NORTH CENTER — We hope you're hungry, because Ribfest Chicago is back with 50,000 pounds of barbecued meat begging to be eaten.
North Center's annual pork-out, now in its 19th year, kicks off at 5-10 p.m. Friday and the pitmasters will keep things smoking noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, on Lincoln Avenue from Irving Park Road to Berteau Avenue.
Admission is a suggested $10 donation per person or $20 per family. The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce has provided $350,000 in grants to neighborhood organizations from Ribfest proceeds over the years.
Here's a quick look at what to expect.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: THE FOOD
Taste your way through the fest's 13 rib vendors, including returning Best Ribs champ BBQ King Smokehouse and perennial fan favorite Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro. For folks who plan on trying them all, go for the sample-sized portions.
But save room for pizza, gelato, meatballs, tacos (regular and "walking"), doughnuts, hot dogs and deep-fried Oreos.
Pro tip: Come hungry.
Yeah, "rib" is in the name of the fest, but there's a whole lot more than food to enjoy.
Ribfest takes its music seriously, with 19 acts — not a tribute band among them — performing across two stages over the course of the three-day fest.
Entertainment kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with the Inventors, at the Irving Park and Lincoln stage, and it closes with Grizfolk at 9 p.m. Sunday. Click here for the complete schedule.
The annual rib eating contest pits defending champ Adrian Morgan against former winners Miki Sudo and Michelle Lesco. Gideon Oji, ranked sixth in the world by Major League Eating, is poised to play spoiler.
The feeding frenzy gets underway at 6 p.m. Friday at Lincoln and Berteau.
Bring the youngsters to Town Square at Lincoln and Belle Plaines avenues (enter from Lincoln), where there's a whole fest-within-in-a-fest set up for kids.
Along with inflatables and mini golf, Kids Square has a full entertainment and activity lineup including ninja warrior lessons, improv comedy and music performances. Click here for the complete schedule.
Kids Square is open noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
An area of the nearby CVS lot has been set aside for stroller parking.
Parking and traffic will be a nightmare, so take public transportation. Ribfest is just a short walk from the Irving Park Brown Line station and is also accessible via the No. 80 Irving Park and No. 50 Damen bus routes.
Food and drink vendors will only accept tickets, which cost $1 each. Food generally costs 4 to 12 tickets and beer is 6 to 7 tickets. ATMs will be located on site next to ticket booths.