outside-bear-down-bbq
Outside Bear Down BBQ

Chicago has treated our Miami asses well.  We have been just about everywhere, except the suburbs. In Frankfort, a town right outside Chicago proper, sits some of the best BBQ you will probably have in your life. This is truly a hidden gem. Rashid Riggins the owner and pit master behind Bear Down BBQ, located at 20857 South LaGrange Road, Frankfort, Il 60423, has created an award-winning restaurant.  I haven’t reviewed any BBQ spots because they have been pedestrian at best.  That is until we encountered Bear Down, which blew the doors off average!

For starters, the pit master creates everything from scratch!  All the seasonings start out as spices and herbs which he grinds down to a fine rub and uses for pork, beef, and chicken.  Each rub is different by the way, so you aren’t getting the same taste over and over.  In addition, he creates his very own barbecue sauce and marinades.  I was in disbelief until we had an opportunity to tour his entire operation (you can watch it by clicking the video found at the bottom of the article).

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Rasheed Wiggins Pit Master and The Hungry Black Man

As devout Bears fans, the owners decorated the entire restaurant with Bears memorabilia.  I knew right away I would get along with this guy because he knows the pain of being a fan of a challenged football team. (Miami Dolphins, we could have done so much better in the playoffs.)

I started by sampling the Pull Pork Sandwich ($7.25) and the Smoked Chopped Beef Sandwich ($9.25).  First thing you notice is the scent; an aromatic combo of smoked spices, herbs and meat all swirling together creating unforgettable deliciousness.  Each sandwich was outstanding. I specifically appreciated the texture and slight softness of the pull pork.  I enjoyed them with a side of the very flavorful Five Bean Cowboy Beans.

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Pull Pork Sandwich

We then ordered the Large Rib Tips ($12.25).  Perfect in every measure. The bark of the rib had a nice crunch with a glistening mahogany sheen. Bursting with flavorful with hints of brown sugar and sea salt, the super tender interior was kissed by seductive smoke resulting in succulent meat with a juiciness only seen on BBQ cooking competitions!  The inner layer had the quintessential pink “Smoke Ring;” which happens when the myoglobin in the meat creates a beautiful pinkish color as it interacts with the humidity and combustion gases. This is a hallmark of a true pit master. Lawd Jesus, I messed myself up when I added his house made sauce, I damn near fell out in this store.

This is not your typical BBQ guys.  It’s not your uncle’s BBQ that you drown with sauce. The meat here doesn’t need any. I honestly ate my entire slab of ribs sauce-less; it’s that damn good. When I did use the sauce, it was sparingly and delicious.

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Rib Tips

I enjoyed the rib tips so much, I ordered a ½ slab to go.  As you can see in the picture, these beauties are truly the real deal. The seasoning is so unique I purchased some to use back home in Miami, and I’ve been grilling my ass off since. The flavor is truly amazing. It’s not like eating in the restaurant, but it’s close.

There is so much to appreciate about Bear Down BBQ. For one, I respected how knowledgeable the pit master was on everything from seasonings, to grilling techniques, to marinating. Another thing to admire is how immaculate the store and kitchen were.

I give this place 10 out of 10 stars. The ambiance is a little Chicago Bears fan crazy, including a life-sized stuff bear in the dining area.  This place is worth the drive if you’re in Chicago proper or the surrounding suburbs.

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1/2 Rib Slab

Feeling deeply grateful, I thanked God for his blessing with this prayer:

Father God, thank you for blessing me with taste buds.  Thank you for giving Rashid Riggins the knowledge to create this amazing BBQ for your humble servant as I spread food joy throughout the United States, especially highlighting Black culinary genius! My legs and arms were ashy from this cold in Chicago, along with my big toe feeling like it was frost bitten the entire day, and my dreads developed ice from fallen snow that melted then froze on various dreads; but these ribs gave me life and warmed my heart to the point where I didn’t care about my ash, toes or dreads. The BBQ showed me that things will be better. I will be better. Thank you Lord for these ribs.

Our team discovered so many great Black-owned Chicago eateries, and am excited to continue our food tour!  Look out for our other reviews coming in the next few days! You can reach Bear Down BBQ at (779) 324-5256.  Don’t forget to watch the review below for a behind the scene look into his kitchen and process!

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Written by thehungryblackman

Starex Smith is an accomplished and experienced public administrator, fundraiser, foodie, and culinary business developer who has committed himself to maximizing the Black experience in the United States! He currently serves as Vice President of Strategy and Development for Black Tech Week with over twelve (12) years of experience in managing public/private partnerships, large scale events, and nonprofits. He has successfully raised over 20 million dollars in funding for various governmental entities, food companies, and individuals. Starex has assisted countless food industry businesses successfully obtain funding, taking mom and pop storefronts to scalable businesses. His success in working with restaurants sparked a passion for food and entrepreneurship which led to the launching of Sothern Bytes, a teaching platform food business dedicated to an ever evolving food industry with a focus on technology, culture and innovation. Having constantly run into stereotyping negatively affecting his dining and vacationing experiences, Starex decided to curate great destinations, restaurants, and discuss issues surrounding being a hungry Black man. Starex completed both his Bachelor’s and Master’s coursework in Public Administration at Florida International University where he served as president of the Black Student Union and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, Lambda Tau Chapter

15 comments

  1. Well I started out reading your article about your food and I must it was extremely impressive but what was even more impressive was reading about your credentials and background. I have a mom and pops popcorn shop in Flossmoor Il that just recently opened. I would love to have you mentor me or just share with me some tips on how to become more successful and how to mature my business. I would love to bring you some of my popcorn by and just say hello. Again it was a pleasure reading your article and I look forward to hearing from you.

