When one thinks of a typical BBQ experience, "upscale" is not the first word that comes to mind. Chicago q challenges this notion, taking the comfort of quality Southern food and adding the ambiance of a high-end restaurant.
Walking in, we're greeted by what looks a lot like a dimly lit country club, complete with white walls, polished wood tables, and black leather seating. The waiters and waitresses are decked in flannel shirts, jeans, and smiles—the image of Southern hospitality. Since it's two o'clock on a weekday afternoon, we're quickly seated and handed lunch and drink menus.
Our waitress brings us water and Chicago q's unique complimentary starters: bread-and-butter pickles and potato chips. It may seem strange, but don't be fooled; the sweet-and-sour crunch of the pickles and the smoky barbecue flavor of the chips make this a surprisingly addictive pairing. Add this to the fact that they come with free refills, and you'll have to be careful not to gorge yourself before the main course even arrives.
The highlight of the menu is the barbecue platters, which are served with four house-made sauces and your choice of cornbread, coleslaw, or fries. As a big fan of tender, fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs, I personally found the baby back ribs and brisket a little dry and bland, but they were great once paired with the sauces.
If you're not afraid to clog your arteries a little, I highly recommend the signature Pitmaster Mac 'n Cheese. Served hot in a skillet, this creamy mix of cheddar and muenster cheese is balanced out perfectly with a topping of crunchy, golden brown breadcrumbs. Even if you are afraid of cardiac arrest, try it as a side; the smaller portion is just as satisfying and leaves room for you to try the rest of the menu.
For those looking for something outside the realm of traditional barbecue, the brisket tacos are worth a try. I found the meat to be much more tender and flavorful than that of the barbecue platters, especially when paired with the avocado cream salsa and pico de gallo. It's a well-executed combination of Southern barbecue and Mexican cuisine.
The portions are large, but on the off-chance that you do make it to the end of the meal without falling into a food coma, don't hesitate to ask for dessert. My personal favorite is the seasonal cheesecake, which manages to be both light and rich at the same time. I was initially a little put off by the idea of the cranberry compote, but the tartness complements the sweetness of the cheesecake well. The whole dish has an airy texture that finished off the meal perfectly.
While prices are steep for your average college student, the food experience here makes it a worthwhile spot for the occasional casual lunch with friends or dinner date. Just make sure you lick your fingers discreetly.