I have not been very good at living up to my blog title recently. If I like to eat, why have I only posted twice in three weeks? There is no good answer besides life gets busy when you least expect it to. Fortunately last week I made time to have a good meal with the gang at the latest Q spot in town. We all enjoyed our meal in a fun and different BBQ environment, though felt dissapointed given the hype and awards advertised. I thought the sauces were very tasty, especially the spicy. But the meat was as expected, not amazing and not terrible.
I'm always interested in trying BBQ, one of my favorite foods, and Chicago q presents a unique approach. Located in the heart of the Gold Coast, q is not a BBQ shack but an upscale restaurant. I appreciate the change of pace eating BBQ and there's definitely an opening in the market for such a concept. The interior is well done, with lots of whites, wood, and an interesting upstairs area in the middle of the floor. The bar area in the front reminds me of other Chicago steak-houses (think Morton's), before entering the main venue. The most interesting detail is a very large (20 X 30 feet ish) back lit picture of a car on a road (in the south presumably).
Our service was very good throughout the evening, though the one blemish was the strange introduction. Since this was our first visit we were given the entire story, which felt like a sales pitch about how wonderful Chef Lee Ann Whippen was at cooking and the awards won. Maybe it's overly critical, but imagine sitting down at Alinea, for example, and being told how many awards it's won or how special Grant is. It should either be assumed that we know the headlines on the chef, or let the food speak for itself.
The meal starts with bowls of homemade chips and pickles. They prepare the pallet for good BBQ, and both were delicious. Even though we had already decided on our main courses, we ordered the sampler to start to try the various meats (pork, chicken and Kobe). I also used the experience to try the different sauces before our main dish arrived. If you ask Erica, the best part of the dish was the cornbread. I thought the various meats were fine, but the sauces were very good. It's a nice dish to sample your options.
Russ and Carson both went with the Kobe sliced brisket. Erica and I were in a ribs mood and decided to try the "competition" baby back ribs vs. the regular baby back ribs. These are ribs Chef Whippen has won in competitions, more tender and smoked longer. Our theory was that we wanted to try the best effort and if that wasn't great, what's the point in trying anything else. The general consensus of the table was that the food was enjoyable but lacking either flavor or tenderness or both. Our "competition" ribs were not what we expected and couldn't help to think back to rib fest in North Center. I'd love to try them all in one sitting. I still really enjoyed the sauces, a major point for BBQ, but the meats were not overly impressive. To accompany our full rack of ribs were ordered mac and cheese, and backed beans with Kobe beef. Both were delicious and left the table empty. Add a little spicy bbq sauce and I was good to go.
The overall experience at q was very good and recommendable. The atmosphere and decor is a nice change of pace for eating bbq, and our service was first rate. I enjoyed all the sauces and sides, especially the table treats of chips and pickles. The cooking and meat selection is high quality. We enjoyed the ribs, though I don't know if they are $36 good. Approach Chicago q as you would a steak house or upscale non-vegetarian restaurant, and enjoy the fact that the menu is BBQ. It's a great addition to the neighborhood and a fresh approach to a crowded field.