Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap

Buffalo and Pancho’s combo wings
Classic Pepperoni
Crispy Southern Fried Pickles
Exterior
Main room
Side room

**** (4 stars)

This sprawling sports bar features a terrific list of beers on tap. I’m a stout fan, and this is the only place I’ve ever encountered six interesting ones on tap at the same time.

We started with the fried pickles, which were very nicely done, large and juicy, with a nice crisp batter and not greasy.

The place has a reputation for wings, which come in many varieties, but frankly I’ve had much better wings elsewhere. However if you like Detroit style pan pizza, this is a very good example, with a nice caramelized edge.

Service was very friendly.

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
41 E Superior St
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 266-0400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jake-melnicks-corner-tap-chicago-2

Bub City

Exterior

Interior

Burnt ends

BBQ sauces

*** (3 stars)

If you’re looking for a country western bar with late night live entertainment that happens to serve BBQ, then you’d probably like this place. I was looking for good BBQ food at lunch, and was a bit disappointed.

The problem is partly pricing and partly interpretation. It’s true that you can get a meat and three sides at lunch for about $18, which seems steep, but is probably the way to go. But I wanted burnt ends, and they aren’t one of the meat choices on that deal. So for a bit more I got the burnt ends.

Burnt ends are the charred tips of the beef, and since they are the outside they have the most flavor. At least that’s what burnt ends are supposed to be. In all fairness, Bub City describes them on the menu as the “bacon of beef” whatever that might mean. In fact, they were more like the pork belly of beef–large cubes of layered fat and beef, served in an iron skillet with a thin sauce. The result was a fatty, succulent dish that wasn’t bad, but wasn’t like any burnt ends I ever had.

What do you think Texas Toast is? A thick piece of bread, maybe with some butter and garlic, cooked on a griddle, right? Nope. Not at Bub City. It’s just a piece of bread. I assumed it was a mistake, so I even asked the waiter. Nope, a completely plain raw piece of bread is Bub City’s Texas Toast. What makes it “toast”?

I also received a tiny serving of very good cole slaw and four sweet pickle chips. No other sides came with the almost $20 meal.

On the other hand, Bub City is true to the country theme, with three different BBQ sauces on the table that are all Southern Style and quite good.

If you’re looking for country western music atmosphere, Bub CIty is a good choice. If you’re looking for BBQ, there are better choices in the area.

Bub City
435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 610-4200
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bub-city-chicago

Weber Grill Restaurant

Exterior

Interior

Wisconsin burger

Half pizza and salad

*** (3 stars)

The concept here is exactly what you might guess, with the majority of items cooked on actual weber grills in the kitchen. Most are charcoal driven, although a couple are gas.

The main room is long and narrow, with booths along one side and an open kitchen along the other. Despite this, it’s not noisy, and had a nice woody/clubby feel to it.

Our server was bubbly and informative, and made the dining experience a pleasant one.

We started with Caesar salads, which were excellent. Since it was lunch time I had the Wisconsin Burger, essentially a bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings, served on a pretzel bun. The patty had a nice char to it, as you would expect, and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Unfortunately, despite this, the meat seemed somewhat dry and flavorless. I was also not a fan of the relatively flavorless bun, and discarded it before it could self-destruct.

My companion had the half pizza and salad combo. The pizza is a bit odd, with a very thick crust that has been grilled. On top of that were slices of whole tomatoes and melted mozzarella cheese, and some basil leaves. Although it wasn’t what she was expecting, she liked it except for the crust.

Overall I’d say Weber Grill is a possibility for lunch, but I would select different entrees next time.

Weber Grill Restaurant
539 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 467-9696
https://www.yelp.com/biz/weber-grill-restaurant-chicago

Chicago q

***** (5 stars)

This might not be the best barbecue place in Chicago, but it’s certainly the nicest, and I love their approach to food and beverage. They focus on flights of both, and offer variety in surprising ways.

For example, we started with the barbecue flight, a good way to sample brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. It came with four(!) different barbecue sauces, all of which were good.

