While Chef Chuck Pine studied under culinary masters including Rick Bayless, it was in humble barbecue joints where he truly honed his skills. Before opening his own restaurant, Chef Pine went on a barbecue tour of 13 states that covered over 3,000 miles. He ate almost nothing but barbecue. After the tour, Chef Pine found he’d amassed a ton of new knowledge about the art of slow smoking meat. Now as the head of his own barbecue restaurant, he takes hours to prepare each slab of ribs over a slow smoldering fire, glazing them with a choice of sauce. He pairs these carefully prepared platters of Americana with a blend of Mexican and Cajun-Creole dishes, both of them full of spice. Crawfish etouffee and jambalaya appear beside chicken enchiladas and shrimp quesadillas, with classic soda floats and fire hoses on hand to put out tongue fires.
Sunlight pours in through the many large windows at Fajitas Mexican Restaurant, illuminating booths and tables piled with classic Mexican dishes. The eatery starts meals with baskets of fresh, homemade chips, as well as frosty beers and margaritas. Colorful yellow plates house flour or corn tortillas piled with carne asada, picadillo, chicken, chorizo, or chili relleno. Breakfast brings in classics such as huevos rancheros or chilaquiles, and dinner plates offer up tamales or burritos stuffed with meats and veggies and topped with melted cheese. Homemade sopes join the culinary ranks with their bases of fried masa, nestling beside tortas, tostadas, and burgers.
After their inaugural year, the organizers of the Porky?s Rib Fest hope that their event becomes an oft-circled event on the calendars of barbecue-loving Chicagoans. If this year?s vendor lineup is any indication, they?re already well on their way. Recruited from both inside and outside of Chicago, the award-winning roster includes vendors with decades of combined grilling experience. Hailing from the Lone Star State, Texas Thunder BBQ is a perennial favorite at rib fests around the country. On the hometown front, cooks from Berwyn?s Chicago BBQ Company sling their signature brand of slow-smoked meats. The lineup even includes an international representative: based out of Sydney, Australia, the meat masters of Aussom Aussie tempt taste buds at home and abroad with unexpected flavors such as fruit-based sauces.
Aside from chowing on an international buffet of barbecue, attendees can enjoy a continuous stream of live music emanating from Toyota Park?s expansive amphitheater. Acts have included '70s mainstays, a contestant from a televised music competition, as well as bands covering the iconic catalogs of KISS, Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Buffett. Elsewhere, adults drool over the impressive rides on display at an onsite car show, and kids cash in tickets to climb aboard more than 30 carnival rides. A fireworks show will leave the sky more colorful than that summer when it got all those tattoos.
Guests quaff cocktails and savor new york strip steak inside Nikos Bar & Grill, a casual pub-style restaurant attached to Nikos Banquets. Besides grilling up half-pound angus beef burgers, heaping plates of marinated chicken, and other hearty fare, the chefs also tend to the lighter side of things with a selection of sandwiches, flatbreads, and crisp, fresh salads. On Saturday nights, a DJ gets the party going inside the art-deco-style space, whose glimmering mirrors and tufted leather couches recall the stately 1930s glamour of the top-secret speakeasy FDR used to run in the White House.
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the "International House of Pancakes." Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
If a visit to one of Southern Belle's restaurants feels a lot like coming home, it might have something to do with the hearty family traditions behind the kitchen's down-home breakfast and lunch dishes. “My father was in pancake houses all his life,” says owner Steve Fotos. Today, many of the same recipes used by Steve's father help populate a menu of hearty comfort foods that includes a poached-egg and sausage benedict smothered in country gravy and french toast stuffed with cinnamon apples, strawberries and pecans, or blueberries and bananas. But while the country-fried-steak or smoked-sausage skillets are tempting, the expansive menu offers options for diets of all kind, pairing fluffy egg whites with strawberries, granola, and multigrain toast and swapping out regular maple syrup for bottles that are low-calorie, sugar-free, or simply sealed shut. Photos of farms and pastoral images smile down upon diners as they dig in and gently remind them to inquire about the restaurant's seasonal specials, which range from summertime salads with sun-ripened veggies to bowls of homemade wintertime chili.