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).
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.
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.
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.
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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