When he opened Lillie’s Q in 2010, Chef Charlie McKenna brought award-winning competition BBQ and timeless Southern cooking to the city of big shoulders. McKenna and Lillie’s Q have garnered critical praise and awards from both local Chicago and national media – including being named “Best New BBQ Restaurant in the Country” by Food & Wine magazine in 2011.
Florida State University alum, McKenna graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America in 2000, and cooked under legendary chef Norman Van Aken in Florida, before becoming a sous chef at two of Chicago’s four-star fine-dining landmarks: Tru and Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel. During that time, McKenna also won numerous awards on the competition BBQ circuit including a first place win at Memphis In May - which is widely regarded as the world championship of BBQ.
Opening Lillie’s Q (named for his South Carolinian grandmother, Lillie and his father, Quito) allowed McKenna to return to his BBQ roots - slow smoking pork shoulder, tri tip, baby back ribs, hot links, and chicken in custom-built smokers over peach wood and lump charcoal. Shortly after opening the restaurant, McKenna rolled out a food truck, the Lillie’s Q Meat Mobile, and then opened a Lillie’s Q outpost in the Chicago French Market in Chicago’s West Loop in February 2013. McKenna also co-owns a Lillie’s Q in Destin, Florida with his parents, who operate the location.
After gaining recognition for the award-winning sauces he was serving in the restaurant, McKenna began bottling them and now Lillie’s Q Sauces & Rubs can be found at Crate & Barrel, West Elm, and at a number of other retailers. In addition to the classics (Smoky, Hot Smoky, Carolina, E.N.C., Ivory, Carolina Gold, and Hot Pepper Vinegar), every few months McKenna creates a limited edition bourbon-barrel aged sauce that takes BBQ to a whole new level.