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Posts Tagged ‘baked beans’

There are two good reasons to drive out to Naperville: Ribfest and……… well, if anyone can think of another reason let me know. At the ripe old age of just over 2 months, Yuki and I thought it was high time that Otis experience the finer pleasures in gastronomy. So, off to Naperville we went.

Being a veteran of Naperville Ribfest I remember two pitmasters providing ribs that are a cut above the rest. Pigfoot is one of them, but the line to get their swine popsicles was insane! The other was Mojo’s, and their line was much shorter, only 5 people in front of me. Still, the line took about 20 minutes to get my ribs! They really cut back on the hired hands this year, and it really hurt the overall experience.

However, once we got our Mojo on things were all right! Juicy and tender with a nice amount of hickory, Mojo’s does a really nice job with their ribs. To make sure we got a little something extra in our stomachs I got the beans and slaw as well. Standard beans and slaw, but let’s be honest here, it’s not the Naperville Beans and Slaw Fest!

As we were Mojo all over our faces our friends Tony and Sandra found us. They headed off to get some ribs as well. Sandra got her Mojo on while Tony braved the line at Pigfoot. When he finally got back with those ribs I remembered why they have the longest line. Their ribs are fantastic! I’m not sure I’d call them light-years ahead of Mojo’s, but they do have a certain joie de vivre about them.

Ready for another flavor of ribs I set out to find my calling. Not quite sure where to wait in line, I noticed behind Sgt Oinks a short, stout woman with a mullet ponytail working amongst the pitmasters. That, to me, says BBQ! Mullet ponytail it is. I’m glad I went there too as I don’t remember eating their ribs at past fests, but I do remember seeing their booth. Their ribs themselves were the meatiest of the bunch, which was nice. Their sauce was very cuminy, which is not a bad thing at all. I also got one of their sweet cornbread muffins as they were advertised as “The best north of the Mason-Dixon Line”. I wouldn’t put them above Mojo’s or Pigfoot, but they weren’t far behind either. Ideally I’d put Sgt Oink’s ribs with Mojo’s hickory smoke and Pigfoot’s sauce. Now that would be a Naperville Ribfest champion!

A fresh squeezed lemonade (all for the low low price of $6!) to wash it all down and we were ready to head back to the City. I only wish they had a different music schedule because Bruce Hornsby is playing today. We were stuck with some pretty awful and loud music. I think they were called  “The Sweetwater Band”. Honestly, they’re no better than the bands I was in back in college! That’s not saying much.

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Let’s be honest here…is there anything more fun that getting up at the crack of dawn, driving down to Mt Vernon with your younger bro, picking up a 16 foot truck, driving it to Carbondale, spending the weekend going through boxes and boxes of storage while trying to convince your step-father that he doesn’t really need all of those Oriental Rugs, driving the truck back to Chicago loaded up with furniture and dishes, and unloading everything into an empty garage? Obviously, this is a facetious question. There is one saving grace to the whole journey though…17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro! If you are a fan of slow smoked, meaty swine lollipops like myself then this is your Mecca! Ode to Mike Mills and his grandma’s BBQ recipes!

Mike Mills has won numerous Memphis-in-May BBQ contests and is now a judge since no one seems able to beat his ribs. I blogged a while back about one of the outposts he opened up in Vegas, but this is the real deal. This is the place that happy dreams are made of. I’d walk on my hands and knees in 5 feet of snow all the way to 17th Street just to get a taste of these ribs!

Since I’m not a huge man (except where it counts!) my mom and I split a full rack but got extra sides. She loves their sweet potatoes baked with butter and cinnamon. Really, who wouldn’t? I love his BBQ baked beans. Again, who wouldn’t?

We also got some slaw to help push the meal through our entrails as well as some french fries to give me my carbs. Dr Atkins is an idiot! A meal without carbs is no meal at all.

It’s hard to tell from my phone pic, but just look at how juicy, pink, and tender that meat-stick is! It’s things like this that makes me proud to be an atheist with no nonsensical dietary laws written 3,000 years ago to live my life by. We are but animals, why deprive us of life’s simple pleasures like being atop the food-chain with the ability to season, sauce, and smoke? Ah, the philosophy of ribs, truly a religion worthwhile!

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My buddy Nick has been harping on me for a while to check out this rib place next to his apartment. With no real dinner plan last night, combined with my ride home from a haircut, I took advantage of having Honey 1 BBQ in my crosshairs. On a cold night made even colder from having my natural fur hat trimmed back some bone stickin ribs sounded about right.

I walked in the front door and went down the hallway to order up my ribs. Huge menus on the wall, didn’t need to look though, I knew was I was getting.

I ordered 2 full slabs that each came with some cole slaw, french fries (they were underneath the ribs), and two slices of white bread. I also got some baked beans, some fiber to help all moving parts move.

It took about 15 minutes to get my food, and that’s fine because it gave me a chance to read all of the articles written about them on their wall. Seems Robert Adams is a firm believer in the slow food movement, especially with something like tender smoked pork ribs. He only cooks a night’s worth of business each day so nothing sits out. He uses a small glass-walled smoker with a variety of wood chips. The sauce is made fresh as well. He doesn’t used the baby back ribs that are so popular, he uses spare ribs and gets just the right amount of smoke to cut through that fat but still be able to taste all of the juicy morsels of pig.

