To my readers who have joined alongside me in this blogging journey, you will know a couple of things. First, I not only love BBQ – the food-, but most importantly BBQ -the tradition- and way of life. Second, I am the son of a one-time BBQ restaurateur back in Kentucky. Third, I am a backyard amateur BBQ pitmaster (with a lower case “p”). Fourth, did I mention I love BBQ?
It’s been a great year for my BBQ passion in getting to co-produce a pilot food series in Chicagoland with an episode focusing solely on BBQ, to have had the opportunity to shoot a documentary film about Naperville Ribfest and now to have the opportunity to work alongside my favorite BBQ joint in all of Chicagoland, Uncle Bub’s Award-Winning BBQ, in helping them develop and mange their online and social web presence.
Simply put, behind the very best BBQ you will always find the very best people. That’s because BBQ takes time, patience and a relentless devotion to tradition, flavor and technique. Even more, in the South, which is where I’m from, BBQ is a social pastime that creates strong bonds between people in the process and the resulting indulgent meal. It’s about staying up all night to keep the smoker going and enjoying the good-hearted and good-humored company of friends… and possibly a couple of beers along the way.
BBQ isn’t about love… I say BBQ is love. Why else would anyone go to great lengths to cook and nurture meat low-and-slow carefully balancing heat and hardwood smoke for anywhere between 5-20 hours depending on the meat. Apply this scenario to a busy and successful restaurant where a wide array of BBQ is being cooked essentially 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, then you will have discovered the very definition of BBQ love. Add catering to the mix, and you’ve found Qtopia!
Thus turns us to Uncle Bub’s BBQ in Westmont, where the only thing better than the incredible BBQ is the family and people behind the operation which is in it’s 13th year of operation. Having grown up in the catering business, Mark Link and his family built Uncle Bub’s from the ground up and opened its doors in 1997. From the time Uncle Bub’s was a mere concept to today, Mark has traveled and continues to travel across the country eating at every BBQ joint he comes across not to mention the numerous BBQ competitions Uncle Bub’s participates in each year to not only share the love, but to continue learning from the masters. I once asked him how many BBQ joints he’s been to and he told me he believes he lost count after about 200. Alongside his wife, Carri, his daughters, a number of employees who have been there from the start and a very loyal following of customers, who are referred to as the Uncle Bub’s BBQ family, Uncle Bub’s demonstrates at every turn it’s roots as a family business. I also believe good things happen to good people and when you add the list of celebrities in which Uncle Bub’s has served, such as Oprah Winfrey, and the fact Larry the Cable Guy himself filmed a scene from one of this movies there, there is definitely a good vibe and law of attraction at work.
Further evidence of loyalty adorns the walls and flat surfaces of the restaurant itself. At first glance, you get the feeling as though you are inside a rustic barn with antiques all over the walls, almost like a museum. You might be surprised to know that nearly half of what you see has been donated by loyal customers over the years who want a piece of their family to become a small piece of the Uncle Bub’s family.
As for the food, the best way I can describe the Uncle Bub’s style of BBQ is “best of regions”. Mark’s travels and background are truly reflected in the menu: Baby Back Ribs, St. Louis-Style Ribs, Beef Brisket, Burnt Ends, Rib Tips, Pulled Porked, Pulled Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Hot Links, Smoked Turkey and an array of made-from-scratch side items, including hand-cut french fries and an indulgent favorite, deep fried mac-and-cheese. All of which is available, and more, via Uncle Bub’s Catering which can handle a party of 10 or 1,000.
Finally, I couldn’t possibly write this post and not include a major part of the Uncle Bub’s restaurant team who has his share of responsibility for delivering the best BBQ on a daily basis. Jay Rushford is the General Manager of Uncle Bub’s. His passion for BBQ is second-to-none and his welcoming and easy-going personality adds additional flavor to this BBQ institution. Like Mark, when he’s not working, which is rare, he too is out on the road on his own BBQ journeys.
I told Mark the other day that working with Uncle Bub’s in helping them share their story with the world is, in a way, keeping my own father’s spirit and passion for bbq alive which is a tradition that anyone in my family can tell you is very much alive and well.
If you’ve never been to Uncle Bub’s, the best way to jump in is to click here and become part of their Uncle Bub’s Facebook Family. To get the full experience, just head down the road from Naperville to Westmont and experience Bub Love at 132 South Cass Ave. or as I like to think, head east on 75th street to Cass Avenue, turn left and you will eventually see Uncle Bub’s on your left. SM