Crash Course in Regional BBQ Sauces at Lillie’s Q

Our favorite part about Lillie’s Q (1856 W. North Avenue, Chicago) is their impressive selection of regional BBQ sauces at every table: six at last count, each representing a distinct BBQ region. Sampling all of the sauces at Lillie’s Q is like taking a crash course of all the major BBQ sauces in the US (for context, check out this BBQ map graphic we previously posted). As you travel from region to region, what is called “Barbecue Sauce” varies wildly, and trying them all is half the fun. If you haven’t visited Lillie’s Q yet, here’s what to expect on your whirlwind tour of US Barbecue.

Lillie's Q Sauces

Lillie’s Q Sauce Selection

  • Carolina Gold – Yellow, mustard-based sauces are typically found in South Carolina, thanks to the influence of German immigrants. This is probably our favorite kind of BBQ sauce, no doubt because we first cut our BBQ teeth in South Carolina. People used to North Carolina sauces will find South Carolina’s specialty to be nothing short of sacrilege, but we absolutely love it. This rendition was pretty good!
  • Carolina – As NC and SC continue to debate which is the real “Carolina,” North Carolina has a friendly debate of its own: whether western (“Lexington” style”) or eastern North Carolina barbecue should reign supreme (the North Carolina general assembly actually proposed a series of bills to resolve this debate). What Lillie’s calls “Carolina” sauce is typically associated with western North Carolina. Perhaps Lillie’s is taking a bit of a stand here by referring to the sauce only as Carolina, but perhaps they are also speaking to how this sauce is most commonly associated with NC BBQ outside of its home state. Typically used only on pork shoulder (the basis of Lexington style), this is a thin, vinegar-y sauce with some tomato and pepper flavor, it carries a little sweetness, but is overall tangier than other sauces.
  • E.N.C. (Eastern North Carolina) – Again speaking to an important regional divide, Eastern NC BBQ utilizes the whole hog, and its sauce differs from Lexington style on the tomato-base: E.N.C. sauce has none. This is the thinnest and tangiest sauce – pure vinegar and spice – without the sweetness of other sauces.
  • Smoky – A sweet, thick tomato-based sauce with a lot of smoke flavor, Lillie’s bills this as a Memphis-style sauce, and it shares many similarities with Kansas City BBQ sauces. It is the most popular sauce at the restaurant, and is probably the most familiar kind of sauce to the Chicago palate.
  • Hot Smoky – The same Smoky sauce with a slight Cayenne Pepper kick, but not too much at all.
  • Ivory– This mayonnaise-based white sauce was a particularly unusual option, and one we have never seen in Chicago before. Unknown to many outsiders, it is most commonly found in Alabama (especially northern Alabama), and is commonly used to dress barbecued chicken. It tastes somewhat like a thin ranch dressing, but with fewer spices. Lillie’s also encourages you to use this one as a dip for fries.
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