I remember the first time I ever tasted Coleman’s Barbeque. It was 1979 and I was visiting my boyfriend’s house when his niece brought an order to the house. I sampled it and all I wanted to know was where she had gotten it. She told me Coleman’s on Cicero Avenue. I was living on the North Side at the time and neither my boyfriend nor I had a car.
Later that year I purchased a car and whenever I came to the West Side, I would stop and get an order. Ten years later I moved to the West Side and knowing that Coleman’s was just a couple of miles away was special. Going there and indulging in an order of rib tips was something I did every couple of weeks.
What I enjoy most is the unique flavor of their chicken wings. I don’t know what they do, but no one has ever been able to imitate it. Another favorite thing I indulged in was purchasing a gallon of their barbecue sauce. Growing up, my children would make their own French fries and then slather the sauce on top.
Coleman’s on Cicero was never a fancy place. Even when they had a fire and the store was rebuilt, it still looked the same as before. The store on North Cicero Avenue was never fancy, but who cared when the ribs were finger-licking good and the chicken wings were da’ bomb.
I had tried the Chicago Avenue location in the past when both locations were open, but for some reason I preferred the Cicero Avenue location. After Henry Coleman died on Aug. 15, 2012, the location on Cicero seemed to go through changes. Initially it was open all the time but as time passed, sometimes I would drive past and the store would be closed. Then one day I saw the red ‘X’ on the building and I knew something had occurred.
With the Coleman’s on Cicero Avenue closed, I began to search for a new barbeque joint. I confess that the Chicago Avenue location was on my “to be avoided” list. I had tried it several times in the past, but always preferred the Cicero Avenue location. I tried Ben’s BBQ on West North Avenue, Bro-N-Laws BBQ on Chicago Avenue, Smoque BBQ on North Pulaski and Mary’s BBQ on South Pulaski Road to name a few. Some were OK while one was absolutely horrible. Each time I paid well over $10 for an order and with those kinds of prices, it’s expensive and frustrating to find that I didn’t care for the product.
I am a Coleman’s fan and everyone else was pretending to offer barbeque.
I drove down Chicago Avenue recently and noted that Coleman’s #2 at 5754 W. Chicago Ave., which had been closed down for a remodel, had reopened. The new place looked very nice from the outside, but I still wasn’t tempted to give them a try.
However, hunger and time got to me. I had been unable to find a replacement for Coleman’s Ribs, so I drove there a few weeks back to finally give them my business and, lo and behold, the sign on the fence said they were closed for vacation. How dare they be closed after I had finally decided to buy some?! LOL.
A week later, my yearning for some barbeque got the best of me again. I wanted some ribs. It was the kind of yearning that only some really good barbecue could sate. I needed a “rib tip fix.”
I drove to Coleman’s and the smell and smoke was the first lure. Once inside, I felt like I had been transported back to the original location on Cicero Avenue.
Something about the cozy feeling of being with so many others and everyone talking even if we were all strangers that I love best about Coleman’s. The ordering area is still small and cramped and everyone gets to ask the people inside, “Have you ordered yet?”
I got my tips and chicken combo. One bite later, I was transported to BBQ heaven. All my good memories flooded back and I nearly ate the entire order. The next day, the reheated product was as good as the first.
Coleman’s BBQ is an official West Side institution! Hopefully one day they can get a sit-down restaurant.
In the meantime, let’s continue to support them with our dollars.
A previous version of this article accompanied a picture of a Coleman’s restaurant in Mississippi that is not affiliated with Coleman’s BBQ in Chicago. Austin Weekly News regrets this error.