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Posts Tagged ‘BBQ’

Crystal Lake Rib House Review – Crystal Lake, IL


Crystal Lake Rib House ReviewYeah, I’m just not a rib guy.  Never have been.  I’ll cook them for others, I’ll go to restaurants that serve them, they just aren’t for me. When it comes to BBQ, give me pulled pork (I make an excellent one), BBQ sausage, smoked turkey, chopped ham ‘cue, maybe some beef.

Besides, I’ve been to the two BBQ capitals of the western world, Lockhart, TX, and the North Carolina BBQ trail. Who can compete with those destinations?

A friend wanted some BBQ chicken, so after considerable research, off we motored to Crystal Lake Rib House, in Crystal Lake, IL, a distant suburb of Chicago, that toddling town.

These guys have apparently won bucketloads of awards, and in addition to the restaurant will cater your event or roast a whole pig for you. (I’d love that).

We started with the “Sweet Vidalia Onion Rings,” which were good sized and had a light breading primarily of cornmeal. You could have a choice of one or two dipping sauces with those. Enjoyable.

My friend ordered the BBQ 1/2 chicken, which was four generous pieces, taters, slaw and a roll, and I was up for catfish (I have been a lot lately), and they presented me with two monster filets, fries, slaw, and a roll. Tartar sauce, lemons, and honey butter on the side.

The cat had a crispy cornmeal based breading, not too heavy, fried to perfection, and the chicken was juicy and amped up with the flavorful sauce. Like most people mentioned about this, the side of “red potatoes in butter” will make anybody happy, and the fries are of the “steak fries” size and texture. Again, excellent.

I generally don’t read other people’s reviews before I go to a place, I know, odd, huh, but do after, and for some reason, this place is currently getting a bad rap. There is a trend for people to launch into trashing a restaurant based on hearsay from a friend or relative, and that can throw a joint’s stars/points/numbers way off. It’s not fair.

We had good food today, as good as I’ve had anywhere, at a fair price, with prompt courteous service.  I can’t ask for more.

Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Perfect Crispy Rings


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

BBQ 1/2 Chicken


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Catfish fillets


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Menu, Click to Enlarge, Prices Subject to Change

Crystal Lake Rib House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Crystal Lake Rib House Review


Corky’s BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review


Corky's BBQ Frozen Pork Meal ReviewWhile there are a multitude of styles of “BBQ” in the US, it’s generally thought that the top three are Texas, Memphis, and Carolina.

As a result, many BBQ restaurant chains have been spawned in those areas, including the mini-chain of Corky’s, born in Memphis, five minutes from Elvis’s house.

Corky’s opened the doors in the 1980s, and has spread throughout the metropolitan area and a few neighboring states.

Fairly standard fare on the menu, brisket, pork, ribs, chicken, and a few local preferences, catfish, spaghetti and more.

You can buy Corky’s grub online by the pound, and have it shipped to you, or bump into it, like I did, at WalMart. So add Corky’s to the list of restaurant branded foods that will eventually occupy every grocery shelf and freezer. That’s what the experts predict, anyway.

The 12 ounce sliced pork dinner comes with beans and applesauce. Prep is a couple minutes in the microwave or 30 minutes in the oven. I chose the latter. Given the choice, I always choose the latter. (I have this quirk, with no scientific evidence, I think microwaves tend to break down the muscle in meat, and I don’t like the resulting texture).

So thirty minutes later, out of the oven, and I tackled the beans first. They’re good. I was expecting more brown sugar taste, it wasn’t there, and for me, that’s a good thing. The have a slightly smokey flavor with is an added ingredient, not part of the process. There’s no obvious evidence of the other ingredients, meaning, you don’t see chunks of bacon and such.

On to the meat. I like pulled pork, I make it myself at home, so easy in the crockpot, throw it in before leaving for the plant, ready when I get home. This is shoulder meat, which is the right choice for pulled pork, at least most ‘experts’ say so. There’s a modest amount of sauce in the meat tray.