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  2. Al I can say is this was a very well written article. We have a Theater in called the Spaas Theater an 371 Artists Walk in Park Forest, IL 60466 I’m interested in networking with this business now in regards to some catering for our shows. Come check us out sometime. We have shows ever week an it’s a great place to come for a date night especially when it’s cold an rainy ! Also we offer publishing an motivational speaking training and engagements if your ever interested.
    Really impressed with your writing skills. Keep perfecting your craft An drop by sometimes. (708) 785-7371 Rev. Dr. Wilkins

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  3. Good BBQ doesn’t need sauce….pretty women don’t need makeup….but it does make a difference. This BBQ is good…great if you’re not a griller but use a standard pork rub and smoking chips….spray with apple cider and you will humble their offering…and it will be cheaper.

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  4. I read your review about Bear Down BBQ and decided to check it out, unfortunately I will not be back, it was 2pm and they were out of the rib tips and cowboy beans, they just opened at 11am so meals that came with the beans they couldn’t sale, lost money. When I got home and opened the bag and looked at my food so disappointed, the half slab of ribs were old and dry and burned and tasteless without the sauce, the pulled pork sandwich had 2 tablespoon of meat on it. I took a pic of my food, Sorry, I will not be able to support this black owned business.

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    1. Hey! That is so unfortunate. I literally had the best ribs I have ever had in the entire state there, and all I do is eat. I will reach out to the owner, as I live in Miami. Hopefully, he can recreate the experience I had for you.

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  5. The food is old reheated and reused. Most is not made from scratch. Just a bunch of seasonings mixed together and slapped on meat. The beans are all canned combinations with bell peppers and onions added. The Bears suck so does this place. Always out of food and using the name of a team without rights. I will not be back. I will BBQ for myself.

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  6. I visited Bear Down BBQ yesterday because of this review you posted. Seems like I should have scrolled down to the comments. I completely agree with Niki & Rhonda as my experience was terrible from ordering to consumption.

    Let’s start with ordering… I walked in, wasn’t greeted, the woman behind the counter had a flat affect and zero personality when speaking with her while ordering. I should have walked out then, but I drove 20+ mins to get there & wanted to give this black-owned business a fair chance. Later, other customers came in and a school-aged boy behind the counter greeted those who walked in and thanked me for coming when he gave me my order. He was pleasant & welcoming. That was the best part of my visit.

    While ordering, the woman told me they were out of beef & I had to pull out of her my other options as beef came with the sampler. I ordered the sampler and the ribs looked old & dry and tasted the same; I didn’t taste the flavor you described. My teenage son loves ribs and stopped eating after 1 bone. I requested sauce on the side based on your review and was given a 2 oz cup of sauce for the sampler (1/2 slab, 4oz pulled chicken, 4 oz pulled pork & a hot link since they were out of beef at 4pm… close at 8pm). The pulled meat was dry & didn’t look appetizing. I also ordered rib tips that had more fat than meat. The only size is large, but it came in a small container. I ordered the tips with sauce & they were well sauced plus they gave me an additional 2 oz cup of sauce. That helped with the non-sauced meat until I realized the two cups of sauce were a different consistency & didn’t taste quite the same (one was thick as if from the bottom of the pot & the other loose & easy to pour). The hot link didn’t pack any heat but was decent. The beans tasted like they came out if a can with added peppers & onions. The coleslaw was just ok, but I didn’t finish it. With the old look & taste of everything, I’m not sure why I waited 30+ minutes for food that wasn’t hot or fresh as I opened it up in the car before driving off.

    I worked at a family-owned BBQ (his mom’s Louisiana recipes) place through high school & college in Evanston, Illinos and this place can’t compare. To give you an idea, we catered for the press box at Bears games & Northwestern University events regularly. I get sometimes running out of food, but near closing not 5 hours after opening/ 4 hours before close. Several people came in after me and wanted beef. It’s Friday evening so they should have prepared enough food to last knowing people are coming from work to grab dinner. A patron who was there before me waiting for his food said they always run out & he once called in his order (given an hour pick up time) then got there and had to wait another 2 hours as they were busy in the restaurant. What’s the point of calling in? Their large tip packaging was the same as a small tip container where I worked. If there is only one size rib tips I’m not sure why they refer to it as a “large”.

    I wasted $50 so it’s safe to say that I was my first & last visit. Pricey for sub-par food & small portions. They knew you were coming so I’m sure you received fresh, hot meat that wasn’t overcooked (possibly reheated) and was full of flavor. Your video shows food that didn’t look like what I received after ordering.

    Go back unannounced in the evening and see if you still feel this is the best BBQ.

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    1. That is so unfortunate. I have allowed the comments to remain on the blog, because I would like to see ownership of that establishment provide the exact same experience that I had when I visited from Miami, twice. I actually went unannounced. We will be doing another Chicago visit soon, and I will definitely go unannounced again. However, did you have an opportunity to speak with management or the owner?

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  7. Thank you so much for telling us about this place! I went there with my husband yesterday and we both ordered the rib tips with sauce on the side, beans and potato salad. When I tell you my hubby had to roll me out of that place! These are by far THE BEST ribs I’ve ever had. Tender, juicy, seasoned perfectly… I will be back again tomorrow with my coworkers for lunch! 🙂

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