Well, we didn’t actually start with that, because when you sit down they give you a generous basket of seasoned house-made potato chips and delicious sweet pickles.

For our main courses we had the chicken and waffles and another flight, this time of eggs benedict. I still don’t really get the combination of chicken and waffles, but both were good–even better when I asked for some barbecue sauce to dunk the chicken in. The eggs benedict was served three ways, each of them huge: with brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken. But it was different from the barbecue flight, because each was on a different base: biscuit, fried green tomato, and corn bread. Each also had a different Hollandaise sauce, which my dining companion wisely opted to have on the side. A little bit was all it needed.

There’s a really extensive list of beers, wines, whiskey, bourbon, scotch and a limited list of cocktails. Staying with the flight theme, we tried the Grand Tasting, which consisted of nine(!) whiskeys. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a real learning experience, because they were all so different, and the beverage manager was really knowledgeable about them.

For the record, here are my ratings (on a scale of 10) for the flight:

Auchentoshan Whiskey (American Oak) 6/10
Hibiki Harmony (Japanese) 7/10
Wieser Uuahouua (Pinot Noir barrels, Austrian) 7.5/10

Compass Box Spice Tree (clove cardamom cinnamon) 7/10
Elijah Craig (barrel strength 102 proof) 8/10
Slaughter House by Orin Swift 9/10

Noah’s Mill Bourbon 6.5/10
Willet Pot Still Bourbon 7/10
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked 9/10

I really like the whole approach to food and beverages at Chicago q.

Chicago q
1160 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-1160
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-q-chicago

Imperial Lamian

**** (4 stars)

I’ll confess that my “advance team” — okay, my daughter — told me what to order here, because she’d made a couple of prior visits and had some favorites. That may be why everything I had was fantastic, or nearly so. I can’t vouch for the rest, but here are the things I tried:

Chinese Pickles were strips of cucumber marinated in rice wine vinegar with just the right touch of red peppers. Really excellent.

Spicy Szechuan Soup dumplings were good, which is high praise, since I’m not really a dumpling fan. The best strategy here is to put the whole thing in your mouth, because otherwise that soup is not going to end up there.

Seared Turnip dim sum took a long time to prepare, and was almost wonderful. I loved the sprouts and seasonings on it, but the surfaces needed a bit more sear. I can see where if the was perfectly prepared and immediately consumed it could be amazing.

Lamian Mixed Mushroom Noodles were my favorite. This is a complete meal in a bowl, and the complex flavors melded wonderfully. I liked the tender noodles, crunchy vegetables, and the spoonful of cilantro on top lets you add a pinch to each bite.

Crispy shrimp had a nice wasabi cream drizzle, but they were the only dish that had the traditional Chinese oily heaviness to them.

The stunner on a second visit was the Jasmine Tea Smoked Ribs. These fall-off-the-bone pork ribs were literally the best barbecue I have ever had.

There are a lot of nice wines by the glass, and I also really liked their amaro-based version of a mule. On a second visit there was a very interesting tasting flight of rose wines that went well with the food.

The main room by the bar can be quite loud. It’s a bit quieter in the next room down. I was slightly disappointed in the decor, not because it isn’t nice, but because it wasn’t nearly as breathtaking as the photo they use online. In fact, I’m not sure what that’s a photo of!

Service was extremely friendly and attentive. I look forward to returning and discovering some of the other dishes on this very interesting menu.

Imperial Lamian
6 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 595-9440
http://www.yelp.com/biz/imperial-lamian-chicago

Carson’s

**** (4 stars)

There are so many styles of barbecue that’s it’s always interesting to see people’s different favorites. I tend to like somewhat sweet southern style sauces and fall-off-the-bone meat, whereas a lot of the barbecue in Chicago often has a more tart sauce that isn’t what I’m looking for. Carson’s is interesting in that the sauce is quite good, with a sweet tang, but the meat is not cooked to fall off the bone. The result is okay, but not my favorite.

