In 1996, brothers Mario and Tom Soto capitalized on their passion for barbecue by opening Gemato's Wood Pit BBQ, a welcoming family restaurant that specializes in fall-off-the-bone ribs, tender beef brisket, and charbroiled burgers. Chefs split logs in the restaurant's backyard to fuel grills that burn all day long, infusing each meaty morsel with smoky flavor. Guests chow down morsels of barbecue pork and chicken with traditional fixings, or sup on Greek- and Italian-American sandwich shop classics such as gyros or Italian beef. Meanwhile, Western-themed décor accents each hearty meal with with rodeo posters, wooden wagon wheels, and stuffed handlebar mustaches caught in the wild.
When customers walk into John's Rib House, the aroma alone tells them the kitchen is doing justice to barbecue. All ribs and rib tips are smoked with real hickory wood in a Southern Pride smoker for three hours, and the pulled pork stays in the smoker for 13 hours. In addition to barbecue chicken wings, Southern-style catfish, and shrimp dinners, the team piles buns with everything from Maxwell Street polish sausages to half-pound Angus burgers. For dessert, diners can order up slices of sweet-potato pie or peach cobbler to devour in the eatery's casual dining room, or carry out a whole sweet-potato pie to share with their family or a very hungry caterpillar.
Outfitted with bona fide Texan recipes and a wood-burning smoker purloined from the Lone Star State itself, Austin BBQ aims for authenticity, as evidence by its menu of regional and Texas Hill Country barbecue that recently nabbed the restaurant top honor Best New Barbecue from Chicago Magazine. Painstakingly smoked overnight, smoldering cuts of brisket ($6.95–$9.95) coast onto plates chopped, sliced, or tucked between thick slices of white bread and escorted by such savory sides as hush puppies, barbecue pit beans, and deep-fried bolo ties. Shepherd taste buds on a sweeping sojourn across the regional barbecue flavorscape, snagging bites, photos, and souvenir moist towelettes when navigating the succulent terrain pervading Alabama-style barbecue chicken breast ($6.95), Carolina-style pulled pork ($6.95–$9.95), and Tri Tip, a California delicacy served Texas-style on white bread ($7.95–$11.95).
When Travis Dickey opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in 1941, the menu offered beef brisket, pit hams, barbecued beans, potato chips, drinks, and that’s all. By focusing on perfecting the flavors of a few dishes, Travis was able to increase quality and, ultimately, the number of customers. Patrons were so enamored of the food that the restaurant eventually expanded into a nationwide franchise, allowing Americans all over to wear badges made of barbecue sauce. Dickey’s has been passed on to Travis’s sons, but not much else has changed—the quality meats are still seasoned and smoked onsite, and except for the addition of spicy cheddar sausage in 2011, the menu has remained largely the same for the last 50 years.
Regional meats ensure that the most succulent Texas-style chopped beef brisket, old-recipe polish sausage, and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs make it to tabletops. Sides such as mac 'n' cheese and green beans with bacon continue to enhance feasts with an extra punch of homestyle tastiness. Each meal comes complete with complimentary ice cream, soft rolls, and dill pickles.
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).
Sculpted around many lakes, The Village Links of Glen Ellyn's 18-hole championship course and 9-hole course fill 170 acres with a verdant landscape of challenging golf. Originally built in 1967 and renovated in 2004, the championship course has played host to 40 USGA and PGA Tour qualifying tournaments, including those for the 2012 U.S. Open and 2008 U.S. Amateur.
Sixteen waterways meander through the grounds, directly entering play on all but three holes, where they enter play indirectly by threatening to take down golf shots with troupes of flying fish. On the par 4 10th hole, players must hit a difficult tee shot onto an S-shaped fairway that weaves between two large lakes. The 18th hole, also a par 4, features a treasure trove of sunken golf balls and golf carts lurking in three lakes that surround the fairway and in one that lies right in the middle. Once safely on the greens, players putt over fast A-4 bentgrass surfaces, a key addition from the 2004 renovation.
18-Hole Course at a Glance: * Par 72 * Total length of 7,208 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 74.9 from the back tees * Course slope of 138 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole * Scorecard
9-Hole Course at a Glance: * Par 36 * Total length of 3,303 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 35.7 from the back tees * Course slope of 129 from the back tees * Three sets of tees per hole * Scorecard