Before Tweeter closed their doors in the Chicago area this past fall, I was talking with a couple three salespeople at their Lincoln Park location one day about good barbecue in the Chicagoland region. A couple of the guys were telling me about a place in far southwestern suburban Plainfield by the name of Baby Back Blues. I made it a point to give it a shot one day.
In 1998, Ken Faught and Jim Howley opened Baby Back Blues in a small strip mall in suburban Plainfield just off of Interstate 55 on Highway 30 (see map). Their concept was to serve some of the best Southern-style ribs this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. While Chicago ribs are usually cooked with the sauce on them, Faught decided that he wanted to do his ribs "Memphis-style" with a dry rub put on the meat before slow cooking them in a smoker over hardwood charcoal. Baby Back Blues then has a mild and a "hot" sauce that customers can put on the meat when they get served.
Here's a video courtesy of RibFest USA on Baby Back Blues featuring Ken Faught talking about how they do their ribs:
It was around 2 p.m. when I went into Baby Back Blues to get some lunch. There were a couple people just finishing their lunch when I came in, so it was well past the noontime rush. There was some good ol' time blues music coming from the speakers and a couple guys were behind the counter waiting to take my order. The menu at Baby Back Blues is fairly simple - they only have baby back ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and pulled chicken. Along with that they have the regular barbecue joint fare of baked pinto beans, cole slaw, hand-cut fries and - as I was told - some supposedly outrageously great homemade macaroni and cheese.
It didn't take me long to figure out that I wanted to try the pulled pork and the brisket. But they were only available on sandwiches. Well, I figured I could order them on sandwich buns and then just eat the meat. That way I wouldn't get too stuffed.
When I stepped up to order, the guy asked me, "Have you been here before?"
I said, "No, I heard about this place from some other people. I'm from the Quad Cities."
He said, "Quad Cities! That's quite a haul for barbecue!"
I said, "Well, I'm just in here on business and I went a few miles out of my way to try you guys out."
I ended up ordering a small pulled pork sandwich and a small brisket sandwich. I got a side of baked pinto beans and even though I'm not a big mac and cheese fan, I decided to give that a try, as well.
The other guy behind the counter said, "Hey, since you've never been in before, would you like a sampling of our pulled chicken and our ribs?"
Well, I certainly couldn't say no. I hadn't had breakfast in anticipation of having barbecue for lunch, so I was fairly hungry at that point in time.
While Baby Back Blues isn't all that big - it seats, maybe 40 people - it's still a nice little place for being in business for 10 years. The smokey and mouthwatering smell of barbecue permeated the place, but it wasn't overwhelming to say the least. The only drawback to the place was that it didn't serve alcohol. That's a two-point demerit in my book. However, I was told that you could bring your own beer into the place, if you liked. The one point was put back on the scoresheet. If you're a regular reader of Road Tips, you know that I think a barbecue joint without beer is a travesty.
The guy brought a couple plates of food to the counter for me. I got a bottle of the mild and a bottle of the hot sauce from the counter. Later, I found out that you were supposed to fill some plastic cups with the sauce and take them to the table. OK, rookie mistake.
I will say the ribs were very good. Nice, tender, still juicy and a very good flavor with the rub. I also liked the pulled pork, but was completely in love with the brisket. I'm not a big fan of barbecued chicken, but like the pulled pork, it was moist, tender and flavorful. The beans were nothing special, even after I spiced them up with the hot sauce - which wasn't very hot, in my book. But the mac and cheese side was awesome! It was cheesy with a great buttery aftertaste. Whoever told me the mac and cheese was great wasn't kidding.
Considering the hype the guys from Tweeter were giving Baby Back Blues, I was sort of expecting to be let down with the whole experience. But it was everything they said it would be and I was very pleasantly surprised with the food. When I was leaving, one of the guys said, "So, what did you think? Give me your honest answer."
I said, "It's simple. I'll be back in someday..."