Why barbecue went ‘boom’ in Chicago

For barbecue aficionados in Chicago, the summer of 2010 went beyond fever pitch — they were inexplicable times.

In a 10-week span between late June and Labor Day, seven barbecue restaurants opened, from Gary to Chicago’s Gold Coast.

“It really blindsided us,” said Jared Leonard, whose Rub BBQ Co. in Rogers Park opened Aug. 4. “It was a shock in one way, but even today I don’t think we have nearly the number of barbecue restaurants other major cities have.”

Since that dizzying summer of openings, more barbecue restaurants have sprung up in suburbs north, west and south — in Highland Park, Wheaton, Robbins and points between. The writing on the wall was clear, in capital letters 3 feet tall: Chicago had entered its barbecue renaissance. But why barbecue? And why all at once?

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