Friday, November 20, 2009

Southside Institutions: Leon's BBQ

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

Is Chicago a BBQ town? most out of towners might think so but others from here and also those who aren't might disagree. I view us as a 2nd tier BBQ destination. I also believe there was a time back in the day when it was much more of a presence here in Chicago. However there aren't too many places that aren't considered a part of the BBQ trail that have their very own regional style of 'cue. If you go to any respectable and real BBQ place in Chicago they will have a few things for sure. Rib Tips and links that are smoked in an aquarium style smoker is pure Chicago. While I don't consider Chicago to be an amazing BBQ town it has its fair share of places that have always done it right. One of these famous destinations and well known establishments is Leon's.

View of Leon's from the Skyway last winter...the "L" has since vanished

from outside this fall

Just like any other spot in the food game if you've been around since 1941-which Leon's has-you are going to become legendary. Mississippi native Leon Finney Sr. started to smoke out Chicago in 1941. He started the business with his aunt and to this day it remains in the Finney family. As time passed and the legend grew they expanded and have quite a few locations in the area. Just like anywhere else that has this many outposts, the quality can vary. Also like any BBQ place the consistency can vary. There are a few Leon's including the one Lincoln Park that are franchised owned but I never go to them. If you want the real pork you have to make it to the southside to get the up to par standard that Leon Sr. set the bar with. I have heard that one of the older locations is the 79th street spot in South Chicago. I think its most likely the only location I've been to. It's another spot I've been hitting up since I had my license. Its located off the skyway on 79th just past Stoney.

Menu at Leon's

Now don't get me wrong, I love ribs and they are one of my favorite things to eat but I usually order rib tips from Chicago BBQ joints. Its a part of our cuisine and when done up right I enjoy them greatly. The perfect combination of smoke and fat can make for a heavenly snack. I always order my BBQ with sauce on the side. I don't think smoked meat should be slathered in BBQ sauce. It takes away from the flavor and texture when its swimming in sauce. Its not that I don't like BBQ sauce with my smoked meat I just prefer to dip each bite ever so slightly so I get a taste of pig, smoke and sauce. The rib tips at Leon's can be good not great but usually very good. They have some good smoke flavor but sometimes can be too fatty, chewy and or just not chopped right which is more about the prep then taste.

Rib Tip's from Leon's

It was on a day that Leon's was out of rib tips that I discovered their hot links. Obviously I have a love for encased meat along with a love for spicy and smokey. So hot links are one of my ideal eats and one of my favorite spots for them is at Leon's. I would recommend getting the dinner plate which is always enough for leftovers. However one of their great deals is the hot link sandwich which for under $4 gets you a couple links some of their fresh cut fries and a few pieces of wonder bread all soaked in their BBQ sauce. The sandwich is a meal in itself and has been in the lunch or dinner rotation for many people throughout the years. Leon's does it up consistently and that's what people are comfortable with. Its also one of those places where everything on the menu is popular from the ribs to the wings and everything in between. It's one of those stops that if your going to claim Chicago, well then you better know about the original.

Hot Link Sandwich fresh outta the bag

No shortcuts at Leon's...fresh cut fries

Get linked up on the southside

Leon's Bar-BQ the Original
1640 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60649-4937
(773) 731-1454

Leon's Bar-B-Q the Original (79th St.) on Urbanspoon


hawk krall said...

that's wild, BBQ drenched fries.. almost like gravy fries / poutine or something?! looks amazing.

SloeWyne said...

I miss Leon's SOOOOO much! Those fries are the TRUTH! Not to mention the rib tips…looking at these pictures brings tears to my eyes.


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