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.
Since 1987, Fodrak's Gyros & Ribs has carved out a niche with every slice of its signature gyro, earning the Pioneer Press’s Best of Lake County award as the Best Place for Gyros four years running. Their chefs build innovative dishes from the classic greek staple, piling it onto gyros pizzas and slam-dunking it onto gyros cheeseburgers. Not to be upstaged, the menu’s supporting cast can also hold its own. Cooks drench baby-back ribs in barbecue sauce, hand cut french fries, and assemble Chicago-style hot dogs topped with all manner of fixings. Their culinary creativity extends to their six varieties of baked potato, which include spuds capped with gyros and sauce or bacon and cheese. Like the finale of the Nutcracker, traditionally performed on candy flutes, dinners end on a sweet note, with desserts such as banana shakes and homemade baklava.
Simplicity and quality meet in The Full Slab's choice-cut meats, which absorb the rich flavors of house-made marinades, six barbecue sauces, and hand-blended dry rubs. The aroma of flame-smacked, made-from-scratch pulled pork, brisket, and ribs, as well as seafood and pasta plates, fills the eatery. Diners can also take in a game on one of The Full Slab's big-screen TVs while enjoying a hand-crafted cocktail or cold beer from its well-stocked bar.
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).
When paired with blues chords, the smell of barbecue sauce transcends the normal sensory experience. Housemade dry rubs and sauces sink into smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, baby back ribs as the meat smokes slowly over a mix of hickory and applewood chips. Blues Bar masters this ethereal combination of soulful sounds and soul food, coupling weekends of live music with saucy ribs and sides of honey-chipotle corn bread and homemade fries. Inside the lofted dining room, tables look down onto the bar and its 24 HDTV screens that play live sporting events. Also you can find well over 75 plus craft bottled beers and 20 continually rotated draft craft beers. The blues joint’s decor pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chicago icons the Blues Brothers with a larger-than-life mural of the smart-suited duo and a full-sized vintage squad car in which John Belushi’s hat was once arrested for armed robbery.
Sweet Baby Ray's slow-smokes and cooks savory barbecue comestibles for lunch and dinner. Stuff your socks with wet-wipes and begin with an appetizer of fried calamari ($8.99), served with fresh lemon and house marinara, or skip ahead to a half slab of oxford-blouse-staining baby-back ribs ($14.99 at dinner, $12.99 at lunch). A pulled-pork plate ($12.99 at dinner, $10.99 at lunch) is seasoned in a house-made rub and smoked for up to 12 hours before being hand-pulled and served up with Sweet Baby Ray's signature barbecue sauce for a stomach-grumble-snuffing meatsperience. If meaty isn't your cup of sports drink, order up a plate of smoked tomato rigatoni ($10.99), penne pasta bathed in house marinara and topped with parmesan cheese.