Lone Star BBQ Bar, Howdy Texas

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.

Lone Star BBQ Bar

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.

Pickled Vegetables

Pickled Pickles, Peppers, Carrots, and Onions

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.

Onion Straws

Onion Straw

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.

Fritos Pie

Frito Pie

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.

Barbecue Chicken Wings

Barbecue Chicken Wings

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.

Double Decker Beef Burger with Mac and Cheese

Double-Decker Beef Burger with Mac and Cheese

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.

Beef Ribs, Baked Beans, Biscuit, Slaw

Baby Back Ribs, Baked Beans, Biscuit, and Slaw

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?
Lone Star BBQ Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friendship to Be, Lao You Ju

Lao You Ju

A few years ago, I left a company that was couched in political maneuvering and led by a chief executive officer who let it be known that the employees’ “measly” 2% pay increases were a small sacrifice — so that the Board of Directors could get their 25% pay increases. It was on to another company that was couched even deeper in political madness with a revolving door of contractors and permanent employees who came and went, and a management staff that consisted of supervisors and managers in title only. About two years ago, there began flight from the latter company and recently the company had a reduction in workforce. Several of us who had become good friends while working together had fled and we all remained in touch. We decided that it was time for a gathering. You can never have a proper reunion without food. And with one of us knowing the owner of one of Chicago’s most popular Chinese restaurants, a date was set and there were a Chinese, an African-American, an Indian, a West Indian, and a Filipino walking into Lao You Ju at 2002 S. Wentworth Avenue in Chicago’s Chinatown. Sounds like the introduction to a joke, right? No, it was just five former colleagues gathering for laughter and some authentic Chinese food.

Satay Chicken

Satay Chicken

Preserved Egg Pork Congee

Preserved Egg Pork Congee

Lao You Ju boasts a swell menu of dim sum, Hong Kong style. There are indeed some exotic menu items that the modest palate may find visually intriguing, but not necessarily tasteful. For the five of us who had gathered, our palates are varied, so we played it safely while indulging one or two items that are more commonplace in the Chinese culinary space. Because we had opted mostly for dim sum, we started with satay chicken and preserved egg pork congee. Satay chicken is nothing more than well-seasoned chicken skewered onto wooden sticks. Many of you will have had satay chicken with peanut sauce at Thai restaurants. There was no sauce with the dish at Lao You Ju, as it was rather flavourful sans it. The congee came in a communal size bowl, rice porridge for an insatiable appetite. We filled our cups and went to work.

Cheese Rolls with Shrimp

Cheese Rolls with Shrimp

Shumai

Shumai

While talking about another former colleague who used to take random vacations “off the books” and then return 3 to 4 weeks later as though it was “only a thing,” there arrived cheese rolls with shrimp and shumai. The cheese rolls were like crispy egg rolls that encased cream cheese and plump shrimp. At a lot of Americanized Chinese restaurants, some syrupy dipping sauce would have accompanied the rolls. For those of us at the table, we were quite glad to not have some side order usurping the flavour of the rolls with a punch of unnecessary sweetness. Along with the cheese rolls with shrimp came some shumai. Having forgotten that pork was a heavy staple in the Chinese diet, we tackled them anyway. Rather than requesting that the recipe be modified and erasing authenticity, we gobbled the shumai without complaint — and then realized after we had completed them that we didn’t dunk them in any sauce before devouring them.

Jin-Sha Shrimp

Jin-Sha Shrimp

Crispy Papaya Pastry

Crispy Papaya Pastry

We laughed about how the business analysts, Business Intelligence analysts, and quality assurance team could never seem to work as good as they could have together thanks to interference from management and the fact that information technology is becoming more about service than it is about solutions. Right about this time was when we got to indulge ourselves in some jin-sha shrimp. General chicken what? Kung pao chicken what? Beef with broccoli what? I am in love with this whole concept of fried corn with peppers and breaded shrimp. Put some orange chicken in front of me and I will be inclined to throw it against the wall. To make matters ever more tastefully exciting, there were crispy papaya pastry served. They looked way too twee to have experienced the grinding of our teeth on them. The natural sweetness of the papaya made them that more pleasing to the palates because we got to taste the fruit in all of its bloom.

