Here's the thing about Famous Dave: he wasn't always famous. Dave Anderson inherited his passion for barbecue from his father, a humble construction worker who knew where to find the best barbecue on Chicago's street corners. In 1994, Dave opened his first barbecue shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, and before long, the shack was attracting 5,000 customers weekly—a momentous feat considering Hayward had a population of 1,800. Dave's lifelong pursuit of barbecue perfection had certainly paid off. It gave him a new life's work to be proud of. And, of course, a new first name to put on his passport.
With locations now spread across the U.S., Canada, and even Puerto Rico, Famous Dave's has become a revelation for barbecue fans. It has earned more than 700 awards, including first-place honors for its ribs, wings, and sauces. Most of these awards have Famous Dave's cooking process to thank. For every batch, pitmasters hand-rub high-quality cuts and cook them for hours at a time in live-wood smokers, taking care to not disturb the dragons napping between the logs. For Famous Dave's renowned ribs, the process has an extra step after the smoker, as each rack gets tossed on a grill to caramelize the sauces before serving.
Bill and Amy Wesolowski were no strangers to barbecue when they opened their restaurant. After all, they'd been grilling up mountainous platters of ribs, pulled pork, and grilled chicken at local parties and special events since 2008. Within their cheerful, sunlit joint, the seasoned caterers and skilled barbecue chefs whip up their signature dishes, along with southern-style sides of barbecue beans, collard greens, and coleslaw. The duo even accommodates vegetarians with meat-free menu selections, unlike other barbecue venues that require vegetarians to wear an itchy wreath of string beans around their necks. Plates pair with bottles of beer as they sit atop the white-cloth tables of the casual dining room, where colorful photographs and drawings of jazz instruments adorn the walls.
Cooks at the family-owned Hammi's BBQ slather tender cuts of pork, beef, and chicken in a signature dry rub before slow-smoking morsels over cherry wood. Skilled hands sculpt burger patties and pull pork on site, piling platters with honey-glazed ribs and texas brisket showered in house-made barbecue sauce alongside fresh-sliced curly fries and cornbread accomplices. Red, wooden stools speckle the restaurant's patio for outdoor dining, and the restaurant dispatches its mobile barbecue truck to serve up meals at concerts, festivals, special events, and the North Pole.
At Label 7, fresh ingredients such as crisp shaved fennel and gruyere cheese garnish entrees inspired by the light, healthy cuisine of California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Wicker chairs flank tables in the softly lit indoor dining room. Oversized white flowerboxes stand guard along the perimeter of a canal-side patio, where a brigade of umbrellas shields patrons from splashing during nearby diners? attempts to literally wade through the wine list.
Since 1945, Don's Original has been stifling stomach rumblings with varied menus consisting of famous original sandwiches, not-yet-famous sandwiches, plates, and sandwich-complementing sides. Don's Original maintains a come-as-you-are atmosphere, allowing customers to order comfort eats free from the chaos of family-member-attended singles' masquerade balls. Savor your selection while watching sandwich engineers manufacture mouthwatering masterpieces at the inside counter, or take your order to the patio and dine at one of Don's outdoor picnic tables during warmer months (not available at the Brighton location).