Slab BBQ

Review by: Michael Stern

BBQ, Chicago-Style

Just as every human’s DNA is unique, so are the regional differences in barbecue. Variants include what meat is cooked, exactly how it’s cooked, what goes with it, what kind of sauce does it want (if any), and how it’s served. South Side Chicago has BBQ DNA all its own.

If you seek an excellent example of this distinct regional way with smoke and meat, go to Slab in the South Shore. Here you encounter mighty St. Louis ribs (as opposed to more genteel baby backs) as well as Chicago’s beloved rib tips. They create these meats with hickory smoke in an aquarium cooker, first developed at Lem’s and now a South Side icon.

Ribs, Links, Sauce

Of course, you must eat Slab ribs. To say they burst with juice only slightly overstates their succulence. But after ribs, you must also pay attention to the links – a Chicago BBQ parlor specialty. Slab makes three kinds: pork, turkey, and beef. Take your pick. The rugged sausages mix so extremely well with a good measure of Slab sauce.

The sauce will not stun you with four-alarm heat like many of the city’s best-known sauces. (Sauce plays a huge part in Chicago BBQ culture.) Slab sauce delivers tangy molasses sweetness with a hint of lemon zest. It makes any meat transcendent. Heck, it makes plain white bread delicious.

Don’t Ignore The Yardbird

Then there’s chicken. A second-class citizen on so many barbecue menus elsewhere, here it demands full attention. The smoke-saturated meat literally slips off its bones, just as its burnished skin wants to slide off the meat. Big turkey legs aren’t as tender, but they might be even more flavorful.

Meat’s Best Companions

All these good meats deserve great side dishes. Slab offers pit-cooked beans that are more smoky than sweet, candied yams, mac & cheese, linguine in tomato sauce, hand-cut French fries, and potato salad. They also make a dish called mixed greens. These are collards whose natural vegetable virtue is deliciously challenged by the inclusion of turkey meat (not pork). Cabbage adds a bit if crunch to the enervated collards.

Hamburgers? Really?

Of course, come to Slab for BBQ – South Side Chicago at its finest. Smoked meats put it on the Roadfood map. But you know something? The giant-size charbroiled burgers (beef or turkey) are juicy, flavorful, really good. I suggest eating two less ribs and one less hot link to save room for a cheeseburger.

What To Eat

BBQ Ribs

Rib Tips

BBQ Chicken

BBQ Beans

Collard Greens

French Fries

Hot Link


Slab BBQ Recipes


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