When you walk through the front door of the Gold Coast barbecue parlor Chicago Q, it might be best to just shake off your disbelief as you might rip off a Band-Aid. It stings for a moment, but the sooner you can overcome the disconnect between the posh appointments and the humble fare, the easier it will be to succumb to the charms of the talented kitchen and attentive staff. Chef-partner Lee Ann Whippen is a veteran of competition barbecue, and you can taste it in her meats. The expertise is especially evident in her ribs, offered in two cuts, Saint Louis-style tipless spares and the more demure baby backs. An upcharge buys you a chance to sample the limited-supply competition ribs—though when asked what made them special, we were given a tight-lipped if good-natured brush-off. The smoky meat seemed firmer and the ribs more uniform but no tastier than their everyday counterpart. Chicago's a city that favors pork when it comes to barbecue, but the tender Kobe beef brisket here is first-rate. Barbecue sauce is always served on the side, the uncompromising mark of a pro. A choice of crispy fries, dense corn bread, or coleslaw comes with each entree; the tart, creamy slaw stands out among the three. Complimentary house-made bread-and-butter pickles and proprietary "pig powder" potato chips make perfect starters, especially alongside a not-too-sweet Sazerac made with the ridiculously named but utterly delicious (Ri)1 whiskey. The whiskey list in general is a boozy amusement park for bourbon and rye drinkers. Hulking desserts insult your better judgment, but the house-made carrot cake, peanut brittle, and apple crisp taste great and seem more manageable when split between friends—many, many friends.
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