Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

Real Urban Barbecue – Highland Park, IL – BBQ Masters Night

I am lucky to have been given a fly on the wall view of the festivities surrounding the BBQ Masters dinner Monday night at Real Urban Barbecue by none of than Dave Raymond of Sweet Baby Rays. He recently gave us a review of Lexington #1 BBQ and of course he’s the owner of Sweet Baby Rays in both Wood Dale, IL and Elk Grove, IL. Here’s the scoop from Dave Raymond, our Illinois correspondent:

Nothing to Do on a Monday Night…

For a while now, I have been getting together to hang out with the barbecue guys in Chicago. We eat and talk some barbecue, and have some fun and laugh. We also support and encourage each other. Last night was another one of those nights.

Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park Illinois– a bit of a trek, but worth it. Jeff Shapiro is the first of my friends to open a barbecue restaurant and actually have restaurant experience (just a tad smarter than the rest of us), and if I may say, Jeff has put that experience to good use. I am quite pleased to say that there has been at least a dozen or so authentic (in my opinion, and in my opinion I know) barbecue places established here, and it’s great to see it happening, and we are all learning from each other, and life is better in Chi Town for it.


Photo courtesy of Dan Thompson

This is how it works. I get out my trusty (and ever-growing) list of Chicago barbecue buds, pick a place and a time (usually 3-4 weeks notice), send out an e-mail, and it’s game on. We all are busy, we all have lives and wives and work and family. Nevertheless, in small little flurries– the e-mails come back. Lists are made, information is passed along, arrangements are made.


Photo courtesy of Dan Thompson

I’ve tried to be organized and structured, on time and prepared, but nobody is here for that. But that does not mean we don’t want to be there and Q-ing. It means it is what it is, and we are who we are, and friends and barbecue folks aren’t about that. So far, we are about nothing, and loving every bite of it. Speaking for myself, I think it is the coolest thing that I can just call up my friends and wind up hanging out with some pretty damn good barbecue men and women.

Who? Barbecue restaurateurs, KCBS and MBN competition cooks, ribbers, backyard barbecue enthusiasts, a BBQ author, a couple of butchers and KCBS judges, and some new guys that I am just getting to know.


Photo courtesy of Dan Thompson


It all started a couple of years ago after the NBBQA Convention in Austin, Texas. Seminars had just let out and Barry (Smoque BBQ), Andrew (sells pork to Mike Mills and The Shed and Barry—and as far as I know sells more pork ribs than anyone in the country), and Rich Wood (Southern Pride Smokers) had the smoker going. They were Chicago guys in Texas, cooking barbecue for the National Barbecue Association. I was in hog heaven, and it was a beautiful day. I followed my nose, leaned on the trailer, and smiled as the warm sun shone on my face. The rest of me must have been glowing too.

So, the lines quickly formed, and I watched as my story unfolded. Andrew and Barry were having one of many, many conversations about if the ribs were properly prepared. As the conversation ensued, Paul Kirk (name dropping) came by and offered that the ribs should have been this-or-that half an hour ago. This of course enabled Andrew to say– “I told you so.” And if memory serves, he through in, “I have been saying that for 6 months.” (More name dropping) Joey Macs Smoke Stax (2008 American Royal GC) came over by me, and said like only he could say– “I don’t know, they seemed like 9’s across the board to me.” Then I really had a big smile on my face.


Photo courtesy of Dan Thompson

There is more to the story, but in the name of time I will just say that when I came back from the convention I wanted to invite my barbecue friends out, and share with them some stories, and talk some barbecue.

And we did– and now that’s what we do. As far as who else was there last night, I am not sure. But I comfort myself by thinking how cool it is.

I was talking to Charlie of Lillie’s Q– one of the newer places, and younger guys. Charlie is a trained chef and successful competition cook. Charlie, sitting down, looking kind of tired, I asked him how many hours he works. He said 70-80, said he had a four-year-old son, and we agreed this was the time for him to be working hard. Didn’t seem like a thing to Charlie, who I noticed had not shaved, but did make it out to our little event. And that made me happy.


Photo courtesy of Dan Thompson

I rode out with Elaine, wife of Heads Red (1st place sweet sauce NBBQA 2010) who is a KCBS judge herself, and my nephew and partner Duce.

I got a big kick out of Jeff’s smile, and he and his great team’s effort to offer us excellent barbecue and hospitality. Eddie from Big Ed’s BBQ, one of my best buds and a new competition cook, was there with Kim and the family, as was their partner and my friend, Rhonda.

Ron from Pig Chaser’s Barbecue Sauce, now in 25 stores and other locations. Hustling sauce in January. Damn impressive. Take it from someone who knows. Mark and Jay from Uncle Bubs didn’t say a word about their Michelin mention, so I was happy to. Sales Bob and Jimmy Crack, now the pit-master for a Whole Foods (paycheck!) from the B Team competition barbecue team. A friend of mine, his wife, and Gary Wiviott, my buddy and author of “Low and Slow”, barbecue man and food expert in general. Kenny from Baby Back Blues BBQ showed up all the way from Jolie (must be 150 miles round trip with his usual smile on his face). Somehow a skinny produce salesman got him some good barbecue. We ate some, talked some, laughed some. Smiled a lot, ate a lot. Not a bad Monday night in Chi Town.

Check out Real Urban Barbecue yourself here:

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Posted in BBQ Joints on by kevin - Comments (1)

1 Comment »

  1. This is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

    Comment by Landon Kemerly — April 16, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

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