leave your inhibitions at the door
I spent the week after Lollapalooza in Chicago, enjoying the hustle and bustle, connecting with family and old friends, and eating like Elvis. The next few posts are going to be quick blurbs on some of the great meals I had in this great city. If you live there you may already know them. If you’re going to visit, it’s worth your while to explore past the usual tourist haunts – Cheesecake Factory, any of the deep dish pizzas, Hard Rock Café, Rainforest Café, Morton’s, etc. Get out of the tourist areas and hit some of the neighborhoods – Bucktown, Roscoe Village, Wicker Park, Lakeview – because there’s some amazing food out there.
I was limping around (due to a big ol’ bike accident) and came across Lillie’s Q. It’s on a corner of a busy street, near some of my favorite shops, yet it’s so non-descript I have never noticed it. As the name implies, it’s a barbecue place, but there was no cheesy southern décor. In fact, it was fairly plain – probably intentional as the food speaks loud enough.
It was a Monday night at 7:30 pm, yet there was a two hour wait (they don’t take reservations). Seeing the wait, I had thought that the place was new, but it apparently it’s par for the course. I opted to wait for a seat at the bar, but there were old-guy douches firmly entrenched there.. There were two types – late 40s guys that were straight out of a Brooks Bros catalog and a bunch of Guidos in their 50s, one of which wearing a graphic t-shirt. I was hanging out chatting with the hostess and, after about 20 minutes, she had a table for me. Life lesson for you – good things come to those who are genuine, cordial, and respectful. It also helps if you have a chiseled physique.
Each table has bottles of the various sauces:
Ivory – mayonnaise-based. Creamy and tasty, but not my bag, baby
Carolina gold – mustard and tomato-based
Carolina – vinegar-based with some tomato to thicken it. I like my North Carolina-style sauce to be really vinegary and more of a liquid, but this wasn’t bad.
Smoky – your standard tomato-based. As the name implies, rich smoky flavor
Hot and Smoky – same as above, with a kick
The pulled pork, ribs, and low country boil all really tempting, but I opted for the Smoked and Fried Chicken. The staff raved about it and I don’t recall ever having anything like it. They smoke the chicken pieces first, coat them with a spicy breading, and then fry them. The result is super tender fried chicken – not as juicy, but not at all dry. But the smoking added a lot of extra flavor that regular deep-frying doesn’t have. It comes served with a pot of Tupelo honey and the sweetness was a great complement to the spice. The sides of green beans with bacon, and creamy grits were outstanding. The grits were some of best I’ve had, besides mine and some places in my travels to South Carolina.
What I drank
I was still recovering from Lollapalooza, so I opted for a North Coast Brewing Pranqster – a Belgian-style golden ale.
As always, tell them I you heard about it here. It won’t get you anything, but if enough of you say it, I might.