Hours: Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday
Lincoln Park outpost of the popular rib shack spawned by Mike Royko's Ribfest.
The first franchise of Charlie Robinson, who leveraged a win in the 1982 Mike Royko Ribfest into a miniconglomerate, this is a smooth-running barbeque operation that caters and participates in numerous Chicago neighborhood fests. At one time Robinson's cooked with wood--and at one time, I'd venture to say, their barbecue was pretty damn good. Alas, those days, like Royko, are gone. Product as they are of a rotisserie cooker that drafts bare wisps of smoke from outside the main chamber across the meat, it would take a keen sense of smell to detect smoke in these ribs--that is, until you add "natural smoke flavor" provided by liquid-smoke-enhanced barbecue sauce. The baby backs have a slightly crisp exterior they acquire from a few moments under a high-powered commercial broiler; this lends some flavor, but the interior meat verges on dry. Chicken fared slightly better--there was no discernible smoke flavor, but the meat was moist and the skin crisp. Hot links were positively flavor packed by comparison, with noticeable red pepper and herbs, but the six-inch sausage suffered from being held and reheated, resulting in a wrinkled, shriveled effect that was particularly disconcerting. Still, by Chicago standards, Robinson's is a pretty good barbecue joint, with crisp, greaseless onion rings in its favor, fresh corn on the cob, and owners who haven't succumbed to the steam/bake/boil school of barbecue meat Jell-O.
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