100 W. 87th St., Chicago, (773) 846-8829.
American, Barbecue/Ribs. Lunch, dinner: seven days.
Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight; Tuesday-Thursday till 11.
Sandwiched between one of the Harold’s Chicken Shack outposts and a Subway, this impeccably clean Chatham takeout prompts thought of one of the enduring mysteries of the restaurant world: how does a charmless place serving indisputably bad food stay in business? A sign on the tile wall advertises an opening for a cook and a meat chopper. I hope they find someone qualified soon, because in the meantime the barbecue here is a travesty. Pork ribs are greasy and gummy, like day-old steamed roast pork. Beef ribs lack structural integrity and, inexplicably, taste exactly like the barbecued turkey leg. Hot links are the worst of the lot: though all beef, they taste like blood sausage crossed with overcooked liver and oatmeal. No wisp of smoke, the true mark of barbecue, contaminates any of the meat, and the sauce is cloyingly sweet. (According to the counterman, they used to make their own but no longer.) Service is affable, but if you find yourself in the vicinity I’d recommend Harold’s: four wings with salt, pepper, and hot sauce will save you some heartache if not heartburn.