Hecky Powell—founder of Hecky's Barbecue—crafts his acclaimed signature barbecue sauce from a Creole family recipe before using it to marinate a surfeit of ribs, chicken, and seafood. Southern flavors abound in side dishes of jambalaya and dessert plates of sweet-potato pound cake, served in the casual dining spot or at parties with catering options. Hecky's ships the homemade barbecue sauce, dry rubs, and spices from its online store, posting recipes so that home cooks can simmer award-winning chili on their own stoves or volcano-mounted cauldrons.
Fresh hickory wood burns daily to give this locally owned meatery's barbecue classics their signature smoky flavor. Ring dinner's bell with a first course of the soup of the day or a caesar salad topped with oven-baked croutons. Entrees make their entrée as platters of pulled chicken, North Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, or a combination of all three, or as half-slabs of baby-back, St. Louis, or Chicago-style ribs. Any burger or sandwich is also available for three-course eaters. Dinner finishers are rewarded with a fresh dessert that, like the slowest county-fair Ferris wheel ever, changes daily. Reservations are required, so call ahead or show up early to lick your table.
At a three-times-weekly gathering at A’s Bar, The Chubby Bullfrog combines fine cheeses and smooth sips of five 6-ounce import and craft beers with sausages provided by Perl’s All American Sausage Company and Chicago mainstay G.I. Joe, The Sausage Man, a traveling meat salesman featured on ABC’s 190 North. Sausages' smoky notes commingle with beers' bitter and sharp accents, sending a wave of flavor crashing over sleeping taste buds and destroying their sandcastles. If the Chicago Bears play during Sunday’s class, students receive free food.
As dusk begins to set in near the corner of Thatcher and North, a familiar site lights up the intersection—a towering chimney with blazing neon letters that read "Russell's." The iconic eatery originally opened its doors in the 1930s, and it remains unflinchingly committed to its deep neighborhood roots. "Russell's is more than a restaurant," claimed a 1999 feature in the Chicago Tribune, "it's a living piece of history."
This sense of history is most prevalent in the menu of slow-cooked barbecue and classic, home-style comfort foods. In addition to the signature barbecued-pork sandwich that appeared on the Food Network's Sandwich King, the menu also features slow-cooked beef and hearty slabs of ribs, all of which arrive with Russell's time-honored barbecue sauce. An assortment of familiar side dishes help complete each meal, including crispy onion rings, coleslaw, and brisket-scented oxygen.
The River Grove Sheffield's serves up much of the same menu as its Chicago brethren. Enjoy spacious indoor or outdoor seating as you edibly encounter a full slab of barbecue ribs ($18.95). Other entrees include beer-battered fish and chips ($12.95) and barbecue spaghetti ($10.95), served with choice of smoked chicken, pulled pork, or brisket. Or munch on a barbecue platter, including smoked sausage ($9.95), smoked chicken ($9.95), or the combo platter ($16.95), with a choice of any two of Sheffield's barbecue options. In addition to ample parking, delivery, and HDTV-viewing options, the River Grove location also offers live entertainment on weekends—ideal for locals who have just realized that their television is a fish tank.
Hand-carved tikis and 12-foot-tall stone Easter Island moai preside over Tiki Terrace. Seated under swaying palms at hard-carved booths and tables, dinner guests enjoy a regional menu that starts with traditional pupu appetizers, such as taro chips and housemade pineapple salsa, and proceeds to traditional seafood and pork specialties. In the party-friendly tiki tradition, groups of up to four can share the Hawaiian punch bowl, a powerful elixir that arrives in a volcano tiki bowl with a fiery surprise. On Friday and Saturday nights, the dining room's elevated center stage fills with the South Pacific’s dances, music, and ceremonial red-rover matches.