Real Urban Barbecue Review – I Loved It

There’s something comforting about eating at a restaurant that wins award after award – and still comes in at affordable prices. That’s the way it was when my Chicago Splash Magazine editor and I explored lunch at Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park. My palate was eagerly awaiting a delicious barbecue treat, and that’s where I can officially give it my own heartfelt reward – 5 Cutler Stars out of 5!


Owner, Jeff Shapiro, well known for running some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, had one more quest to fulfill – launching a great barbecue restaurant.  I think he did it!


Shapiro traveled the BBQ trail – in the Midwest, the Carolinas, Kansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Known as Dr. Deckle and Mr. Hide, he won recognition and a few trophies. His first restaurant in Highland Park within Port Clinton Square has become very popular locally and it’s reputation reaches into the greater Chicagoland area where the restaurant is known for catering as well.   Shapiro ihas expanded to  the Vernon Hills Town Center also.  Other plans to expand the Real Urban Barbecue are also in the works.


As we entered the restaurant, we noted that it is charming inside, decorated in part with pigs that patrons bring in as well as mementos from contests that Shapiro has won.  There are also cute wall decorations and memorabelia.



I sampled a bunch of lunchtime goodies. The deckle was soft, with just enough barbecue tang to set it apart from my mother’s version (of brisket), which we always had for special holidays. The barbecue ribs were just the way I like them, with the barbecue not drowning in soppy barbecue sauce. You could really taste the ribs, knowing they were a top-notch choice. I liked the coleslaw and the potato pancake, which was a surprise bonus for me on the menu.


There’s something for everyone here. My lunch companion, Barbara, is limited in the food she eats being both vegetarian and gluten-free. When she told the manager, he said it would not be a problem. The menu includes some fantastic salads and wonderful potatoes, especially the sweet potato fries.


Outside the restaurant there is a giant barbecue pit where they begin to prepare food early in the morning. These include smoked and sliced brisket, pulled pork, sliced turkey, pulled chicken, Texas sausage and smoked salmon. My mouth is already watering for more, as I write this review.


The restaurant does a major business in catering, especially for special events, holidays, anniversaries and large family meals. They also have kid-friendly portions at the restaurant and for catering orders. Thanksgiving, which is right around the corner, they have whole fresh Amish Hickory Smoked Turkeys along with the rest of the menu.


We had the chance to talk with Jared, a “chief cook ad bottle washer” kind of person who took time to explain the intricacies of the restaurant.  We both took doggie bags home to our husbands, the portions being very generous and intend to return for more.  Incidently, you might consider placing an order for Thanksgiving catering now.  It is never too early!


Real Urban Barbecue

Port Clinton Square

610 Central Avenue #177

Highland Park, IL 60035

224-770-4BBQ (4227)

Fax: 847-579-6970

Winter Hours (as of 10/1)

Monday - Thursday:

11 am - 8:30 pm


Friday & Saturday:

11 am - 8:30 pm


11 am - 8:30 pm


Vernon Hills Town Center

1260 S. Milwaukee Avenue

Vernon Hills, IL 60061

847-613-1BBQ (1227)

Fax: 847-613-1228

Winter Hours (as of 10/1)

Monday - Thursday:

10:30 am - 9 pm


Friday & Saturday:

10:30 am - 10 pm


11 am - 9 pm


Photos: B. Keer


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