A few days ago, a good friend posted photos of rather appetizing barbecue dishes on her Facebook page. Come to find out that it was at a restaurant that her cousin owns. I was excited until I saw that it was in the far South Suburbs. That meant driving through downtown Chicago’s mixing bowl, which is a test of your patience and the soundproofing in your car to mute the screaming. But the food looked so good. So, I dashed through the mixing bowl and way off the map to get some sauce on my fingers.
Recently, an individual who has been following Chicago Alphabet Soup’s Facebook page sent a fantastic list of restaurants that would be a fit for the blog. There were several ethnic restaurants that are now on the list for sampling so that they may get press on the blog. And then there were a few like Lone Star BBQ Bar that left me hankering for a little Down South eating.
A friend who was in Chicago briefly and a mutual friend who jokingly inquires as to whether his plate is ready met with me at Lone Star BBQ Bar at 3350 N. Harlem Avenue. Completely devoid of pretense and fancy presentation, if the smell doesn’t win you over, I fear you may not be in the correct place. Since the three of us are individuals with amped-up appetites, we had a go of several menu items.
While snacking on the complimentary pickled pickles, peppers, carrots, and onions, the first small dish to land on the table was a platter of onion rings with a barbecue sauce and a spicy mayo sauce for dipping. Unlike the “essence of onion rings” purchased from the frozen section at the local market with nothing but crust and imitation onion flakes, these were real onions in a perfect batter. The dipping sauces were considerably better options than usual ketchup.
The second small plate was frito pie. This deep dish consisted of well-seasoned ground beef topped with fritos that were topped with healthy helpings of tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream. Texas came to Chicago and three sets of teeth gnashed away at this dish until the server exclaimed, “I do declare,” when all she saw left were a smear of gravy and a few corn chip crumbs.
By now we figured we’d work our way into the barbecue part of the menu. We ordered barbecue wings. Now was our turn to say, “I do declare.” The wings were plump, bursting with each bite. Not only was the barbecue delicious in a tangy sense, but these were not just bland grilled chicken wings with sauce on them. These were well worth the barbecue sauce all over our fingers, on our chins, and dabs here and there on our cheeks.
One friend ordered a double-decker beef burger with a side of macaroni and cheese and a side of fries. The burger had been topped with onion rings and he applied a house made sauce to the sandwich before going to work on it. There was very little conversation from him after he put the napkin across the front of his shirt. That was code for “This is what’s going to happen.” Understood.
The remaining two of us at the table ordered half slabs of baby back ribs with sides of baked beans, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. The ribs were grilled Texas style such that they didn’t fall off the bone, yet they weren’t tough either. They were just right, said Goldilocks. How we managed to finish all the food that we ate escapes me. Then again, we do become lumberjacks over plates of food after we leave our office jobs.
Anyone who wants a taste of Texas while in Chicago will enjoy the offerings at Lone Star BBQ Bar. The restaurant is not a gimmick. The preparation of the meat is one indicator. Listening to one of the restaurant staff members explain how they prepare the sausages also gave indication that they’re not buying meats from the grocery store and heating it up either. They’re getting it fresh from a butcher. If you want a laid back dining experience without the shame of getting barbecue sauce all over the place, make your way to Lone Star BBQ Bar. Yawl, hear?