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.
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.
It takes at least a day to prepare every meal at Smokin' Woody's. After it's sourced from a local, family-owned business, each piece of meat gets rubbed with a signature spice mix. Then it's left to sit in the kitchen overnight, where it absorbs all those the flavors and spreads gossip about who has the best marbling. Next, the meat is smoked in-house over crackling hickory logs, seared on a grill, and served with spoonfuls of sauce. This process may sound simple, but each slab of meat also has its own designated cooking time and prep techniques. The popular pulled pork, for example, is smoked for 12 hours before it's pulled by hand and paired with classic sides, such as baked beans and coleslaw.
The menu also spotlights expertly charred burgers, spicy pork sausages, and slabs of ribs. Those who want to sample multiple meats can order a combo meal or family dinner, bookended by a bowl of homemade smoked chicken noodle soup and a homemade dessert, such as apple pie or homemade coconut custard pie.
Unlike many barbecue aficionados, pit master Jared Leonard focuses on creating the perfect dry rub rather than devoting all his efforts to sauces. A product of years of research and pleasant taste testing, his secret dry rub includes a blend of 14 seasonings designed to sit with the meat for 24 hours prior to being slowly smoked to perfection. The blend works its magic on all of Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse's meats, which include pulled pork, sliced brisket, and smoked ribs. The housemade sauces—smoky and sweet, citrus chipotle, and smoked jalapeño pepper—complement the dry-rubbed flavor and are served on the side so that patrons can use half for their meat and half to gel their mustaches. Patrons may also supplement their meals with made-from-scratch side dishes including truffle mac 'n' cheese and custard-filled corn bread.
Framed movie posters and classic rock records line the peach and yellow walls at El’s Kitchen, a DePaul-area eatery that serves up American comfort cuisine alongside local and imported brews and handmade cocktails from the tidy wooden bar. The cozy interior shrouds diners in a web of free WiFi and the seasonal patio encourages outdoor fork duels during the warmer months. The menu brims with savory offerings in the form of whole-wheat mac ‘n’ cheese and El’s southern fried chicken. Youngsters revel in their choice of a trio of kid-friendly meals, and adults can swill sips of craft suds or fittingly monikered cocktails such as the azure-tinted Blue Velvet or the ’80s classic Breakfast Club.