BYOB at Honky Tonk BBQ

 After a long day of moving couches with my brother, we were up for a big meal.  I've been meaning to try Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen, and since I live closeby, we were on our way.  Being on 18th Street, there was ample parking, and their entrance is definitely an eye catcher- a single door ensconced in red and yellow paint, flames, and bright light.  I had a feeling we were in for a meaty experience!

We immediately walked in on their carryout area, and I started to salivate with the smell of spicy barbeque.  They have seating in three rooms: a dining room with local paintings, a bar area with booths and live music, and there are a couple of booths near the entrance. 

Another great feature is they are BYOB- but you better hurry because they have applied for their liquor license!  We brought some Bohemia lager, a Mexican beer with a slight malty, hoppy flavor, and a lightness to not overpower the barbeque.  Your waitress will bring an opener and icebucket as soon as you are ready to start cracking them open! 

Next we were onto the food.  We decided on the Sampler Platter: half slab of ribs, half BBQ chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, a hot link, 2 corn muffins, cole slaw and baked beans.  We also wanted to start with something, so the waitress talked us into their chili mac- this was actually our favorite!  The chili was thick, flavorful and beefy, with beans, tomatoes, and even some deliciously smokey beef brisket mixed in.  It was topped off with mac & cheese- curly pastas coated with sharp and tangy cheese sauce.  We loved it.  Not soon after, our combo came out.  We were in for a big meaty treat as we could sample all that they had to offer.  We could pair them with three housemade sauces: a garlic sauce, a tangy sauce, and sweet sauce.  I like to mix the garlic and tangy together.  The chicken was moist, but the dark meat was undercooked.  This can be tricky, as white and dark meat are better at different temperatures.  The hot link was excellent- a smokey, spicy sausage with crisp skin and porky presence.  Both the pulled pork and beef brisket were slightly smokey, tender, and full of flavor.  The ribs were a bit disappointing, as they were really dry and clinging to the bones, but the dry rub was really nice- the perfect blend of spice and flavor, though I like to make my home rub with a touch of sweetness.  I really liked the taste of the baked beans, as they had pork rich flavor, and the touch of sweetness I was looking for.  Overall, I think their barbeque is quite good, and I would like to give their ribs another chance.

I really want to go out and check out their space on the weekend when it's rockin' out to some honky tonk.  It looks awful cozy and I'll bet it's a great time!  Also, I think I came to the right place, as one of my old friends left his mark- Guy Fieri.  I will be sure to look for Honky Tonk featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives- it's great to see so many Chicago joints on Guy's radar.  Make sure to grab your kids, bibs, and boots for a smokey BBQ time!

Windy City Wine Guy Meets Guy Fieri

img_1210I recently had the pleasure of meeting Guy Fieri of the hit Food Network TV show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (also known as DDD).  I was not only excited to see Guy, but also the place he was taping an episode at- The Depot American Diner on the west side.  I have heard great things about this spot, but hadn't yet made my way out to visit.

I am a huge fan of Guy's show because it has foods that make my mouth water, excellent homemade preparations, spots that locals love (some with long traditions), and real chefs with personality and enthusiasm.  Now, alot of the food can appear rather rich (maybe even unhealthy?), but everything in moderation my friends.  I still had a few questions however- how do they pick the restaurants?  How many do they hear about?  How many actually make the cut?  What is Guy's favorite beverage?

First thing I want to say is that Guy is a real guy, a man's man.  He knows how to be funny and entertaining, but also genuine.  It is no secret why he has multiple TV shows- he has a boisterous personality and commands attention.  So img_1213what if he eats foods that would give a cow a coronary?  So what if he wears sunglasses on the back of his head or wears the same clothes your nephew does?  The guy has style.  Did you see his car?!

Listening to Guy talk about the restaurants on DDD gives you a sense of his passion and integrity.  Hundreds of places are submitted to appear on the show, but only 1 out of about 80 make it.  There are many requirements.  It has to be a diner, drive-in or dive.  It has to serve food that people love and rave about- this is how they get Guy's attention in the first place.  Then come the specifics: you have to make a majority of your food homemade and fresh.  This means alot of prep- stocks, sauces, doughs, beans, etc.  Also, it means alot of fresh ingredients.  They may make scale tipping cuisines, but alot of it is natural, and there is also alot of care involved.  He also likes the owners and chefs to have personality- love what you do!

img_1203Now a bit about The Depot.  The place is owned by Robert Nava, former executive chef of img_1204The Signature Room and Hard Rock Hotel.  Robert is originally from the Bronx, where the idea for his delicious egg cream beverages comes from.  The decor is old school diner look- red  leatherette booths and counter seats, old diner photos, all classicly created by Robert and his wife Anamarie.  The place also boasts awesome breakfast, donuts, soups, pot roast sandwich, blue plate specials, and desserts.  Take a short ride west and give this lively spot a try!

img_1209I did get a chance to ask Guy about his beverage likes.  Besides malts and shakes, we don't img_1206normally get to see or hear Guy talk about this subject.  He is a huge wine fan and agrees that it is the best drink with a meal.  But he also loves Pabst Blue Ribbon and Buleit Bourbon.  Those are definitely Guy drinks!

A Napa Must Stop: Taylor's Automatic Refresher

Going from winery to winery in Napa can be a bit draining.  Travel, heat, and wine does make one a bit tired.  Refreshment is just what the doctor calls for, and there is none better than Taylor's Automatic Refresher.

My wife and I found out about this hotspot from Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network.  We decided to dig into a wide array of what they had to offer.  We split an Ahi Burger, which came out medium rare on an egg bun topped with slaw.  Delicious.  We later split a Western Bacon Blue Ring Burger- a large beef patty topped with bacon, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring filled with blue cheese!  The garlic fries were thin and a bit soggy, but the beer batter onion rings are perfect.  You can wash all of this down with California's best shake or a wide array of local wines.  Buon Appetito!