We’ve compiled a “bucket list” for ice cream and pizza (and donuts, cheese curds, burgers, pretzels, hot dogs, nachos, guacamole, cinnamon rolls, pie, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, hot chocolate, salad (!), and cocktails both slushy and “to go”!) so it’s only logical to hone in on something that everyone seems to love, in one form or another: barbecue. Or barbeque. Or Bar-B-Q. Or BBQ.
As always, for the purposes of these extremely non-scientific lists, we avoid national chains.
Here goes: (updated July 2020)
Black Dog Smoke & Ale House (320 N. Chestnut St., Champaign; 201 N. Broadway Ave., Urbana): What more can be said about Black Dog? It is considered among the best BBQ restaurants in Illinois, if not the Midwest. Perhaps the most appreciated menu item are the burnt ends, but you can’t go wrong no matter which way you turn.
Hickory River Smokehouse (1706 N. Cunningham Ave., Urbana): Hickory River has grown into five locations, but the business has been well established along Cunningham Avenue in Urbana (with multiple names) for a while. It is Texas-style barbeque, which is to say the smoky sauce (we prefer the mild sauce) makes it special, especially when spread across the beef brisket. Don’t miss the smoked turkey. Look for another Hickory River coming to southwest Champaign?
Kag’s Bar-B-Q (N. Gilbert Street, Danville): Kag’s is legendary in Danville. It is a food truck that typically sits near the 500 block of North Gilbert. (Just look for the line of customers.) Kag’s has been in place for decades, and it offers old-fashioned, home-cooked barbecue. We prefer the rib tips.
Smoky’s House BBQ (1333 Savoy Plaza Lane Ste 8, Savoy) Don’t miss the baby back ribs. Lots of sides to choose from too!
Humble Hog (125 S. Market St., Paxton): From the quaint wood-floored interior to a menu that includes pulled pork, smoked turkey and smoked sausage, the Humble Hog is so good that people don’t think twice about driving 35 minutes to get there. We love the burnt ends with mild sauce.
Pink Pig BBQ and Grill (301 W. Lincoln, Ogden): Part of the appeal of Pink Pig comes from its “farm-to-table” vibe, serving you meat and produce from Urbana’s Willow Creek Farm. The rest of its appeal is, of course, the food. (Definitely try the “bacon ice cream”!)
Pauly’s BBQ (310 E. Columbia St., Arthur): Pauly’s has, hands down, the best logo in barbecue-dom: “If you’re not messy, you’re not eatin’ it right.” Amen to that. And amen to Pauly’s terrific pulled pork and outstanding slow-cooked, thinly sliced pork tenderloin.
READER’S CHOICE: Wood N Hog in Urbana and Champaign: “All Smoke No Joke”