And the meat is restaurant perfect. Irregularly sized bits of pork, nice smoke, great texture, (which I don’t think I would have got in the microwave), mild sauce. More than an adequate amount to satisfy more appetites. I wish they sold it on its own in the grocery, by the tub, I’d be a customer. Well, maybe they do, and I’m just not aware. (You can buy it all by its lonesome online, in 3 or 6-pound tubs). It’s a little too spendy for me but at least shipping is included.

I even like the applesauce, which isn’t really a sauce, but chunks of apple “sauced.” Does include high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient in that, not sure that’s necessary.

Dinner clocked out at four bucks. Worth it, I think. I’d do it again. I will do it again.

Other varieties are available as well.

The company is obviously serious about cracking the grocery segment, as they didn’t sub the product out to some other manufacturer, but have their own USDA inspected plant in Memphis. (pictured below).

Ingredients: Bar-B-Q Pork Shoulder, Apple Filling (Prepared With Sodium Sulfite And Calcium Chloride), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Contains 2% Or Less of The Following: Lemon Juice, Apple Juice Concentrate, Potassium Sorbate (As A Preservative), Cinnamon, Salt, Citric Acid, Nutmeg. Baked Beans (Prepared Navy Beans, Water, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Food Starch-Modified, Bacon, Dextrose, Spice, Caramel Coloring, Onion Powder, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Natural Smoke Flavor, Garlic Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Flavorings, Seasoning (Brown Sugar, Mustard, Dehydrated Onion, Green Bell Pepper, Spice)) Bar-B-Q Sauce (Water, Tomato Paste, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Molasses, Distilled Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Salt, Worcestershire Sauce (Distilled Vinegar, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Caramel Color, Garlic Powder, Sugar, Spices, Tamarind, Natural Flavors), Cayenne Peppers, Natural Smoke Flavor, Dehydrated Onions, Soybean Oil, Dextrose, Dehydrated Garlic, Spice And Spice Extractives, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, (Preservatives), Guar Gum, Ascorbic Acid.

Corky's BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review

Out of the box

Corky's BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review

After heating

Corky's BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review

Factory in Memphis

Corky’s BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review

Corky’s BBQ Frozen Pork Meal Review



Sycamore, IL – The Country Store and Catering


Small towns delight me, and especially in the Deep South or Upper Midwest.  You can drive around almost any corner, and find a gem of a surprise, whether it’s a small town festival, a jewel of a piece of architecture, a funky shop, or a surprise of a restaurant.

Mrs. Burgerdogboy and I hit one last year by accident, we were driving down US 101 in California, feeling a bit hungry, and I said out loud “at the next exit we will pull off and there will be some cool small town thing happening, and we will eat there.”   The town was Paso Robles, and it was the “Barbecue Fest in the Park”, which was a little short on fest, and a little short on BBQ, but we, and the newest member of our family, our beautiful dog “Liv”, had a great time.

Tooling around outstate Illinois today, I was looking for one place, and ended up at another.  One of those places the car automatically slams on the brakes because of an aroma in the air.

Today it was the smoke from an outdoor barbecue, and the place is called “The Country Store and Catering” in Sycamore, IL.  More of a butcher counter than anything, the retail portion is full of house-made sausages and smoked meats.   But behind the register, there’s a sign with their grilled meats available as sandwiches, and I went with a ‘seasoned butterflied pork chop’.

Served on a hamburger bun with your choice of a whole host of condiments, including six different barbecue sauces, this is one fine sandwich, and one great piece of meat.

Clear blue summer skies, great barbecue, pastoral countryside, the kind of stop Mrs. Burgerdogboy and Liv would have really enjoyed.  But they couldn’t make this trip.  Maybe next time.

Country Store Sycamore IL

The Country Store on Urbanspoon


NC – BBQ Center Lexington


North Carolina sez they invented barbecue, and who am I to argue? Leave that for Texans, Memphisites, Kansas City folks. The state is dotted with barbecue joints of all manners and sizes, ages and menus, but you’ll find a concentration of 20+ outlets around Lexington, KY, and that’s where I started my tour.

The “Lexington Barbecue” is supposed to be da bomb place, and the old timey one, but I arrived in town early in the AM, and Barbecue Center, another oldie was open early. I popped in expecting only to find a breakfast menu, but I suppose die-hard ‘cue folks eat it whenever it’s available, so the full menu was available.

