Hidden BBQ Heaven at Chicago Culinary Kitchen

“Wait, where are we?”

We’re pulling into a strip mall in Palatine, Illinois – which, as I learned, is an actual place, despite it sounding like a fun city in some sort of unreleased John Hughes movie. As we drive, we pass by nondescript faded stores to go deeper into this suburban shopping strip, when it becomes extremely apparent exactly where we’re going.

You can’t miss the beat-up truck modded out to be a BBQ making monstrosity, piling wood in the back, the glowing neon sign with the purposely-faulty ‘M’ so it flashes MEAT then EAT then MEAT again at you, and of course, the text on the window stating:

Welcome to tucked away BBQ heaven: Chicago Culinary Kitchen.


This is what Chicago Culinary Kitchen says about their spot:

Here, our BBQ is Texas-Style and our beers are crafty! Whether you come for one of our unique BBQ and craft beer pairing classes or you come in on the weekends when we open our doors to the public serving our meats in true Texas fashion, we guarantee you will be served our best and freshest BBQ!

Opened by husband and wife team Greg and Kristina Gaardbo, this place is incredible. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but every bite proved that the 45 minute journey outside of Chicago was worth it.

I’m not alone here. CCK opens at 11am only on Saturday and Sunday and will stay that way until they run out of meat, which happens quicker than you think. We got there at noon and they were already out of the special, the lamb, because people had been lining up to take it home as soon as the doors opened.

By the time we we’re done at about 1:30pm, a lot of things were figuratively crossed off the menu. Don’t delay if you want this texas-style BBQ.

Also, did I mention they have over 100 craft beers in stock? Because they absolutely do.


A very good question, and one they also answer on their site:

We don’t sauce our meats. Period.

True to Texas-style, we let the meat be the star of the plate! The seasonings we use for each cut of meat is chosen specifically to enhance that meat’s natural flavors. The mixture of these simple spices, our combination of cherry and apple woods, along with our technique and the patience in the long cook times create smoked meat masterpieces.

People travel the world to eat the best BBQ – there is no other cuisine with that kind of devotion.

Damn true, and if you’re looking for a trip to take, this is a good one.

They do have some delicious BBQ sauce if you do need it though, however, as they point out in a carved wooden sign on the wall:


When my friend Baramee and I arrived, Greg told us he was prepared us something. What we didn’t know was that would include EVERY GODDAM THING ON THE MENU!

We had:
Pulled Pork

Spare Ribs
Back Alley Sticky Ribs
Texas Sausage Link

Peramish Chicken Half
F’n Mac & Cheese

18 Hour Pit Beans
Esquites – Mexican Street Corn
The special: epic Steak!

And of course…

Bread Pudding With Fireball Carmel Sauce

As always, there were standout dishes. The brisket was thick and tender. The pastrami was so flavorful it smacked me in the face. The sticky ribs had this beautiful glaze and a Mediterranean nut mixture on top with seeds and spices and it was incredible. And those beans and the esquites were perfection, especially those beans, easily the best beans I’ve ever had in any restaurant I’ve ever been to.

This was some serious BBQ.


Chicago Culinary Kitchen has only been open for about a year doing service on the weekends, and before then, it was just their amazing catering (which they still do).

They’ve actually started teaching classes as well, like a BBQ and Bourbon, Pork & Cork and, of course, The Everyone Gets Leid. Check them out here and see if there’s one you want to take.

I can’t recommend this spot enough. There aren’t many places I’d travel 45 minutes to get to on a routine basis, especially early morning on a weekend, but this is absolutely one of them.

As Greg said to us:

“It’s all about the meat. That’s the celebration here.”

So true.

Chicago Culinary Kitchen is located at 773 N. Quentin Road Palatine, IL. They’re open only on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11am and close whenever they run out of food.