For many, a love of barbecue begins and ends at eating it. But Johnny Walker took his love a step farther by creating his own signature brand of sauces. They add an extra kick to pulled pork, rib tips, and turkey, all of which Johnny slow-smokes at J & J's BBQ & Fish alongside fellow pitmaster Joe Draper. They let diners pair their southern-style barbecue with sides such as slaw, potato salad, and hush puppies, so named for the quiet passion with which dogs eat them. The Louisiana natives also draw from the flavors of their home state to create seafood specialties that include po’ boys made with shrimp, oysters, or tilapia, as well as platters centered on fresh catches of red snapper and catfish.
Growing up, summer in Chicago meant one thing to Joe: barbecue. Members of his extended family spent the season gathered around the grill, slow-smoking meats as they vied for pitmaster status. Joe draws on their perfected recipes at Ribs To Spare, which specializes in combination platters of smoked meats such as pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken, and tri-tip steak. Sides such as potato salad and collard greens complement each saucy plate, and desserts such as sweet-potato pie and peach cobbler bring meals to a rich close.
In addition to takeout, Ribs To Spare caters celebrations with personalized feasts ranging from barbecue buffets to prix fixe dinners. With his mobile smoker trailer in tow, Joe has previously organized meals for Warner Bros., Disney, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Pegged as an "adorable hidden gem" by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Blue Fire Grill is a local hot spot for barbecue, seafood, and even pizza. The diverse menu is the brainchild of Michael and Melinda French, the husband-and-wife team whose influences come from nearly three decades of restaurant experience and the cities they once called home (Michael's Baltimore background is responsible for the popular jumbo lump crab cakes, for one). But like any room a puppy is in, the barbecue here is an instant show stealer. All Blue Fire's meats are smoked onsite in a state-of-the-art Southern Pride oven, and all the ingredients?right down to the dry rubs and sauces?are made from scratch. Spirits and cocktails fall under Melinda's stewardship, with huge margaritas and other cocktails that pair with meals or keep festivities lively when live bands play on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Brazilian churrascarias—a kind of Portuguese barbeque joint—have their roots in traditional celebrations of a successful harvest. At modern churrascarias, waiters walk around with skewers or roasted meat, cutting off all-you-can-eat portions of steak, pork, and chicken directly onto your plate. Diners interested in rounding out a years' worth of protein can find endless accompaniments at the salad bar and buffet of Brazilian hot dishes or try traditional drinks such as caipirinha or guarana, a Brazilian soda.
From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Mushroom Medley - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, and Chicken Karaage. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, grilled ahi tuna, or chicken with basil sauce until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
Voted Best of the IE in Inland Empire Magazine in 2010, the lime-green-walled Chef Tim's features classic barbecue and Southern-style soul food. Paint a meatsterpiece on your tongue with a slab of ribs (half rack $12, full rack $21.99) and a whole chicken ($9.99), or confuse your taste buds about the time of day with chicken and waffles ($6.59). A shrimp po' boy sandwich and one side ($6.59) treats food tanks to a helping of sea-meat, and a create-your-own-combo meal, such as a two-piece entree and two sides ($7.99), lets diners choose from entrees such as rib tips, fried chicken wings, and fresh catfish, and forces them to marry two sides, such as cornbread, hushpuppies, or red beans and rice. After the main culinary event, wrap sweet teeth in a peach cobbler ($2.89) championship belt.