Hawthorne's Backyard's culinary architects animate the American fare, such as burgers, ribs, and roasts, depicted on the menu. An appetizer of loaded chili cheese fries, which swim in green onions and sour cream ($5.99), can prep palates for an appointment with a hearty entree. Momma's pot-roast sandwich, a pulled-pork tenderloin cooked in homemade barbecue sauce and set inside a hoagie bun, frolics across taste-bud territory ($8.50), and the backyard double cheeseburger dually satiates meat and dairy yearnings ($10.50). A full slab of signature baby-back ribs comes to tables drenched in barbecue sauce and, like a subpoena from a grandmother, is served with cinnamon apples and sweet-potato fries ($18.99).
At Salt Creek Barbeque, two distinct aromas weave through the air: a cocktail of herbs and sauces distilling itself into barbecue sauce, and the scent of hickory from a smoker, where each of Salt Creek's meats spends 5–12 hours to enhance flavor and unwind from its fight with the butcher. The house-made sauce drenches dishes such as hand-pulled pork and shaved brisket—stacked atop sandwich buns or texas toast—and bastes plates of slow-smoked meaty rib tips with its aromatic flavor. The signature sauce makes yet another appearance as a uniform for chicken wings, also available in coats of buffalo or spicy sauce that diners wash down with fountain drinks or pitchers of domestic and imported beers from the full-service bar. A full slate of burgers and catfish sandwiches round out the menu of quintessentially American fare, accompanied by classic sides of corn bread and mashed potatoes. Salt Creek Barbecue also caters for special events, forging party-sized portions of its iconic menu items.
The rich scents of smoked meats and barbecue sauce fill Hickory River Smokehouse, where chefs slow-smoke beef brisket, pulled pork, and baby back ribs. They cover select cuts of meat in a housemade dry rub before smoking them for many hours in a hickory wood filled smoker. Succulent Texas-style barbecue is the result of the low and slow smoking style. Diners can indulge in award-winning pulled pork, sampler platters, or opt for a lighter fare, including low-fat smoked turkey and country ham. Housemade sides such as cornbread, Texas-style ranch beans, mustard- and mayonnaise-based potato salad, and homemade Texas-style chili round out the hearty meals.
Inside the kitchens of Crystal Lake Rib House, chef David Faccone takes a methodical, multistep approach to making his baby back ribs: he covers them with dry rub, smokes them, and finally chargrills them before brushing over the final product with housemade barbecue sauce. His work has paid off?his tender baby back slabs earned the restaurant a 2012 Best of the Fox Award for Barbecue from Planit Northwest, as well as praise from Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun-Times, who called them "a gift from the Gods of barbecue." In addition to ribs, the cooks also chargrill half-pound burgers, topping them with lettuce and tomato or a meaty pile of pulled pork and melted cheddar. The kitchen?s old-fashioned attention to smoked flavor is reflected in the building itself, an old house whose wooden front porch is adorned with wagon wheels. Inside, rustic hardwood floors support tables topped with white-and-red-checkered cloths, where patrons dip their spoons into hearty chili and sip domestic and imported brews.
Crystal Lake Rib House also arranges catering services for office gatherings, family reunions, and pool parties near bubbling barbecue-sauce springs. They have even catered for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Randy Travis, and Illinois governors, according to staff.
Outfitted with bona fide Texan recipes and a wood-burning smoker purloined from the Lone Star State itself, Austin BBQ aims for authenticity, as evidence by its menu of regional and Texas Hill Country barbecue that recently nabbed the restaurant top honor Best New Barbecue from Chicago Magazine. Painstakingly smoked overnight, smoldering cuts of brisket ($6.95–$9.95) coast onto plates chopped, sliced, or tucked between thick slices of white bread and escorted by such savory sides as hush puppies, barbecue pit beans, and deep-fried bolo ties. Shepherd taste buds on a sweeping sojourn across the regional barbecue flavorscape, snagging bites, photos, and souvenir moist towelettes when navigating the succulent terrain pervading Alabama-style barbecue chicken breast ($6.95), Carolina-style pulled pork ($6.95–$9.95), and Tri Tip, a California delicacy served Texas-style on white bread ($7.95–$11.95).
When Travis Dickey opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in 1941, the menu offered beef brisket, pit hams, barbecued beans, potato chips, drinks, and that’s all. By focusing on perfecting the flavors of a few dishes, Travis was able to increase quality and, ultimately, the number of customers. Patrons were so enamored of the food that the restaurant eventually expanded into a nationwide franchise, allowing Americans all over to wear badges made of barbecue sauce. Dickey’s has been passed on to Travis’s sons, but not much else has changed—the quality meats are still seasoned and smoked onsite, and except for the addition of spicy cheddar sausage in 2011, the menu has remained largely the same for the last 50 years.
Regional meats ensure that the most succulent Texas-style chopped beef brisket, old-recipe polish sausage, and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs make it to tabletops. Sides such as mac 'n' cheese and green beans with bacon continue to enhance feasts with an extra punch of homestyle tastiness. Each meal comes complete with complimentary ice cream, soft rolls, and dill pickles.