I tried the barbecue sampler, which in addition to a half rack of ribs included a quarter chicken and a giant pork chop. The chicken was pretty good, but the pork chop, not something I would typically order, was the best thing on the plate. It had a great charred crust, and was moist and tender (and did I mention huge?).

But for me, the highlight of the meal was the coleslaw, which was finely grated cabbage in a very wet sauce that was absolutely delicious. I finished the whole bowl.

Also excellent was the cornbread, which was crunchy on the outside and crumbly in the middle, served in a hot skillet.

The highly touted Au gratin potatoes did nothing for me; they were simply potatoes with melted cheese on top.

There’s a small but well-priced wine list and some nicely crafted cocktails. The atmosphere is vinyl booth bar-ish. Service was friendly if not particularly attentive.

I would definitely go back, but probably have a prime rib sandwich and coleslaw and cornbread

Carson’s
612 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 280-9200
http://www.yelp.com/biz/carsons-chicago-2

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

**** (4 stars) This bustling restaurant serves Japanese barbecue (essentially the same as Korean barbecue), and lots of it. You cook the meats and vegetables yourself on the grill in the center of the table. The combo meals are the best bet, because they let you try almost everything on the menu.

We had the Samurai, which included three types of beef, chicken and shrimp. The toro beef was the best, although all were good. The meal also come with a tasty miso soup (lots of green onions in it, which I like), salad, a so-so tuna rice ball appetizer, and bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl. I love this type of bibimbap preparation, and usually order it at Korean restaurants rather than the barbecue, so it was nice to have it included.

There were also vegetables for grilling, and a pouch of corn kernels. Dessert, too, was included, and consisted of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate–a do-it-yourself s’mores kit! Service was fast and efficient.

The place is pretty noisy, so eating on the sidewalk would be a nice option, when available.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ 210 E Ohio St Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 266-8929 http://www.yelp.com/biz/gyu-kaku-japanese-bbq-chicago

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa

**** (4 stars)

It’s not really fair to characterize Pig Floyd’s as a barbecue place, because they’re trying to do several different things, and succeeding pretty well. It’s not exactly a fusion of Asian and barbecue, either, although there are “tacos” on their menu.

The best way to sample the menu is to order the Big Floyd, a barbecue sandwich featuring a literal pile of brisket, pulled pork, sausage and fennel slaw. All the meats were tender and flavorful. I liked the strong smoked taste of the pulled pork, but the standout was the sausage, which was some of the best I’ve had. I’m really not a sausage fan, but that’s the meat I’d concentrate on for a return visit.

The fries that accompanied the sandwich were a bit sturdy, and the default barbecue sauce not quite the rich, spicy variety I’m looking for. The bun was good enough, but frankly the sandwich was so big I just ate the meat and slaw.

I also tried the shrimp and sausage taco, which was very saucy with a creamy mayo like mixture that seemed pretty rich. And I tried the butter chicken taco, which had a good flavor but was mostly rice sopping with the butter sauce, not my favorite ingredient in a taco.

You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table, inside or out. Beer and wine are available.

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
1326 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 203-0866
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pig-floyds-urban-barbakoa-orlando

Art’s Southern Style Smokehouse BBQ

***** (5 stars)

Wow, the St. Louis ribs are amazing. I’ve regarded 4 Rivers as the gold standard for barbecue, and their brisket and burnt ends are better than Art’s brisket, but these St. Louis ribs are the best barbecue I’ve found in central florida. They’re very smoky, yet moist and tender, but with a bit of a glaze on the top side, then covered with just the right amount of a perfectly seasoned slightly sweet barbecue sauce.

Art’s doesn’t mess around with multiple bottles of sauce on the table, which at first concerned me, but to my palate the have the perfect sauce already on everything when it comes from the kitchen, and the perfect amount, so it doesn’t matter.

Baked beans were a bit watery but tasty. Coleslaw was crisp and refreshing. My new favorite barbecue spot.

Art’s Southern Style Smokehouse BBQ
15502 Stoneybrook W Pkwy
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 614-8910
http://www.yelp.com/biz/arts-southern-style-smokehouse-bbq-winter-garden