When I got them home I slathered some of the BBQ sauce all over the ribs. It’s nice, not too spicy, not too vinegary, a nicely balanced sauce. Since the fries got a little greasy from resting under the ribs I put them in the toaster. That crisped them right up. The ribs were outstanding. Being spare ribs and not baby backs they weren’t quite as tender, but they were moist and tasted fantastic. The only real problem I could find is that they are much bigger than I thought they’d be. I figured that two slabs would cover us both for dinner last night and lunch today. Well, lunch was a few hours ago and while Yuki and I each ate more ribs today, I still have a full slab in the fridge. I think I’ll make a pork rib chili or something with them.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying they arer the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, or even the best in Chicago (I think Smoque still has that honor), but they are definitely in the conversation. I would happily fill myself with Honey 1 BBQ ribs and then do it all over again.

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My buddy Nimah has been in town and finally made a little time to see Yuki and I Sunday night for dinner. His wife and brother were supposed to join us, but they both backed out. It’s nice to know where we stand on their totem pole (I’ll remember this Lora and Ramin!). At any rate, for the past couple of weeks all he’s been talking about was Smoque. “Yo Twig”. He’s been calling me Twig since high school. “How’s Smoque?” I just kept telling him that it’s hands down the best BBQ in Chicago, maybe even the best BBQ north of Mason-Dixon Line. It’s at least the best BBQ Brisket north of Texas. Honestly, I haven’t even eaten it’s equal in Texas, although I’ve only had a couple of BBQ Briskets there.

So he got there early, which is quite amazing. He’s notoriously late (no, he’s not pregnant, but he does have three testicles…all Iranians have three testicles, just ask him) and I’m notoriously punctual. We were supposed to meet at 7 and he got there at 6:40. I was just about to hop on the highway and he called. “Twig, there’s a friggin line down the street!”. That should have been a sign to him that I’m not the only one who thinks Smoque is the best. That worked well for us since he got to wait in line for us. When we showed up, it wasn’t too bad. They do a pretty good job of keeping the line moving.

He kept asking me what to order, and I kept telling him to get the sliced brisket sandwich. Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever gotten there other than the chili made with their brisket. I have to imagine that their ribs are pretty damn good too, but I’ve never had them. Always skeptical he asked one of the guys who works there. Of course, he said, “Get the brisket”. Just goes to show that I’m always right.

After about a half hour wait, not too bad, we ordered our food and got our seats. Besides sliced brisket they also do a chopped brisket. Yuki and I decided to try the chopped, so we got one of each and split them. I have to say, I think the chopped may even be better! You get more of the charred outside, and that has a ton of flavor. But, the sliced has more of the fat. You really can’t go wrong either way. All sandwiches come with a side of slaw. Theirs is nice because it’s just vinegar, no mayonnaise. That helps keep it light and helps you digest all of the delicious smoked carcass. I’m a mac’n’cheese guy, so I usually get that for my side. They have a great mac’n’cheese. Yuki got the fries. They cut their own potatoes and they keep the oil hot enough to cook them properly. Nimah got the baked beans. Simple BBQ beans, but their sauce makes them stand above the rest.

Oh, I should back up a bit in the story. While we were waiting for our food to be called at our seats one of the owners brought the people next to us some fresh made ginger cookies. I didn’t know why at the time (turns out they wanted some cobbler but Smoque was out, so they brought them some complimentary cookies) but anyone who knows me knows that I’m not shy. I said to the owner, “We have some problems with our food too, do we get cookies?” I was completely joking because we haven’t gotten our food yet. He said, “Sure, I’ll get you some cookies”. I told him I was just kidding, but he said they had more and it was no problem. Moral of that story, it pays to be an obnoxious extrovert with no shame!

Wanting to try their pulled pork, but only having one stomach each, Yuki and I brought a couple of sandwiches home for lunch today. Beautiful! Absolutely lovely. Every bit the brisket’s equal. Well, I think I’d still get the chopped brisket over the pulled pork, but there isn’t a better tasting pig-which in town! The cornbread also held up to a night in the fridge. It was relatively moist all things considered.

All in all, if you haven’t made it to Smoque yet then you really need to. That is unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan. In which case you and I must have a sit down. Vegetarian meals are important, but only on Meatless Monday. Every other day of the week Smoque makes a tasty and inexpensive option to fill your guts.

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The only other meal worth blogging about from our trip last week was our final dinner. We used Las Vegas as our start and stop point simply because the cheapest flights were to Vegas and we were able to make a nice circle out of there. Anyone who knows me has heard me tout the brilliance of Mike Mills’ ribs. He’s the owner of 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL. When my mom and step-dad attended law school at SIU they turned me on to his ribs. He’s a 5 time rib champion of the Memphis in May BBQ contest, 2 of those times also taking the Grand Champion trophy. Bon Appetit Magazine has him ranked right at the top of BBQ Ribs. For whatever reason, he opened up 3 locations in Vegas and named them Memphis Championship BBQ. I was looking forward to those ribs to close out the trip ever since we booked the flights.

We started off with a jar of beer each and some rolls with honey butter.

Slabs and half slabs of ribs each come with two sides. We quickly realized that it’s cheaper to share a slab and then order two extra sides, which still turned out to be a bit too much food for us. Also, the sides aren’t all the same price. So, we included fried okra and steamed vegetables with the slab since they were the two most expensive and then added an order of mashed potatoes and, what BBQ meal is complete without them, baked beans. The okra came with a dipping sauce made with Mike’s famous Magic Dust, a spice blend recipe handed down to him from his grandmother. The vegetables were simply a mixed bowl of steamed vegetables. The potatoes had bacon them as well as Magic Dust in the gravy. And the baked beans also had bacon as well as his BBQ sauce.

On to the ribs. A nice full slab of slow-smoked baby backs. We got there at about 9:30 at night and our ribs were probably at their peak about 6:30-7ish. They were slightly dry, but still fantastic! Still better than any other rib you’ll get at a restaurant. We devoured those meat popsicle about as well as any vulture could. MMMMMMMM!

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