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#151
Posted April 22nd 2009, 4:26pm
I just wanted to thank this forum for again steering me to one of my favorite spots.

I have had tips from time to time, and thought they weren't for me. . . the cast offs only Chicagoans would bother to eat - gristley, chewy, skimpy and dry. Not so here. As anyone who has read this thread already knows, at Uncle John's they are meaty, smokey and moist. The best part is the crunchy outer bits that provide counterpoint to the juicy interior. And the links are out of this world. Everyone is right, the sage elevates them out of the realm of the standard link.

Thanks again, LTH. . . Now I can't venture south of 31st without this place calling my name!
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And once again he offered me, if I would only set him free—
Any one of a number of wonderful wishes... He was delicious! - Shel Silverstein
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#152
Posted May 6th 2009, 6:33pm
I've been dying to go to UJs for some time but my schedule never worked out.
I have to be in Indiana on business Friday morning and UJ's proximity to the Skyway made it a perfect stop on the way back. Now that may not work out.

Any suggestions for a place worth getting off the Skyway for? If it's 'cue it's got to offer something better or different than Honey 1, but other fast cuisines are OK too.
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#153
Posted May 6th 2009, 6:37pm
I've become more and more fond of Lem's, and it's now my #2 in Chicago barbecue (which, at the moment, ranks Uncle John's, Lem's, Honey 1, Barbara Ann's). I was there on late Sunday night, with Uncle John's being closed, and was absolutely blown away by the tips. My only complaint is they don't have the typical tip-link combo--you have to order separately. Their clove-tinged barbecue sauce is also my favorite in the city.

Lem's Barbecue House
311 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 994-2428
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#154
Posted May 6th 2009, 7:27pm
I'd also recommend Lem's as an alternative.
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#155
Posted May 8th 2009, 7:54pm
I drove by UJ's just to make sure they were still closed-and they were.

I got to Lem's at about 3:30 and the tips were hot. Not so hot that you couldn't eat them, but hotter than what I would consider proper serving temperature. Under normal circumstances I would have waited for them to cool down but I wanted to avoid the worst of the Friday afternoon rush hour and I hadn't eaten any thing all day, so in they went.

Most of the pieces were pretty juicy, some were extremely salty and there was often a strong charcoal note rather than the more complex taste I would expect from top notch wood smoke.

So,based on this experience I'm in no hurry to return. At the same time, I have seen enough variability at many barbecue spots to know this experience is far from definitive.
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#156
Posted May 10th 2009, 12:18pm
I am in Chicago for the week and have been looking forward to getting back to Uncle John's since I last had the tip-link combo. What is this news about it being closed? If it isn't going to be open this week while I'm here I might just have a mental breakdown. Please someone give me good news!
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#157
Posted May 10th 2009, 12:52pm
scottsol wrote:So,based on this experience I'm in no hurry to return. At the same time, I have seen enough variability at many barbecue spots to know this experience is far from definitive.


Yeah, I would say Lem's is especially variable, but when it's on (as it was on my last visit), it's transcendental. The only consistent barbecue I've had in Chicago is Uncle John's.
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#158
Posted May 10th 2009, 1:31pm
Binko wrote:
scottsol wrote:So,based on this experience I'm in no hurry to return. At the same time, I have seen enough variability at many barbecue spots to know this experience is far from definitive.


Yeah, I would say Lem's is especially variable, but when it's on (as it was on my last visit), it's transcendental. The only consistent barbecue I've had in Chicago is Uncle John's.


UJ's has been incredibly inconsistent for me. Ethereal one day, extremely tough (and I like to work for my meat) the next. Do you go at consistent times? I've been trying to work out if there's a time of day when it's safest to go.

For me, Honey One's tips are the most consistent I've had, although I've had a handful of mediocre batches there too. And the consistency may be because I almost always go during the lunch hours on a weekday.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#159
Posted May 10th 2009, 2:33pm
From what I learned at the Festival of BBQ (in Marseilles) is that most BBQ places will time their product to be fresh for the lunch and dinner crowd.
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"Make Lunch, Not War" ~ Anon
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#160
Posted May 10th 2009, 2:44pm
Sure, of course, but I don't know when the dinner crowd usually comes to Uncle John's. Is it right after work, at 5:30-6? Is it 7-8pm? Does it vary on the weekends?
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#161
Posted May 10th 2009, 9:29pm
gleam wrote:UJ's has been incredibly inconsistent for me. Ethereal one day, extremely tough (and I like to work for my meat) the next. Do you go at consistent times? I've been trying to work out if there's a time of day when it's safest to go.


I'm not completely consistent, but I'm usually there sometime between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. I've been there about a dozen to fifteen times and never had anything other than an exemplary batch. I was going to post that it may just be my dumb luck, but I prefer to think it's Mack. It looks like it just may be a matter of my timing.

For me, Honey One's tips are the most consistent I've had, although I've had a handful of mediocre batches there too. And the consistency may be because I almost always go during the lunch hours on a weekday.


