Montana Master Grillers
Chef Charlie McKenna
Best New BBQ Restaurants in the Country, Food & Wine
When he opened Lillie’s Q in 2010, Chef Charlie McKenna brought award-winning BBQ and timeless Southern cooking to the city of big shoulders. McKenna and Lillie’s Q have garnered critical praise and awards from both local Chicago and national media, including being named Best New BBQ Restaurant in the Country by Food & Wine magazine in 2011.
A Florida State University alum, McKenna graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America in 2000 and cooked under legendary chef Norman Van Aken before becoming a sous chef at two of Chicago’s four-star fine-dining landmarks: TRU and Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel. During that time, McKenna also won numerous awards on the BBQ competition circuit, including a first-place win at Memphis In May, widely regarded as the world championship of BBQ.
Opening Lillie’s Q (named for his South Carolinian grandmother, Lillie, and his father, Quito) allowed McKenna to return to his BBQ roots—slow-smoking pork shoulder, tri tip, baby back ribs, hot links and chicken in custom-built smokers over peach wood and lump charcoal. Shortly after opening the restaurant, McKenna rolled out a food truck, the Lillie’s Q Meat Mobile and then opened a Lillie’s Q outpost in the Chicago French Market. McKenna also co-owns a Lillie’s Q in Destin, Florida, with his parents, who operate the location.