Pit master Rashid Riggins and Starex Smith

Starex Smith, aka “The Hungry Black Man,” toured many great Black-owned Chicago eateries with his team from Miami. He says Bear Down BBQ is “so good I paid my rent in ribs!”

In Frankfort, a town right outside Chicago proper, sits some of the best BBQ you will probably have in your life. It’s truly a hidden gem. Rashid Riggins, owner and pit master behind Bear Down BBQ, located on South La Grange Road in Frankfort, 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 for pork, beef and chicken.  Each rub is different, so you aren’t getting the same taste over and over.  And he creates his very own barbecue sauce and marinades.

I started by sampling the pulled pork sandwich ($7.25) and the smoked chopped beef sandwich ($9.25).  The 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 appreciated the texture and slight softness of the pulled pork 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 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 gasses.

1/2 Rib Slab

Lawd Jesus, I messed myself up when I added his house-made sauce.

It’s 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 good. When I did use the sauce, it was sparingly and delicious.

I enjoyed the rib tips so much that I ordered a 1/2 slab to go.  The seasoning is so unique I purchased some to use back home in Miami. I’ve been grilling my butt off since. The flavor is amazing. It’s not like eating in the restaurant, but it’s close.

I give Bear Down BBQ 10 out of 10 stars. The ambience is a little Chicago Bears fan crazy, including a life-sized stuffed bear in the dining area. But it’s worth the drive if you’re in Chicago proper or the surrounding suburbs.

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