Lillie's Q | Wicker Park/Bucktown | Barbecue/Ribs, Craft Beer | Restaurant
Barbecue joint from chef Charlie McKenna.

Our Review

Charlie McKenna, the chef at Lillie's Q Urban Barbecue, certainly looks good on paper, with a pedigree in both fine dining (Tru, Avenues) and barbecue (his family owns the original Lillie's Q in Florida, and they've been successful on the competition circuit). Yet the air inside and out of this slick joint seems scrubbed of the telltale alluring aromas of smoking flesh, and likewise a few of the crucial meats lack a proper smoke infusion. This is particularly true of the pulled chicken and pulled pork, both so overexhausted as to be in need of the lubricating effects of "Grandma Lillie's" sauces. And these, from the Carolina to the Hot Smoky, are hobbled by excessive sweetness. But restraint actually works for the beef tri-tip, which is fantastic, lightly kissed with smoke and served in rosy pink slices. Baby back ribs, commendably neither gnarly nor wobbly, seem to be in the running for some sort of beauty contest, shellacked as they are with an unnecessary but photogenic glaze of camouflaging sauce. There are some honest interpretations of southern food, including the pimento cheese, chile-amped shrimp and grits, and a juicy corn-and-bean-studded Brunswick stew. But the most important thing in any place purporting to make barbecue isn't the sides, the sauce, or the figurative southern twang—it's the meat.

Mike Sula

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Bar Details

The "elixers" here are served in canning jars and for the most part based on "moonshine," i.e., unaged whiskey, which is only slightly more useless as a cocktail base than vodka, contributing little more than booze power and a light corn flavor that's obliterated by more characterful elements such as lemonade or, ridiculously, Maker's Mark. (Why drink corn liquor when you already have bourbon? Because it allows you to pretend you bought it from a hillbilly?) There is, however, a respectable list of craft beers in bottles and bombers. —Mike Sula



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