Here's the thing about Famous Dave: he wasn't always famous. Dave Anderson inherited his passion for barbecue from his father, a humble construction worker who knew where to find the best barbecue on Chicago's street corners. In 1994, Dave opened his first barbecue shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, and before long, the shack was attracting 5,000 customers weekly?a momentous feat considering Hayward had a population of 1,800. Dave's lifelong pursuit of barbecue perfection had certainly paid off. It gave him a new life's work to be proud of. And, of course, a new first name to put on his passport.
With locations now spread across the U.S., Canada, and even Puerto Rico, Famous Dave's has become a revelation for barbecue fans. It has earned more than 700 awards, including first-place honors for its ribs, wings, and sauces. Most of these awards have Famous Dave's cooking process to thank. For every batch, pitmasters hand-rub high-quality cuts and cook them for hours at a time in live-wood smokers, taking care to not disturb the dragons napping between the logs. For Famous Dave's renowned ribs, the process has an extra step after the smoker, as each rack gets tossed on a grill to caramelize the sauces before serving.
Bill and Amy Wesolowski were no strangers to barbecue when they opened their restaurant. After all, they'd been grilling up mountainous platters of ribs, pulled pork, and grilled chicken at local parties and special events since 2008. Within their cheerful, sunlit joint, the seasoned caterers and skilled barbecue chefs whip up their signature dishes, along with southern-style sides of barbecue beans, collard greens, and coleslaw. The duo even accommodates vegetarians with meat-free menu selections, unlike other barbecue venues that require vegetarians to wear an itchy wreath of string beans around their necks. Plates pair with bottles of beer as they sit atop the white-cloth tables of the casual dining room, where colorful photographs and drawings of jazz instruments adorn the walls.
Equipped with plenty of televisions and a menu of palate-pleasing favorites, Buffalo Sports Garden provides fans with a superb viewing environment for games big and small. Kick things off with banana peppers stuffed with three-cheese filling ($7.99), or choose from among four different specialty jumbo wings ($9.99 for 10, $13.99 for 20). Custom-built burgers (starting at $8.49) allow protein Picassos to decorate sirloin canvases with a palette of different cheeses and toppings, and a plain personal pizza ($4.99) allows cheese Caravaggios to paint with toppings such as bacon and mushrooms ($1.00 each). Herbivores can graze on grilled veggie pasta, an amalgamation of red bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and broccoli ($7.50).
What started as a single corner pizza shop has expanded into a dozen Just Pizza outposts that dish out over 75 varieties of pizzas. Offerings include innovative combos such as the chicken club with bacon and Virginia ham and the shrimp scampi with sweet peppers. Even classic recipes get a twist from surprising toppings. For example, the Hawaiian delights those expecting just ham and pineapple with maraschino cherries and sliced almonds. The rest of the menu features a smattering of subs and salads, as well as chicken wings glazed with interesting sauces such as blackberry bbq and spicy orange. And for the sophisticated palate, Just Pizza even offers a page on their website with suggestions for what wine and what formal bib goes best with each of their styles of pizza.
Buffalo Street Grill's gastronomic gurus assemble a menu of sandwiches and classic steak-house dishes. Conjure absent appetites with starters such as shrimp and crab dip ($8.50), whose namesake duo unites with a light dijon cheese sauce and slices of baguette. Stacks of Boar's Head turkey, provolone cheese, and banana peppers adorn the turkey ciabatta's ($7.50) roll, and The Roseann ($6) turns the homey ideals of a classic BLT on its head with basil aioli. Instead of brandishing a large and cumbersome spear, twirl the angel-hair pasta from shrimp with lobster sauce ($14) around conveniently provided fork tines. Table denizens can also sharpen teeth on a 10-ounce Black Angus steak as it muscles its way past pesky hunger pangs to silence noisy stomachs.