Bill and Amy Wesolowski were no strangers to barbecue when they opened their restaurant. After all, they'd been grilling up mountainous platters of ribs, pulled pork, and grilled chicken at local parties and special events since 2008. Within their cheerful, sunlit joint, the seasoned caterers and skilled barbecue chefs whip up their signature dishes, along with southern-style sides of barbecue beans, collard greens, and coleslaw. The duo even accommodates vegetarians with meat-free menu selections, unlike other barbecue venues that require vegetarians to wear an itchy wreath of string beans around their necks. Plates pair with bottles of beer as they sit atop the white-cloth tables of the casual dining room, where colorful photographs and drawings of jazz instruments adorn the walls.
Here's the thing about Famous Dave: he wasn't always famous. Dave Anderson inherited his passion for barbecue from his father, a humble construction worker who knew where to find the best barbecue on Chicago's street corners. In 1994, Dave opened his first barbecue shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, and before long, the shack was attracting 5,000 customers weekly?a momentous feat considering Hayward had a population of 1,800. Dave's lifelong pursuit of barbecue perfection had certainly paid off. It gave him a new life's work to be proud of. And, of course, a new first name to put on his passport.
With locations now spread across the U.S., Canada, and even Puerto Rico, Famous Dave's has become a revelation for barbecue fans. It has earned more than 700 awards, including first-place honors for its ribs, wings, and sauces. Most of these awards have Famous Dave's cooking process to thank. For every batch, pitmasters hand-rub high-quality cuts and cook them for hours at a time in live-wood smokers, taking care to not disturb the dragons napping between the logs. For Famous Dave's renowned ribs, the process has an extra step after the smoker, as each rack gets tossed on a grill to caramelize the sauces before serving.
First-time visitors to Raku Ramen & Izakaya might find it curious that the noodles are served in stone bowls. This is but one example of the restaurant's dedication to time-honored Asian traditions. Others include the faithful preparations of Japanese beef and katsu curry, the wide array of sushi and makimono rolls, and the exotic selection of grilled squid and pork belly. Raku is also home to an impressive number of sake bottles imported from Japan or wild-caught in the Pacific.
Dick's Wings & Grill's spice-emphasizing franchise gathers diners around menus featuring eclectic salads, burgers, sandwiches, and wings. Chicken wings waltz across plates in batches up to 100 pieces dressed in 365 variations of 30 changing sweet and savoury sauces, six dry rub blends, and six levels of heat ranging from none to the restaurant’s secret sauce. Chefs fortify certified Angus-beef burgers with toppings more varied than Charlie Chaplin's bowtie collection, and they cook all dishes using trans fat-free oils. While red walls and bright neon signs surround diners, plates pair with an array of domestic and premium beers ranging from Labatt to Alexander Keith's. The dining area's sports bar atmosphere is filled with paraphernalia such as hockey team photos, and karaoke and trivia nights allow patrons to settle disputes over the best death-metal Beethoven tribute album.
Regardless of which Dave & Buster's location you visit, you can count on being fed and entertained. The sprawling entertainment complexes feature full bars with specialty cocktails and dining areas that serve burgers, steaks, sandwiches, and other dishes that have been voted onto American food menus by congress representatives past and present. Most locations have a billiards area, and all have a Million Dollar Midway, the franchise's uber game room that consists of rows of blinking and ticket-spewing arcade games.