"You will have fun here." That's the prediction of one Shepherd Express writer who visited Ashley's Que, a Walker's Point barbecue joint operated by a trio of seasoned pit-masters. It's true, the atmosphere here seems geared toward laid-back fun; blues songs drift from the speakers, guests sip draft beer next to a fieldstone fireplace, and bartenders mix drinks such as the nutmeg-laced bourbon milk punch. And we haven't even gotten to the food yet.
This is definitely comfort food. Stacks of tender, saucy ribs and piles of beef brisket fill diners' plates, accompanied by sides such as deep-fried corn on the cob or twice-baked potatoes. Although most of the menu sticks to barbecue classics, there are some outliers, including the gyro sandwich.
Recognized as one of Milwaukee's favorite barbecue joints, Double B's BBQ & Burgers' pit masters oversee the slow-and-low-smoked cuts daily. The tender meats—available with or without house-made barbecue sauce—include half chickens or baby back ribs and are always served with cornbread, honey butter, pickles, and a choice of two sides.
In their native Sparta, Kallianis siblings Dino, George, and Renee grew up milking cows, pressing oil from olives, and finding that night?s greens in the soil, inspiring a life-long passion for organic cooking. It wasn?t until the family immigrated to Illinois that they discovered another love: Creolo cooking. According to a piece in The Chicago Tribune, the Kallianis clan befriended a pair of Louisiana natives who helped the siblings learn English and introduced them to their first taste of southern-style comfort foods such as barbecue, jambalaya, and crawfish po?boys, inspiring Dino Kallianis to promise to one day open a restaurant in their honor. That restaurant became Captain Porky?s, an establishment that combines the low country flavors the Kallianis kids grew to appreciate with the farm-to-table philosophy of their youth. Locally-grown produce joins wild fish and olive oil imported from the family?s fields in Sparta, yielding platters of walleye pike and king crab or po? boys filled with catfish. For their barbecue dishes, they slow-smoke ribs, chicken, beef brisket, and pulled pork over a pit of dry-rotted red oak wood before slathering each cut in homemade barbecue sauce and pairing them with homemade dinner rolls or cornbread. There?s also homemade baklava, made by their mother Nota, as well as an ever-changing line-up of specials that at any given time could include a beef stroganoff made with wild foraged mushrooms or whitefish Rockefeller, a dish named for it?s popularity amongst New York?s most elite ice skaters.
Simplicity and quality meet in The Full Slab's choice-cut meats, which absorb the rich flavors of house-made marinades, six barbecue sauces, and hand-blended dry rubs. The aroma of flame-smacked, made-from-scratch pulled pork, brisket, and ribs, as well as seafood and pasta plates, fills the eatery. Diners can also take in a game on one of The Full Slab's big-screen TVs while enjoying a hand-crafted cocktail or cold beer from its well-stocked bar.
Since 1987, Fodrak's Gyros & Ribs has carved out a niche with every slice of its signature gyro, earning the Pioneer Press’s Best of Lake County award as the Best Place for Gyros four years running. Their chefs build innovative dishes from the classic greek staple, piling it onto gyros pizzas and slam-dunking it onto gyros cheeseburgers. Not to be upstaged, the menu’s supporting cast can also hold its own. Cooks drench baby-back ribs in barbecue sauce, hand cut french fries, and assemble Chicago-style hot dogs topped with all manner of fixings. Their culinary creativity extends to their six varieties of baked potato, which include spuds capped with gyros and sauce or bacon and cheese. Like the finale of the Nutcracker, traditionally performed on candy flutes, dinners end on a sweet note, with desserts such as banana shakes and homemade baklava.
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.