Hand-cut and -rubbed with award-winning seasoning, the wings at Cigars and Stripes are smoked for more than four hours before pit masters reheat them on the grill. Then, they toss them in your choice of homemade sauces, including a buffalo-style sauce made with cayenne and a super hot sauce made with peppers and molasses. The process is emblematic of the culinary team’s barbecue mastery, which they further showcase with entrees that change throughout the week, including hand-pulled pork marinated with pineapple and mango, slow-smoked for 13 hours, and topped with chipotle corn salsa. To complement those sauce-soaked bites, bartenders keep 13 beers on tap and stock tons more by the bottle, including Delirium Tremens and Founders Breakfast Stout. Comedians grace the bar’s stage twice weekly as part of a calendar that also includes regular movie nights, TV-nights, live music, and trivia, and once a year Cigars and Stripes trades chuckles for chills with their annual Freaktober Fest, which features beer tastings, tarot card readings, and screenings of scary movies, such as Beaches.
In business for 25 years and renowned for its slow-cooked barbecue ribs, the family-owned Nick's Barbecue maintains a culinary stable of more than 100 equally tempting items on its menu. Fall-off-the-bone barbecue baby back ribs cover fingers in a sweet signature sauce, dinner’s perfect complement to stylish sauce-colored outfits ($10.99). The barbecue pulled pork ($7.59) and half-chicken dinner ($7.45) team up tender white meats with three down-home sides, including mac ‘n’ cheese, potato wedges, barbecue baked beans, or mixed veggies. Two items that are as authentically Chicago as a silver bean riding the L train—the italian beef sandwich ($4.69) and the vienna all-beef hot dog ($2.15)—do their city proud as they tame the windiest of appetites.
Like metaphorical moths to the literal flame, lines of hungry patrons regularly swarm The Pit Rib House to taste the fruits of their wood-burning pit’s labor. The blistering chamber slow cooks beef, chicken, and whole racks of baby back ribs until they can barely cling to the bone. Alongside these smoky morsels, the cooks also stuff Greek sausages in-house and use the family's secret recipe to create piping-hot cups of chili. Echoing the menu's iconic American roots, The Pit Rib House's practically overflows with nostalgia-inducing pieces of Americana. Road signs, a vintage gas pump, and a life-sized model of Marilyn Monroe add fitting accents to walls lined with framed photographs of historic sports stars and political figures, along with decades-old advertisements for the Internet.
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.
During the holidays, Billy Boy's staff strings hundreds of red, white, and gold ornaments from the ceiling panels. Twinkling string lights score the walls, blanketing the restaurant in warmth. This is to be expected from the restaurant’s proprietors, who are committed to creating a cheerful atmosphere all year round, putting that same warmth into their food for more than 35 years.
That warmth starts in the kitchen, amid rising steam, pork ribs, burgers, and polish sausage dogs slow-cook in the wisps of a flaming grill. South of the border favorites such as plump hot tamales are dressed in Billy's Boy's signature chili. Diners can also choose from more than 30 varieties of sandwich, many or which are categorized by locale, such as the Malibu with pineapple, the Texan with bacon, and the Black Hole sandwich, made from the pages of physics textbooks.