I recently had a chance to get lunch at Lillie’s Q in Wicker Park as part of my ongoing BBQ vision quest. I have a tough time characterizing this place. Honestly, I would have to describe it as “BBQ for the fastidious yuppie.” On the surface, this description could be taken a lot of ways, but I’ll try to explain myself in the following paragraphs.
See how clean and neat everything is? I’m honestly not sure if I think it’s “really” a BBQ place. That’s where the fastidious description comes in. When you are cooking greasy, smoky food in a fairly small place, there’s no way things should be so spotless. It makes me a little suspicious. Though, Lilllie’s is a bit pricey, so maybe the extra couple of bucks go into making sure things are really clean.
As far as the yuppie part of the description, a lot of yuppies like to try new things (like another style of sauce), but want an environment that seems safe and almost sterile (this was especially true of a lot of the engineering students that I knew in college.) BBQ joints don’t tend to be described with those words, but Lillie Qs could be.
As the sauce pic above shows, there are a lot of new things to try here (the beer selection is pretty good, too). They have Carolina and Memphis-style mostly. One could argue that they might want to add a random adjunct from Texas or KC, too. As far as the food, it is all executed pretty well. All the items that I had were above average, but for me, none of them were the best of the style. The sausage was good, but I’ve had better in Texas and KC. The ribs had good flavor, but were a bit dry (partly because they were baby backs, I prefer the meatier St. Louis style). The pulled pork was very competent.
So, overall, I think of Lillie’s Q as a safe choice. The vast majority of people will find something about it that they like and people that don’t like the grimy patina on traditional BBQ places may really love it (and, hopefully, it acts as a “gateway” restaurant to dirtier, super-delicious places).