Jun 16, 2013

A Chicago fast food sampler – part four: Barbara Ann’s

Let’s see … earlier this year we covered Chicago-style pizza, Italian beef and hot dogs (high-end and classic Chicago-style).  What’s left?  Well, the Young Curmudgeon couldn't leave town without hitting a classic south side barbecue joint.  Fortunately, we discovered Barbara Ann’s. 

Located at the corner of 76th and Cottage Grove, Barbara Ann’s is deeply entrenched in Chicago’s south side.   Its carry-out only storefront is located in front of Barbara Ann’s Motel, which caters to those who take advantage of the motel’s weekly rates.

I got the impression that at Barbara Ann’s, there’s always a line – and with good reason.  The smoky smells wafting around this place alone are enough to get your mouth watering.  And even at 3:30 p.m., the Young Curmudgeon and I had to take our turn to order once we got inside.  Fortunately, the menu gave us plenty of options to ponder.

Since we had been pigging out on other Chicago specialties all day, we decides to share a medium-sized order of rib tips, which came with fries and one side (I chose the slaw … baked beans and the Young Curmudgeon are not a good combination for a long car ride back to Springfield).  I placed our order at the turnstile window (cash only, of course), and we patiently waited while soaking up the ambiance. 

This picture where you order really doesn't do the place justice, but if you look hard enough, you can see the barrel full of hickory waiting to be put on the fire in an aquarium-style smoker.  I’m not sure this is exactly up to code, but I’m definitely not complaining.  With a little research after the fact, I learned they've been doing this for more than 40 years, and they seem to have own their “low and slow” process perfected. 

Now, I don’t want to say the Young Curmudgeon and I looked completely like ducks out of water here, but I was amused by the conversation I had with a lady who was in line ahead of us:

“You’re not from around here, are you?” she asked.

“No ma’am, we’re not,” I said with a wide smile. 

“Where are y’all from?”

“Springfield, Illinois. We’re just in Chicago for the day and came here because we heard this was some of the best barbecue in the city.”

“Really?  How did you find us?”

The Internet.” 

“Well, welcome.  I hope you like it.”

“Thank you.  I’m liking it already.”

The guy in front of her interjects:  “Oh, I know you will.  I come here every day!”

Shortly after this conversation, the lady behind the glass window shuffled our order through the turnstile, and – with no place to sit inside – the Young Curmudgeon and I made up our own table service in the car. 

Again, this picture does not do this food justice.  Even without the sauce, the rib tips had an outstanding flavor combination of dry rub seasonings and smokiness.  The meat itself had a nice crust on the outside and was flowing with juices on the inside. It’s a result of the fattiness of the meat, but as I always say, fat equals flavor!  The ladles of sauce – not too thick and both slightly sweet and spicy – complemented everything perfectly. It even made the mundane fries sing in your mouth.   

It also got the Young Curmudgeon’s seal of approval.  Do not try to take this man’s rib tip away from him. 

All in all, this stop capped off a great father-son bonding experience for us.  Nothing brings people together like great food, and the food – and friendly people – at Barbara Ann’s make this a great place to stop and get your barbecue fix satisfied. 

If you want to know even more about Barbara Ann’s, I recommend this You Tube video.  It has some great footage inside the restaurant where the magic is made.

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