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.
When they describe their pulled pork as slow-smoked, the pit masters at South Moon BBQ aren’t kidding around. The dry-rubbed meats are smoked over a combination of woods for a full 15 hours before they’re deemed fit to be heaped onto a sandwich, piled into a homemade taco, or sprinkled atop homemade nachos. Beef brisket and full- and half-slabs of ribs receive similar treatment before cooks slather them in homemade sauces, including a thin, tangy, vinegar-based variety and a sweet St. Louis-style sauce. The barbecue experts also pile a combination of pulled pork and brisket onto the “Cliff Combo”, a sandwich named after a regular customer, and add a fresh bratwurst to the mix to create “The Steve” or a hat with an arrow through it to create “The Steve Martin”.
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).
Pockets' health-conscious chefs have stuffed stomachs with fresh, all-natural ingredients for more than 20 years, creating low-fat, high-protein combinations of vegetables, fine cheese, and lean meats. Within freshly baked multigrain bread, selections such as spinach, salami, turkey, and tuna combine with edamame beans, crunchy noodles, dried cranberries, and a splash from one of more than 10 dressings, creating a snack more portable than a bicycle made of chocolate. Menu pages also brim with eight healthy salads, seven hearty calzones, and a kids' menu with pint-size portions and sides of magic. Not content with just challenging fast-food ideals, the locally owned Pockets furthers change in its community by regularly donating up to 50% of its profit to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Fox Valley Heart Foundation.
Voted one of Madison Magazine's Best New Restaurants of 2010, this down-home eatery delivers a menu loaded with barbecue-style southern savories and a deluge of draft and bottled beers. Customers will have to discard their dog’s squeaky toys at the door to keep mum about the menu's hush-puppies appetizer, a stack of southern-fried cornmeal fritters served with spicy mayo ($6.99). Diners can also dive into a legume-laden vegetable sandwich, packed with grilled portabella mushrooms, broccoli-forest-fire-roasted roma tomatoes, smoked gouda, and herb-infused garlic spread ($7.99), or beckon a rack of Brickhouse ribs, slow cooked in the St. Louis style and smothered in a signature spice blend ($19.99). The brisket sandwich sports Texas-style meat smoked in-house under a mound of melted pepper-jack cheese and onion strings ($8.99), while the southern catfish appeases anglers with a blackened or cornmeal-dusted, pan-fried filet coupled with corn-poblano relish and spicy mayo ($11.99).