Growing up, summer in Chicago meant one thing to Joe: barbecue. Members of his extended family spent the season gathered around the grill, slow-smoking meats as they vied for pitmaster status. Joe draws on their perfected recipes at Ribs To Spare, which specializes in combination platters of smoked meats such as pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken, and tri-tip steak. Sides such as potato salad and collard greens complement each saucy plate, and desserts such as sweet-potato pie and peach cobbler bring meals to a rich close.
In addition to takeout, Ribs To Spare caters celebrations with personalized feasts ranging from barbecue buffets to prix fixe dinners. With his mobile smoker trailer in tow, Joe has previously organized meals for Warner Bros., Disney, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
It didn’t take long for Brian Kozak to discover his passion for food: at the age of three, after he first tried shrimp cocktail and crème brulee, he would spend hours leafing through cookbooks and family recipes in his parents’ kitchen. His fascination with food led him to build an impressive culinary resume: after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, Brian spent four years cooking for Bon Appetit, opened his own catering company, and learned how to fold a puff pastry according to army-bed making standards. Today, he demonstrates his culinary prowess as the resident Chef at Sage Restaurant and Lounge. Kozak’s influences span the globe: try the Spanish saffron paella with chorizo and shrimp, or any of six 10-inch pizzas. The dining room also has global flair, from its Tuscan yellow walls to its terra cotta tile floors.
At Joey's Bar-B-Q, charcoal, mesquite, and hickory woods join forces with USDA Choice meats, and 25 years of family recipes to create a menu dripping with smoky, saucy, Texas flavors. Torture taste buds on a rack of smoked baby back pork ribs, served with a choice of baked potato, yam, or charbroiled vegetable kabob ($21.95 for dinner). Or, sate the most demanding of carnivorous claws by opting for The Works––a heaping helping of ham, beef, chicken, beef ribs, pork ribs, and country-style sausage links, lacking only in its absence of bacon ($27). Those who prefer their sauce in a glass rather than on their hands can augment a 12-ounce USDA Choice filet mignon ($28.50) with one of the restaurant's many beers, many of which are procured from local breweries, or plucked straight from L.A.'s natural beer fields.
For many, a love of barbecue begins and ends at eating it. But Johnny Walker took his love a step farther by creating his own signature brand of sauces. They add an extra kick to pulled pork, rib tips, and turkey, all of which Johnny slow-smokes at J & J's BBQ & Fish alongside fellow pitmaster Joe Draper. They let diners pair their southern-style barbecue with sides such as slaw, potato salad, and hush puppies, so named for the quiet passion with which dogs eat them. The Louisiana natives also draw from the flavors of their home state to create seafood specialties that include po’ boys made with shrimp, oysters, or tilapia, as well as platters centered on fresh catches of red snapper and catfish.
Smoke sultan Robin Salzer enraptures senses with his menu of American barbecue and homemade sauces dished out in a whimsically decorated dining space. In blanketing his four-ton smoker with apple and oak wood-chips, Robin appeases swine-centric palates with favorites such as the Carolina pork plate ($13.95) or the wood-fired smoked pork chop ($15.95). Slather one of four signature sauces onto meat racks of baby back ribs ($17.95+), spareribs ($13.95+), and beef ribs ($13.95+) or eschew meat for stylish swim caps while diving into plates of Louisiana barbecue shrimp ($18.95). Southern-inspired sweet treats, such as Mom's fruit cobbler ($3.95) or killer slabs of carrot cake ($5.75) cap off satiating meals, as diners pay homage to Q-master Salzer with a frothy toast of beer ($4+) or handshake of fresh lemonade ($3.25).