Yeah, for me I'm batting about .667 at Honey 1. I generally find myself a bit later there, though, like from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. I've had some tough, chewy, dried-out tips there, but, on other occasions, the angels were singing to me after every bite. Usually, for me, it falls in between.

Barbara Ann's is 50-50 for me. Since Uncle John's opened up, I've only been there once. And, with Lem's, I almost always find myself there at 11 p.m. or later.
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#162
Posted May 10th 2009, 9:58pm
Thanks for the tips. When Beth is working in Hyde Park, I'm usually picking her up around 8pm. I think our best experience at UJ's (which was the best barbecue I've had in this city) was at 5:30. So, I guess I'll aim for that after-work time period.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#163
Posted May 10th 2009, 10:20pm
gleam ... I usually go weekdays around 12:15-12:30, and the tips have always been perfect.
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#164
Posted May 15th 2009, 2:18pm
More data on the after-work time period - I went on Wednesday, just as the seemingly golf ball-sized rain drops were starting to fall, and picked up a wonderful meal: large links; large tips; slab (on sale - more on this); and (8) wings - all with fries and bread, obviously. A ton of food for $45. Took it to Jimmy's and camped out in the back. Pilsner Urquel pitchers for $18 (kind of expensive for the Jim's bar - non?)

The tips and links were perfect, and as an additional treat, as of last night around midnight, when I took out a link and snapped off a bite and gnawed on a tip, they have decent lasting power. The slab, however, tasted like it may have been on the mature side - perhaps a lunchtime creation - although it was still very enjoyable, with a ton of smoke. As noted, it was "on sale" for $14 (I ordered a half, and Mack offered it up). Wings were not nearly as enjoyable as Harold's, but were needed because of the mixed crew I was buying for (decent leftovers for a party of 6) and because I was in a hurry and didn't want to make two stops.

Good stuff.
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#165
Posted May 15th 2009, 4:31pm
Ahmad Shareef wrote:More data on the after-work time period - I went on Wednesday, just as the
....
slab (on sale - more on this); and (8) wings - all with
......
The slab, however, tasted like it may have been on the mature side - perhaps a lunchtime creation - although it was still very enjoyable, with a ton of smoke. As noted, it was "on sale" for $14 (I ordered a half, and Mack offered it up).


Good to hear its open again!

BTW, I doubt the slab was on sale because it was "mature"... it probably was just on sale period (maybe the fact that you were buying a lot of stuff had something to do with it too, since it was a Wednesday :-)

The "slab sale" is not new BTW - full-slabs (with fries, bread, slaw) have been on sale for 14 bucks on Mondays and Tuesdays for the past several months, one of the better deals in town. Also on Mondays and Tuesdays, there is a "half-pan" of tips or links (or a combination of the two) on sale for 25 bucks. Ive always presumed these items are offered at discounted prices on Mondays and Tuesdays (all day discounts, not just night-time discounts) because those are the days of least traffic. And I can confirm that the quality of the food itself on the sale-items has not suffered - Ive picked up the half-pan on a couple of occasions now, and its been as good as normal (which, to me, is by far the best bbq in the Chicagoland area).

(BTW, if youre ever picking up for a similar party on Mon/Tue - the half-pan tip/link combo is probably more food than a large-tip plus large-link would be, for a shockingly reasonable price - about the same as the two added together).

c8w
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#166
Posted September 1st 2009, 11:52am
It was with enthusiasm that I accepted the invitation to join five of my hungry friends for a dinner last month provided by Uncle John’s Barbecue. One friend had flown in from Texas and joined us for an afternoon of enjoyment at Uncle John’s Barbecue. My friends and I are experienced at eating food, exploring meats far and wide. All have a keen curiosity of barbecue, which several of us cover in well-followed food blogs. I had been to Uncle John’s 47 times before, starting two years or so ago.

The evening turned into a disappointment for all of us, both due to structural problems in communication at the restaurant, and in terms of the food. Here are the details:

The room is quaint, a bit utilitarian in feel. There is a vinegar-like smell to the room, and I find the bullet-proof glass comforting, given the neighborhood. The room was only about two guests full when we arrived, and at its busiest, there were three more guests in line behind us.

My friends and I debated what to do for the menu, and, when told Pitmaster Mack Sevier was in the back, we asked if he would put together a menu he thought best for that evening for six people. Our cashregisterwoman said fine, and off she went. We assumed we would have some type of tasting menu that we could discuss amongst ourselves.

What followed was an insight into both structural problems in communication between the front (FOS) and back (BOS) of the shack, as well as striking inconsistencies in the dishes the kitchen produced. As we returned to the car and then to our home, we discovered that we were given several items we hadn’t anticipated, that quality and temperature had declined in the 72 minutes it took to get home, and that the meats had rearranged themselves into an almost haphazard cacophony within the metal trays. On calling back to the restaurant with our dismay, I was instructed that “I told someone in back that y’all had crazy requests, but they advised that Mack was in no mood to be approached or spoken to.” When we more strenuously objected, the Fry Master (FM) Nelson took the phone and told us “Mack doesn’t do any special menu for nobody, including aldermen and bearded barbecue book authors who dine here.” Someone should have communicated this to us when we initially asked, and we would have then have devised a tasting menu ourselves from the existing board.

