Smoke sultan Robin Salzer enraptures senses with his menu of American barbecue and homemade sauces dished out in a whimsically decorated dining space. In blanketing his four-ton smoker with apple and oak wood-chips, Robin appeases swine-centric palates with favorites such as the Carolina pork plate ($13.95) or the wood-fired smoked pork chop ($15.95). Slather one of four signature sauces onto meat racks of baby back ribs ($17.95+), spareribs ($13.95+), and beef ribs ($13.95+) or eschew meat for stylish swim caps while diving into plates of Louisiana barbecue shrimp ($18.95). Southern-inspired sweet treats, such as Mom's fruit cobbler ($3.95) or killer slabs of carrot cake ($5.75) cap off satiating meals, as diners pay homage to Q-master Salzer with a frothy toast of beer ($4+) or handshake of fresh lemonade ($3.25).
Some chefs attend faraway schools or universities to learn how to cook, but for Emma Sue Miller McWhorter—the inspiration behind Big Mama's Rib Shack & Soul Foods—it was natural. Though she's gone to the big kitchen in the sky, a little bit of her soul can be seen today in the restaurant's hot links, saucy ribs, and fried chicken, which the Los Angeles Times called "beautifully cooked; moist, flavorful."
Bubbling pots of gumbo and jambalaya fill the eatery's air with rich smells and fill mouths with equally rich flavors when paired with sides such as corn bread, fried okra, or mac 'n' cheese served in the southern tradition of adding dairy to everything. Guests can enjoy live music on Tuesday nights, which ranges in musical style from jazz and R&B to soul and rock 'n' roll.
Superheroes watch over Tangier Korean BBQ, keeping the peace in street scenes painted on the walls or as cartoonesque sculptures flexing against the backdrop of exposed, weathered wood beams. Wait staff weave between the futuristic super statues carrying trays of Korean dishes such as bibimbap and kimchi stew. Tangier's signature all-you-can-eat Black Angus smorgasboard pummels hearty appetites with short ribs, chicken, vegetables, and other flavors, which deluge tables nestled between cozy booths and mod red chairs. The drink menu embraces the same Pacific flavors, featuring Sapporo beers and mojitos with lemongrass and lime. Couples chat at café seating on the outdoor patio, where they can sup under the stars or challenge the moon to 20 questions.
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.
Sweeping contours shelter So Hyang's upscale Korean fare, prepared with an eye towards healthfulness and authenticity. Known collectively as banchan, a set of small plates laden with kimchi, potato salad, and marinated vegetables accompany the entrees like so many ducklings following a man in a duck costume. Forming one of the signature dishes of the Korean peninsula, the seafood and scallions of haemul pajeon are griddled together in a savory pancake. Asian pear adds sweetness to the broth of mul-naengmyeon and the marinade of grilled short ribs, eschewing the need for added sweeteners and pairing well with vinegar or spicy mustard sauce. Vegetarians may request alternative items to munch between sips of sweet, vodka-like soju or soda-like soda. Asian American pop group Far East Movement found So Hyang's sleek atmosphere sufficiently party-friendly to be featured in their video for "Like a G6".