Lem’s Bar-B-Q

Lem's Bar-B-Q
311 E. 75th St.
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 994-2428

James Lemons and his four brothers grew up in Indianola, Mississippi, where their mother taught them to cook, and where they worked each fall slaughtering hogs. When he was fourteen, James followed his brothers to Chicago and into the barbecue business. His oldest brother, Miles, known as Lem to friends, found a place on 59th street, where he opened his namesake barbecue joint in 1951. Lem’s quickly gained a reputation for not only being the first place to serve rib tips in town, but for its sauce. The sauce originated from his mother’s recipe and is still made from scratch every day. In 1967 the brothers opened a second location on 75th Street. Today, it’s the only Lem’s location, and James Lemons is the last brother to oversee the family business. And after more than fifty years in the Windy City, James Lemons is still connected to the Mississippi Delta. He’s cousin to Mary Shepard, former owner of Indianola’s legendary Club Ebony. But even though he’s from Mississippi, James Lemons says his barbecue is Chicago-style—because that’s where it’s been the longest.

Date of interview:

March 26, 2008

Interviewer:

Amy C. Evans

Photographer:

Amy C. Evans

Lem's Bar-B-Q - James Lemons - Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition: Chicago, IL - Chicago Eats
We used to barbecue pigs [in Mississippi]. They’d always kill hogs around Thanksgiving time, you know what I mean. My daddy made a little brick pit outside the house and we used to barbecue…And when we came to Chicago, we started working in restaurant… And years later, my younger brother came along, and that’s when we opened up the barbecue place.

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