Leave your vegetarian inclinations at home and head to downtown Champaign to indulge your senses in the smells and sounds of Blues, Brews and BBQ this weekend for a celebration of summer. Whether it’s wet or dry, smoky or tangy, this event has a little something for all BBQ aficionados.
BBBBQ returns to downtown Champaign this Friday (4 p.m.–midnight) and Saturday (noon–midnight). This event is really about the music, but there is always room for BBQ and some brews. You’ll be able to sample meats from BBQ vendors and there will be other food vendors serving corn, pizza, and Chinese.
Admission to the event is free, but organizers Fluid Events are asking for a $5 donation. Tickets are required for purchasing food and beverages and will be sold for $1 each. Food items will be priced between $1–$10, so this could be an event where the whole family can come out and eat relatively cheaply! I strongly suggest exposing the kids to awesome BBQ, so pack up the wetnaps and drag ‘em out — there’s even a kids and family area.
Holy Smoke Barbeque (Champaign, IL), a catering and special events company, will have pulled pork and chicken sandwiches (4 tickets/dollars), pulled pork and chicken nachos (5 tickets/dollars), 1/4 pound hot dogs (3 tickets/dollars), brats (3 tickets/dollars), cheesy taters (1 ticket/dollar), and black bean salad (1 ticket/dollar). They’ll also have Pepsi products (2 tickets/dollars). They use their own dry rub on the meats, and have mild, zesty, or hot sauce available for topping. Holy Smoke has been attending this particular event since 2008, so I’m guessing they know how to hold their own.
King Biscuit BBQ (Bloomington, IL) will serve ribs, rib tips, pulled pork, shredded beef, and BBQ chicken sandwiches; sides are potato salad and cole slaw. They’ll have lemonade, sweet tea, tea, and Gatorade for drinks. Their prices range from 2 to 10 tickets ($2–$10). It appears that King Biscuit had a brick and mortar restaurant, but closed a year ago. If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, check out their old Yelp reviews. I’m looking forward to this one.
Lord and Lacy Catering (Champaign, IL), indicated that they’ll be serving Kansas City style premium meats, including rib tips, pulled pork, polishes, chicken quarters, and cole slaw. Currently, Lord and Lacy only does catering and vending, but they hope to open a local restaurant in the fall.
Louie’s Dixie Kitchen (Urbana, IL) will also have a booth — looks like I’ll finally be able to try those alligator bites (or an alligator sandwich) — for 7 tickets ($7). Not into alligator? They’ll have pulled pork (5 tickets/dollars), mac and cheese (3 tickets/dollars), red beans and rice (3 tickets/dollars), and BBQ nachos (5 tickets/dollars).
Mamma D’s Smokehouse (Weldon, IL) is making a repeat visit to Champaign after having a tent at last weekend’s Taste of C-U. They’ll have pulled pork and beef brisket sliders.
Piato Café (Urbana, IL) will have Hawaiian nachos, pulled pork sliders, and beer bread brisket sandwiches.
Po’ Boys (Urbana, IL) will set up shop, too. They’ll have a half pound of rib tips (5 tickets/dollars), pulled pork sandwiches (5 tickets/dollars), polish sandwiches (5 tickets/dollars), and french fries (2 tickets/dollars for a side, 4 tickets/dollars for a basket).
After an appetizing appearance at Taste of C-U, Shanghai 1938 will again set up a booth at BBBBQ. What’s a Chinese restaurant doing at a BBQ event, you ask? I’m really not quite sure, but the pulled pork jalapeño Rangoon (2 pieces for 3 tickets/dollars) sounds pretty fucking awesome. Also on the small bites menu: Chinese BBQ spare ribs (2 pieces for 3 tickets), crab or chocolate Rangoon (1 piece, 1 ticket/dollar), pork egg roll or veggie spring roll (1 for 1 ticket), and pork dumplings (3 for 2 tickets). If you decide you aren’t into BBQ or small bites, you can grab a larger plate of orange chicken or sweet and sour chicken, both served with rice, or turkey bacon fried rice (6 tickets/dollars). Your thirst can be quenched with Pepsi products in 20 ounce bottles (2 tickets/dollars), Chinese green tea, also available in mango (1 ticket/dollar), or bottled water (2 tickets/dollars).
Other vendors include Hickory River Smokehouse, Smoky’s House BBQ (Charleston, IL), and Chet Jet. There are a few well-known and liked local BBQ joints that will not be making an appearance at BBBBQ this year, but my hope is that they won’t be so sorely missed. It seems like there may be a few more local places participating than in years past, which is a step in the right direction.
What about the brews, you ask? It’s a little unclear about how many or what types of brews will be available. Miller Lite is a sponsor, so expect to have access to a chilly Miller, at least. Lynfred Winery (Roselle, IL) is also a sponsor. I think it would make for an interesting and more robust event if there could be local craft beer available that pair particularly well with BBQ and smoke flavors. Perhaps in the future?
Not interested in BBQ or in need of tableside service? Stop by Wedge Bar where they’re offering up $5 lime margaritas and $2 chips and salsa. If the weather’s nice, you can sit on the patio, sip a refreshing adult beverage and nibble on salty chips as you listen to some great music. DeStihl has two new brews available: Apricot Wheat Ale and Cerise Stout Imperiale. There are plenty of other bars and restaurants in the downtown area should you need a break from the music or the smell of slow cooked, melt-in-your-mouth meat. But quite frankly, you should only seek those places out if you are taking a break to allow for proper BBQ digestion.
There are a surprising amount of local BBQ places setting up booths (who knew there were so many in the area?), and I encourage you go to out and find your favorite. Round up some friends and try a bunch of different vendors. BBQ is a serious sport, after all. This event is a celebration of Blues music and BBQ, so attend with an open mind and a healthy appetite. Most of these places claim award-winning status, and I’m confident you’ll leave there satisfied. If you do it right, you might even leave with some heartburn.
I’ll be heading out this weekend with several of SP’s food writers, so check back on Monday to hear what we thought about the food.
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Blues, Brews and BBQ takes places Friday, June 28, 4 p.m.–midnight, and Saturday, June 29, noon–midnight in downtown Champaign.
Parking is available in the Hill Street Parking deck, in the municipal lot on Neil and Washington, and on 1st street north of University. Cash and credit/debit cards are accepted at the ticket tents.