Once, George Wilson's modest North Side barbecue spot ran three shifts — just like the mill-workers he fed.
Today, Wilson's Bar B-Q is open noon to 8 p.m. six days a week, and staffed by Wilson and a family member or two. But the joint promising "Riblicious Spare Ribs & Chicken" — and whose ribs Esquire once called tops in the nation — still makes mouths water.
Wilson, now in his 80s, hails from small-town Louisiana; his rich, tomato-based sauce was formulated by his great-grandfather. The former Armour and Co. butcher launched his business in 1960. For 43 years it's occupied the same corner storefront.
The big-windowed space has a deli case, counter and three tables, and the big wood-fired brick oven Wilson starts tending at 8 a.m. Using hardwood and fruitwood, he smokes and cooks the meat at once, turning the pork and chicken with a yard-long fork. Wilson's side dishes — including savory peppered greens and a killer potato salad — are home-made. "I don't buy from other people because I don't know how they do things," he says.
The trade is mostly take-out, but the price is right: A half-chicken with two sides and pop costs $8.50.
No-frills suits Wilson. "Some guys, they think this place ought to have cande-leers in it," he says. "But you can't eat cande-leers."