than-memphis-bbq,36152/
 
by Marah Eakin December 17, 2009
  Internet foodies pitched a fit late last month over at grub blog Serious Eats, sparring over writer Michael Nagrant’s post, “Chicago BBQ is better than Memphis BBQ,” which claims we have “the best retail barbecue-food scene in America right now.” Based on a recent trip to Memphis, Nagrant posits that the Second City is tops because of joints like Smoque (3800 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-545-7427), Honey 1 (2241 N. Western Ave., 773-227-5130), Leon’s (1200 W. 59th St., 773-778-7828), Barbara Ann’s (7617 S. Cottage Grove Ave., 773-651-5300), and Uncle John’s (773-892-1233, 337 E. 69th St.). Worthy eateries, all around, but the blogger misses the saucy point—Chicago’s barbecue “scene,” relatively small in the first place, stands on the shoulders of its meaty forefathers—Kansas City, Texas, the Carolinas, the deep South and, yes, Memphis.
Almost as a rule, Chicago-style barbecue has a tendency to be a little all over the place. Take ribs, for example. Honky Tonk BBQ's (1213 W. 18th St., 312-226-7427) are dry-rubbed and smoked, sauce on the side, almost Memphis style. Smoque and Honey 1 use different dry-rubs on their slabs, wood-smoke them, and then sauce them up with tangy, semi-sweet sauces, St. Louis-style. Brisket, a common entrée at most “hip” joints around town, isn’t even something you’d normally see at most Southern-style barbecue restaurants—they don’t normally dabble in “cowboy barbecue,” as they call it in West Texas.
Nagrant’s arguments are based on one trip to Memphis, where he may or may not have eaten at the best places in town, and the Chicago scene could be hiding all sorts of hidden gems, but that’s a moot point. Sure, we have great barbecue, but barbecue is inherently pretty great—it's meat so tender it practically melts in your mouth, sometimes with delicious sauce on it. Loving it is practically a given. Do places like Honey 1 or Honky Tonk, which do exceptional work, mean that the Second City is doing it better than anywhere else, though?
Think of it like this: Whenever there’s a long line at local favorite Hot Doug’s, inevitably someone will strut by and grouse, “I can’t believe people are waiting this long for a hot dog.” Anyone who knows Hot Doug’s, though, knows that it’s not just a hot dog, and if that’s what the customer really wants, instead of a venison sausage and foie gras fries or whatever, he or she can drive on up to Superdawg or any of 1,000 other wiener joints around town. What makes Hot Doug’s famous, and what’s made Memphis and St. Louis and Texas and all the other barbecue cities famous, is that what they do, they do on a level above everyone else, and totally different from anyone else. Can Chicago say that yet? 
cont......
#25
MilwFoodlovers
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2009/12/18 12:17:44 (permalink)
Love it! Good article.
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Gumbo191
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2010/02/19 23:15:30 (permalink)
There is BBQ in Chicago?
#27
swvadon
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2010/02/21 19:05:05 (permalink)
A few thoughts...

First, to me, ribs are not barbecue. Secondly, I am a pork purist when it comes to barbecue. Texas might have some great brisket, beef, etc. but barbecue is pork for me.

After reading the article, it sounds a lot like a Chicago fan went to Memphis with a predetermined result in mind. That's okay. As I mentioned above, if I was in Austin and had beef brisket, I'd say - 'It's alright, but it ain't barbecue.'

I've been to Rendezvous, Neely's, Corky's, and several other Memphis establishments a number of times. They all have their own version of great ribs. That seems to be the real point of discussion of the original article. I've also eaten at a minimum of six notable Chicago rib joints. All are great. Memphis has a distinctive style, like it or not. Chicago does not have a distinctive style of ribs. Nothing wrong with that, but they don't. They don't have a signature like Memphis. Chicago has a signature style pizza, and steak (the best in the world, IMO), and they do a great job with ribs, but Memphis does better with ribs and with barbecue.

I liken it to finding
#28
swvadon
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Re:Is Chicago BBQ Better Than Memphis BBQ? 2010/02/21 19:06:25 (permalink)
Oops, hit enter too quickly.

I liken it to finding a great lobster place in Maryland. It might be great, but it's not the elite. It's not Maine.
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