Smile Politely

Bar-B-Q on a budget

Joel Gillespie says:

So, I rolled up to the Li’l Porgy’s location in Champaign on April Fool’s Day, and what was there to greet me but an incredibly welcoming sign detailing Porgy’s 33rd Anniversary special.

Turns out, it wasn’t a prank of any kind! You really could get a two-pound tub of rib tips, fries, and bread for $13.64 plus tax (a $2 discount versus regular price). Unfortunately, they were out of the commemorative mugs by the time we visited. On the other hand, they had coyly underpromised their cola quantity: it was actually a TWO-LITER.

So, my mind was made up before even viewing the menu, and it provided me with enough food for one evening meal, lunch the next day, and a snack the following evening. Here’s what two pounds of rib tips with mixed sauce, french fries, and bread looks like:

Not pictured: Coca-Cola, wet naps.

It probably took about ten minutes to get our food, after waiting in line for just a couple of minutes to order. 

I thought that the rib tips were quite tasty, although they were a little dry. That may have been as a result of the volume that Porgy’s had cranked through over the past couple days of their anniversary special.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the bread, since it wasn’t very easy to make a sandwich out of rib tips, and I’m not a fan of white bread anyway. So that went to waste. Alas. The fries were thick-cut steak fries, and they were really crisp and fresh. 

Overall, the rib tips meal was an excellent value, even at regular price. 

Cody Caudill says:

When Joel invited me to join him at the Li’l Porgy’s in Champaign for dinner and a review, I will confess that I was looking forward to the food more than the review. Barbeque is divisive, plain and simple.

Good (and bad) barbeque usually lives in lore more so than actual experiences. You can’t tell me that you just stumbled into Black Dog one afternoon and it blew your mind. No. Most likely someone told you when you first moved here that the food was this, that, and the other thing and you went to see for yourself. Opinions form and loyalties are almost impossible to avoid.

All loyalties aside, Li’l Porgy’s is a hell of a deal. As Joel describes, he got an anniversary special that could feed a Little League baseball team. I on the other hand went for their Sunday special: Half-chicken, fries, white bread, and a sweet tea for around $6 after tax.

The chicken was great. Cooked perfectly, plenty of moisture, and a nice smoky flavor that went well with the half mild and half hot barbeque (MIX) sauce on the side. The skin was a little bit crisp and the meat fell right off the bone.

I will admit that I have ordered this before and did not have as much luck. A common complaint I have heard about Li’l Porgy’s is the dryness of the meat. I think Joel’s rib tips suffered from this fate, but not the chicken that day. It was wonderful. My guess is the inconsistency has something to do with the inconsistent quality of both the meat and the wood. When those are right, the food is fantastic. The tough luck is that it is kind of a crapshoot.

As for the sides, well, the white bread is pointless and not my thing. I’ve always considered it to be more of a napkin than a part of the meal itself. The fries are nothing to call home about either. The ones not lost under the meat are mediocre and crispy and the ones that are get soggy and are basically inedible. The sweet tea was great; just make sure you ask for ice.

My opinion on Li’l Porgy’s is that it’s incredibly hit-and-miss when it comes to the meat. When it’s a hit, you are in for a great meal under seven bucks and when it’s a miss, well, at least it was under seven bucks. I will wrap this up by saying the one thing you can always count on is the sauce. The mix sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Damn that’s good sauce, and you can take a bottle of it home with you if you are so inclined.


Li’l Porgy’s is located at 1917 W. Springfield Ave. in Champaign and 101 W. University Ave. in Urbana. As of this writing, they’re open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, but check their website or give them a call at 398-8575 or 367-1018 to be sure. 

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