In the western suburbs on a recent trip to the greater Chicago area, it was getting to be around lunch and I was hungry for some barbecue. I hit the GPS and looked for barbecue places in the area. One of the first ones that popped up was a place called Q-BBQ in downtown La Grange. I headed over to find that place and was pleasantly surprised to see a nice building along La Grange Road in downtown La Grange. (see map) I was able to find parking nearby and went into the place.
Michael LaPidas is a graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and is a self-described "trained-eater, not a trained-chef". After college, he opened a Roly-Poly sandwich franchise in the Q-BBQ location in downtown La Grange and dabbled in local politics and in charity work as a fundraiser.
Pictured right - Michael LaPidas (Photo courtesy Chicago Sun-Times)
LaPidas discovered a love for good barbecue after having a particularly good beef brisket during a trip in the South and and began to travel extensively looking for the best barbecue places. Immersing himself into the culture of barbecue, LaPidas learned about smoking techniques, what types of wood to use, different types of sauces - everything that went into what he called "America's original comfort food." After a year of figuring things out, LaPidas opened Q-BBQ in 2009.
LaPidas must have done a good job of figuring things out - he opened a second location in Naperville in 2012 and the third Q-BBQ location opened in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood in the fall of 2013. Also in 2013, Q-BBQ snagged a coveted Bib Gourmand rating from the Michelin restaurant guide for Chicago. That was something I never realized until after going to the original Q-BBQ in La Grange earlier this summer.
The interior of the restaurant has sort of a contemporary industrial look. There's an outdoor patio seating area for the warm months with a main dining room that is split in two by a center aisle that takes patrons to the ordering area. The menu is on chalkboard on the wall behind the front counter with a small glass door refrigerator stocked with bottled beers. Country music from the 80's and 90's was playing in the background on the rib joint's sound system.
While the menu isn't extensive, it features Memphis-style (dry rubbed) baby back ribs, Carolina-style pulled pork, either chopped or sliced Texas-style beef brisket, along with pulled chicken and spicy sausage. I ordered up the two meat sampler plate of sliced brisket and pulled pork. The only problem was that I was told that they were out of brisket. Hmmm.... That was a problem because I don't really care for pulled barbecued chicken or sausage all that much. But then someone from back in the kitchen announced that they did, indeed, have brisket. I also ordered some of their baked beans and fries to go along with the meal. For a beer, I ordered the Lagunitas IPA.
The plate was brought out to me about five minutes after I ordered. It was served upon a metal sheet pan with wax paper below the food. There was a generous amount of sliced brisket and pulled pork sitting in opposite corners. A large amount of hand cut fries sat in the middle of the two meats with a small container of baked beans off to the side. A signature item at Q-BBQ - hush puppies - were provided at no charge. I'm not big on hush puppies, but I did try one and it wasn't too bad.
The sauces they had on the table included a sweet Memphis-style sauce that had a bit of a smoky flavor to it. The Texas spicy sauce got my attention with its subtle spicy flavor. There was also Carolina vinegar sauce that looked more like balsamic vinegar and it didn't do anything for me when I tried it on the pork. The fourth sauce - a mustard sauce - I didn't want any part of that. That may taste good on sausage, but I'm not too fond of mustard sauces for barbecue.
The meats were very good - the pulled pork was moist and flavorful. It had a nice bark on the outside of the meat and had a great taste on its own. Adding some of the Memphis sweet sauce along with the Texas spicy sauce gave it a great and zippy taste.
The brisket had a nice smoke ring around the outside. It, too, was very flavorful - easy to cut and chew. I like a good brisket and the brisket at Q-BBQ was some of the best I've had.
The baked beans had small chunks of pork mixed in with them. On their own, the beans were very good. I usually have to add some barbecue sauce to most baked beans I get at barbecue joints just to help jazz up the taste. But the beans at Q-BBQ didn't need much help at all.
And the hand-cut fries were thick with a crispy outside and a nice potato taste inside. I alternated dipping some of the fries into the sweet and the spicy barbecue sauces. But there was way too many of the fries for me to finish. By the time I got down with the pulled pork, brisket, a good portion of the beans and about half the fries I was stuffed. I'm not certain that I even got dinner that evening because I was still full from lunch.
Q-BBQ was a pleasant and surprising find. The overall dining experience was very good including the very good barbecue they serve at the place. Given the amount of barbecue places I've been to during my travels, Q-BBQ acquitted themselves very well against more established rib joints that I've been to. Q-BBQ is highly recommended by Road Tips.