Dilemma. Breakfast? Country ham biscuit with sausage gravy, oh my? Or go right for the ‘cue.

Answer. Both. Ate the country ham on the spot, got the sandwich to go. Both excellent. If you’re a ‘cue hound, head to North Carolina. I’ve been to the BBQ capital of Texas, Lockhart, and Lexington beats it by miles.

Barbecue Center, Lexington, NC


Barbecue Center on Urbanspoon


bbq center lexington


Paso Robles, CA – BBQ Fun Fest and Kids Day in the Park


We were feeling a might peckish driving down US 101 in Cali the other day, and pulled off at Paso Robles to get a bite to eat.  Mrs. BDB said “what do you feel like?” and since I am omniscient, I said “I feel like we’re going to run into a church or something having a bbq,” and sure enough, it was the annual BBQ Fun Fest and Kids Day in City Park, the perfect place to stop for us to stop, eat, stretch our legs, and pee the dog.

The fete apparently had bbq cook offs, which we missed, and it was rather late in the day, so the crowds were thin.  The hot cold oobleck any weather prompted Mrs. BDB to start off our stop with a frost tap o’ beer, and then we perused the different bbq stands before choosing one that had some trophies displayed.

Mama got the rib dinner, and I went with a smoked hot link, smothered in sauce.  The sausage was ‘house-made’ (somewhere) a rather coarse grind with a nice natural casing.  The sauce was on the sweet side,  a soft but substantial bun rounded off the sandwich.  Just a bit of kick to this one.

The ribs were more than satisfactory said the lady, and the side of beans was interesting, regular baked beans but prepared in the manner (and taste) of pintos.

A pic of the cart is below, I can’t tell you where to find these guys regularly, but they hail from Central California somewhere.  Perhaps you can find Waldo an address on their banner!

Paso Robles BBQ Fest

Paso Robles BBQ Fest


Home Cookin’ Test – Tony Romas Pulled Pork BBQ


Tony Romas Pulled Pork Barbecue ReviewI’ve been into a Tony Roma’s once, and it was on the occasion of a group of Chinese I was working with wanting an “authentic American meal”;  the restaurant was in Hong Kong.   No idea what I had to eat that nite, for sure it wasn’t ribs, cause that particular dish is never on my target list of potential dinners out; just not my favorite.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, grocery stores are loading up on branded products from America’s fast casual food chains, and whether you want products named “Taco Bell,” “Fridays”, “Marie Callendars”, “Claim Jumper”, or any other representative samples of the casual dining experience at home, your local grocery is sure to have a wide selection of these types of products.

They are usually puked out of some co-packer factory and licensed by the copyright owner, and such is the case with Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork BBQ, manufactured by Rupari Food Services, with an HQ in Florida, and a factory in suburban Chicago.  Various internet articles called them “purveyors of fine foods to wholesalers, retailers, and restaurant chains,” and one reference called them the largest manufacturer of ribs in the country.

The pulled pork is sold in an 18 oz tub, pre-cooked, ready for the microwave or stove top.  Nutritional information says the tub serves 4.

I always opt for the stove-top heating option, just a personal quirk of mine, and in minutes the meat/sauce was ready for a bun and plating.

I like my pulled pork on a bun one of two ways, with either a mound of cole slaw on top, or dill pickle chips.  No slaw in site, I opted for the latter on this day.

I can’t imagine there would be any economy of scale in having a troop of workers scraping pork roasts with forks to reach what is normally regarded as pulled pork consistency, and the ultra-fine shredded meat in this preparation would lead me to believe that mechanical automation had a hand in separating this meat.

The sauce is thick, smoky, and leans towards the ‘sweet’ recipe of BBQ sauce.  This is probably due to the restaurant’s heritage and Southeastern roots, their first restaurant was in Miami.

The product has a good taste, texture, and is a relatively good value compared to similar grocery offerings.

To make good pulled pork at home is a multi-step, 24 hour operation, and Tony Roma’s product satisfies my urges without the fuss or muss.



Tony Romas Pulled Pork BBQ


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