The quality of execution of the dishes was like a roller coaster of quality and creativity. The pan of French fries was, by time of consumption, too cool to allow the crispness to be fully appreciated. On this visit, the tips were served separately from the links in their own pan. Perfectly cooked ribs, served inside a delightful tent of aluminum foil, wre brilliant. Unfortunately, they were followed by chicken wings, which, while unexpected, were only the second-best fresh fried chicken wings I’ve had on the South Side. The wings had some kind of accompaniment that appeared to be some sort of jug filled with some sort of sauce, and which was surprisingly salty and spicy. Disappointingly, I noticed on our receipt that we were charged $6 for this sauce even though we did not use it.

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After this jarring experience, I doubt I’ll return to Uncle John’s Barbecue more than four times per month. We saw flashes of brilliance, but far too much unevenness in the execution, packaging, and organization to make dining in Gurnee after taking out from 69th street and MLK reasonable. Far worse, though was what I think of as structural problems in communication between FOS and BOS. Mack seems to be in a cocoon of smoky smoke, and not to his advantage.

This was to be a special diner that involved a national evaluation of barbecue places on the South Side, and we had corresponded with the cashregisterwoman in advance, asking about their prices and policies, and introducing her verbally to the friends I’d be bringing. We expected grand slams in every pan, and were disappointed at the doubles off the wall, especially given who we were.
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#167
Posted September 1st 2009, 11:53am
I admire your dedication to the conceit.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#168
Posted September 1st 2009, 12:04pm
Who was your captain? I would suggest that he or she be made aware of your displeasure. Arrr!
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#169
Posted September 1st 2009, 12:21pm
LMAO, brilliant. :lol:

Looks delicious, btw.

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

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#170
Posted September 1st 2009, 12:25pm
gleam wrote:I admire your dedication to the conceit.


I forgot to disclose that I actually won this meal in the Memorial Day Barbecue Raffle. Apologies.

Since Mack doesn't deserve his place being used for even obvious satire, let me quickly follow this up by saying that this was actually some of the best 'cue I've ever seen him put out, and gave him a hug for it the next time I saw him. The leftover tips, frozen, provided the base for several wonderfully flavorful soups and stews throughout this cool summer.
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#171
Posted September 1st 2009, 12:31pm
Hi,

I had a delightful discussion with a total stranger last night. In a side bar to my main topic, I mentioned Lem's for a location orientation. A woman hearing of Lem's piped up, "It was the best ribs in town." New friend said, "THe best is Uncle John's, but only if it is Mack at the smoker. If it is the skinny guy, I get the hot links only." He was totally surprised we not only knew of the place, we had been there and eaten the food.

The total knock out of the conversation: going to Gary, Indiana for a Coney dog.

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#172
Posted September 1st 2009, 12:32pm
Matt,

You've outdone even your own usual clever, witty self. Superb.

Kenny
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#173
Posted September 1st 2009, 2:02pm
Santander wrote:What followed was an insight into both structural problems in communication between the front (FOS) and back (BOS) of the shack

Incredibly funny, still chuckling after 10-minutes.
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Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

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#174
Posted September 1st 2009, 2:08pm
Bullet-proof glass could do wonders for L2O - and a Kevlar vest for the chef. :lol:
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Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
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#175
Posted September 1st 2009, 4:19pm
I hope, at least, that the sommelier guided you to some impeccable sparkling selections from the vending machine.
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#176
Posted September 1st 2009, 4:23pm
tapler wrote:I hope, at least, that the sommelier guided you to some impeccable sparkling selections from the vending machine.

Please...had something so gauche occurred, I'm sure Matt would have stopped him dead in his tracks and said, "Thanks, but I could probably recommend colas to the sommelier."
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#177
Posted September 1st 2009, 4:31pm
Matt would have brought his own vintage cola, and ensured that Mack properly decanted it.
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Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
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#178
Posted September 1st 2009, 4:35pm
GAF wrote:Matt would have brought his own vintage cola, and ensured that Mack properly decanted it.

I hear that caramel undertones of '92 Crystal Pepsi complements 'links quite well.

-Dan
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#179
Posted September 1st 2009, 6:25pm
Khaopaat wrote:
tapler wrote:I hope, at least, that the sommelier guided you to some impeccable sparkling selections from the vending machine.

Please...had something so gauche occurred, I'm sure Matt would have stopped him dead in his tracks and said, "Thanks, but I could probably recommend colas to the sommelier."


I'm sorry but I can't believe we are listening to someone who would be so gauche as to contact the cashierwoman before dining...and then would furthermore demonstrate how lacking in a refined palate they have by matching Sourcream and Onion Pringles with BBQ.
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#180
Posted November 24th 2009, 5:00pm
Has anyone been there in the past month or so? Mack still throwin' down the Q ok??
Does anyone have a current menu/hours for Uncle Johns?
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