Beef Tripe

Beef Tripe

Lamb Hot Sizzling Plate

Lamb Hot Sizzling Plate

Two weeks after I had left the company, I got a text message from one of my friends who was at dim sum lunch with us. He had left to go abroad to get married and to have his honeymoon with his wife. When the text message had come across and he discovered the address of where I was working, it turned out that he had accepted a position with a company across the street. Not only is the world flat, but it is indeed very small. We all laughed about that story and chuckled when the small dish of beef tripe was placed in front of us. Tripe, to me, is one of those menu items that shows that cooks will spare no parts. The texture is akin to that of a rubber band, which may not be endearing to many diners. The recipe for the beef trip at Lao You Ju was surprisingly worthy, although I will never get accustomed to having to chew, chew, chew, and chew some more before swallowing it. As to the lamb hot sizzling plate, this spicy dish was a winner. Served with white rice, we worked our chopsticks in true fashion. Move over, Greeks, because you’re not longer the standard bearers of cooking outstanding lamb dishes.

Singapore Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken

Singapore Fried Rice Noodles

Three Cup Chicken

Three Cup Chicken

The Singapore fried rice noodles with chicken was another one of those dishes that will make you want to take up a picket sign and advocate for the closure of all the China Buffet restaurants in the world. And from there, you will probably march in front of every Chop Suey hole in the wall that is open for business. Let’s just say that we didn’t leave any noodles or gravy on the plate — and we all used chopsticks. I have had Singapore fried rice noodles prepared correctly, so I shall not risk having to inquire, “What on earth is this?” at any other Chinese restaurants. And the three cup chicken, Taiwanese style, was a food lover’s dream. Tender, moist, falling off the bone chicken, swimming in a rich gravy and bursting with each bite, was enough to illicit a smoke immediately afterwards.

Fried, Dried Shrimp Crepes

Fried, Dried Shrimp Crepes

Spare Ribs

Spare Ribs

During the reduction in workforce at the company where we all had left, it seemed that one of the main managers who was a model control freak discovered why the axe loves those in management ranks. We had a moment of silence for him, but only because the server was putting a plate of fried, dried shrimp crepes, and a bowl of spare ribs in front of us. The crepes were a pleasant surprise, although having been served in a sauce, they were not of the texture that you get at French creperies. They were, however, like dumplings, but packed with a smile in each bite. It took a while to realize what the spare ribs were. For me, I have always seen them coming off of a grill with a red colouring or drowned in barbecue sauce. Nevertheless, these spare ribs were tastier than any that I have had before — ever.

Green Chive Dumplings

Green Chive Dumplings

Crispy Durian Pastry

Crispy Durian Pastry

We wrapped up with green chive dumplings that were packed with mustard greens. By now I was surprised that I was able to put any more in my mouth to swallow, let along raise my chopsticks to reach for another bit. But these dumplings were way too inviting to let sit. And believe me when I say that they sat for a short time before going down the hatch. For dessert, we had crispy durian pastry. Who would have thought that biscuits with papaya baked in them could leave five individuals speechless after four hours of non-stop eating and laughter? I am considering calling in for a batch of those biscuits to have for a pre-bed snack at night.

Lao You Ju packs out during lunch and I understand why. It is not typical Chinese for Americans. It’s authentic. When you enter the restaurant, you will see a sea of Chinese faces and hear the language accordingly, which is the best indication of authenticity of a restaurant. Aside from travels to Hong Kong and Beijing in mainland China, Vancouver, Toronto, and San Francisco, I haven’t had authentic Chinese food in America except for when my first roommate after college had his parents come to visit and in 2005 when a former colleague had invited one of his Chinese co-workers to meet us at Dragon Court in Chicago’s Chinatown. Now I get to say that I have recently had some more Chinese food prepared correctly thanks for Lao You Ju all because of former colleagues gathering for a small reunion and friendship.

Lao You Ju on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Lao You Ju
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
Near South Side
* Street Address
2002 South Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616
* Phone
(312) 225-7818