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I sound like a broken record, but that's because nearly all of these places are guilty of dilettantism. You can't smoke chicken the same way you smoke ribs or brisket or sausage or turkey or donkey or dog, for that matter, and yet they keep on trying. The latest offender is Q-BBQ in Lakeview, the third outpost of a minichain that began in the far-western suburbs. It comes with a recommendation that says a lot: a tire company, which I'll wager has never strayed south of Bridgeport, seems to like the original La Grange location.
From behind a fake brick facade so cheesy my iPhone refused to focus on it, Q-BBQ is slinging the canon of regional American barbecue—Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style pulled pork, Memphis-style ribs, plus wings, turkey, sausage, burnt ends, "smoked corned beef" (aka pastrami)—and a range of superfluous Fieriesque salads and sandwiches filled with heretical combinations like mozzarella-topped burnt ends or Gouda-topped pulled pork. Still not enough stuff for your flavorhole? The chain is also touting a new line of "loaded potatoes" covered with, say, fried chicken, lobster bisque, or macaroni and cheese.
You have to approach this menu like a crime scene—gingerly, deliberately, and without stepping in anything messy. Q-BBQ seems to be particularly proud of its brisket, which it claims to smoke for 22 hours. Whether that's far too long or it's particularly lean beef or the meat just sits around waiting for someone to order it, the result is tough, dense, dry slices with almost no fat. Similarly, the chicken seems to be pulled almost entirely from the breast—the tasteless, unforgiving revenge of the battery bird—and you couldn't get the result down with a gavage tube. The baby back ribs are a different story. Uniformly pink and hammy, they taste as if they were brined before they were smoked.
Maybe there's nothing more revealing I can report about Q-BBQ than that the most delicious thing on the menu might be the sweet, spicy brussels sprouts. Fried and caramelized and tossed with thin disks of green chiles, they seem like a dish looking for a home.
Q-BBQ, 714 W. Diversey, 773-281-7800, q-bbq.com