Hecky’s Barbecue, long known for its slogan “It’s the sauce!” recently won the Chicago Tribune’s 2023 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Chicago-style Barbecue.

“I was very excited. This is really one of the first recognitions I’ve received that lets me know all this hard work and effort has begun to pay off,” said owner Cheryl Judice, who opened Hecky’s with her late husband Hecky Powell in 1983.

Hecky’s Barbecue, an Evanston institution since 1983, was one of the businesses named by First Ward Council Member Clare Kelly for the city’s Legacy Business Program. Credit: Evanston Chamber of Commerce

She credited the win to her team’s efforts, as well as the support the restaurant, at 1902 Green Bay Rd., has received since reopening in late 2020.

“I am very appreciative of the support of people who voted for us, and I continue to be appreciative of the support I’ve received right here in the Evanston community, ” she said.

Judice took over management of the restaurant after her husband passed away in March 2020 at age 71 due to COVID-19 complications. Powell worked with the Chicago South Side’s old pitmasters to hone his beloved barbecue technique. An active community member, he was dubbed the unofficial mayor of Evanston.

The restaurant features a menu of barbecue staples, including ribs, wings, pulled pork and brisket, steeped in distinct Chicago flavors. Hecky’s also offers a number of proprietary items, from signature sauces to a Juneteenth strawberry soda. Judice said keen to expand the restaurant’s reach.

The Tribune selected five finalists across a dozen categories featuring restaurants in the Chicagoland area, with nearly 9,000 votes tallied in the second half of March. Winners were announced last week.

“When things get really tough, to know we can still win awards like this, and that this vote captures what readers think, it’s really quite an honor,” Judice told the Tribune. “And we’re most appreciative.”

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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  1. Hecky’s BBQ catered my wedding 35 years ago and my friends still say they remember the rib tips that were served. I still use them to cater special events.