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.
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.
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.
When the first Carson's opened its doors in 1977, it was far from the only barbecue joint in the Chicagoland area. Yet the quality of its tasty, smoky barbecue is proven by the fact that it?s still gaining accolades from the press more than 30 years later.
At the Carson's in Milwaukee, the menu, remains as it has always been?offering tender cuts of barbecued meat. Churning out everything from baby-back ribs and barbecued shrimp to grilled prime new york strip or prime rib, Carson's grills and smokers never stop working. In fact, the barbecued-beef sandwiches boast brisket that simmers in flavorful smoke for a whole 24 hours.
When paired with blues chords, the smell of barbecue sauce transcends the normal sensory experience. Housemade dry rubs and sauces sink into smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, baby back ribs as the meat smokes slowly over a mix of hickory and applewood chips. Blues Bar masters this ethereal combination of soulful sounds and soul food, coupling weekends of live music with saucy ribs and sides of honey-chipotle corn bread and homemade fries. Inside the lofted dining room, tables look down onto the bar and its 24 HDTV screens that play live sporting events. Also you can find well over 75 plus craft bottled beers and 20 continually rotated draft craft beers. The blues joint’s decor pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chicago icons the Blues Brothers with a larger-than-life mural of the smart-suited duo and a full-sized vintage squad car in which John Belushi’s hat was once arrested for armed robbery.
Seekers of authentic Italian foodstuffs will find their fixes at Stashs, a 43-year-old Highland Park mainstay known for its varied menu filled with tasty fries, gourmet sandwiches ($9.99–14.99), baby-back ribs, and more. Guido’s, a pizza and pasta bar inside Stashs’s protective biosphere, pairs freshly cut, customizable pasta dishes soaked in homemade sauces with flavor-packed dough disks cooked in a traditional brick oven. Intercept a mozzarella-strewn margherita pie ($9.99) right as it leaves its peel, or juggle a plate of beef ribs ($14.99–18.99) while balancing Guido’s own mozzarella, spinach, and red-pepper aoli sandwich ($9.99) on your favorite nostril. A bright, open space accented with lustrous wood floors and colorful chairs, Stashs sets the mood for romantic comedy reenactments or spaghetti western after parties.