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Honey 1 BBQ is a purist's paradise

Fried okra, hot links, and ribs at Honey 1 BBQ
Fried okra, hot links, and ribs at Honey 1 BBQ
by Costa Lapaseotes

Authenticity in barbecue can be very important, but when authenticity is a generations-old roadside shack you don't expect to find it in an urban setting. Honey 1 BBQ (2241 N Western Ave.), with its real wood fire and complete absence of pretension, is about as close as Chicago gets.

Hickory fire is the thing. You enter Honey 1 into a dim hallway - don't might miss the window to your right that looks in on the fire pit and piles and piles of hickory logs. Cooking with smoke from real wood takes true patience and skill, but the payoff is worth it. That's apparent from your first breath of that wonderful smoky aroma.

After ordering at a counter, you take a seat in an almost completely unadorned dining room - green-checkered tablecloths the notable exception. There will be sports on the TV, but otherwise it's just you and your meat. You want to relax there all day, and you feel like the world has shifted down to the pace of the South.

The ribs here are like none in the city - juicy spare ribs full of flavor with just the right amount of barbecue rub. They have plenty of meat and are a wonderful vehicle for Honey 1's tangy sweet, just barely spicy sauce. The meats here are downright delicious, perfectly cooked, with the real taste of hickory wood informing every bite.

Honey 1 may be the most authentic barbecue in Chicago; and the city is fortunate to have it. There's no better place to duck in, avoid the hustle, and just eat. A lot. It truly belongs on the lists of the city's best.