I mentioned that I went to Ribfest Chicago this past weekend. In years past I have reviewed the vendors and posted photos, but I didn't this year. Simply put, the fest hasn't recovered from Covid.
Two things especially disappointed me: first, the festival of ribs had only 5 dedicated rib vendors, not the 15-20 of years past. Wrigley BBQ closed during the pandemic; Fireside, Piggery, Q, and Smoke Daddy didn't bother to come; and Smoque, one of the best rib places in the city, has never bothered because with their Bib Gourmand rating why should they?
Second, all the vendors had serious quality or service issues. For example, from the first time I wrote about Ribfest in 2011, I've put Mrs Murphy's near the top of my list. On Sunday, though, I got a tray of goo from them. They had ladled on so much sauce that I had to scrape most of it away from the three tiny bones they'd given me, but the bones had spent so long under boil that "fall of the bone" became more "disintegrate off the bone." Another vendor had exhausted children of 10 manning the cash registers, and failing in ways you'd expect. (At the best of times 10-year-olds don't multitask well; at a busy food booth they handled each order to completion, including waiting for food, before taking the next order.)
Two vendors had lines a block long on Friday evening. On Sunday afternoon, one of them had no line—because they'd run out of ribs and it would take another 90 minutes for them to cook more. The other one, returning itinerant Austin Texas Lightning, still had a block-long queue, which upon investigation seemed to have more to do with the booth being woefully understaffed than anything else.
I hope next year they do better, or at least have more vendors.