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Ray’s Chicago BBQ ready for hungry customers

Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 11:12 p.m. CDT
Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com Malee Ludwig, Ray's Chicago BBQ dayside manager, slices onions while making a batch of their baked beans side dish Monday afternoon at the restaurant in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Free champagne lured Dylan Donzelli into Ray’s Chicago BBQ of DeKalb on Friday, but it was the ribs that had him licking his fingers.

Donzelli, a DeKalb resident and student at Northern Illinois University, said he would come back to one of DeKalb’s newest restaurants after dining there for the first time.

“I’m waiting for delivery,” he said. “That way, I won’t even have to move.”

Ray’s Chicago BBQ, 870 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday that DeKalb Mayor John Rey attended. The restaurant has been open for about a month, but managers said they waited to hold the ribbon-cutting ceremony until they were settled.

Ray’s Chicago BBQ has eight restaurants, including locations in Chicago, and is in the process of expanding, said Louis Ludwig, company spokesman.

The menu features barbecue ribs, a pulled chicken sandwich, beef brisket and a pulled pork sandwich. The chicken comes from Inboden’s Meat Market, 1106 N. First St., DeKalb.

Ludwig said there are no other restaurants in the area like Ray’s Chicago BBQ.

“There’s no restaurants here for competition,” Ludwig said. “There’s hardly any places you can get a good meal.”

The new DeKalb business uses wood such as hickory, apple and mesquite in its smokers. All the sauces are made from scratch, and it takes 12 hours for the brisket and pulled pork to cook, Ludwig said.

Malee Ludwig said she will manage the DeKalb location two days a week. The restaurant will deliver and cater as well as sell liquor and offer a slot machine. Managers are still waiting for a liquor license and approval for a slot machine, the latter of which can take six months.

Ray’s Chicago BBQ currently has seven part-time employees but is hiring. The business is flexible, realizing many students’ busy schedules.

“I don’t want students to work too many hours,” Malee Ludwig said. “We need more staff to work two or three days a week.”

Ray’s Chicago BBQ also donates much of the leftover food they make. Some chicken they made recently was donated to a homeless shelter, Louis Ludwig said.

Managers were not fully prepared for how busy they were when they first opened. They sold out of all their food the first day they opened and had to close the next day.

“We didn’t plan to have so many people,” Malee Ludwig said. “When you open the door, everybody parked their car.”

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