Since we were in the wedding planning mood, J and I decided to practice for our honeymoon by going out for BBQ….guess where we’re going for the honeymoon 😉 ) Last week, I put a post on Chow.com asking for a good place to eat before a White Sox game. One of the places suggested was a BBQ place a few miles north of The Cell. Unfortunately, the game is at 3:00 but the restaurant doesn’t open until four. I showed the website to J and she suggested we go for dinner one night.
Honky Tonk BBQ is on 18th Street near Racine Avenue in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. We happened to luck out and the one parking meter directly in front of the restaurant was open, so we pulled in and fed the meter. The restaurant is in a very unassuming building that looks like it’s the back side of the grocery store on the corner. The door looks more like a service door than the main entrance, but the address was right and there was an “open” sign lighted in a window, so we assumed the door was right. The steps up are pretty steep and the last step is a doozy if you’re not paying attention.
The restaurant is divided into two rooms. There’s a few tables and a take out window when you walk in. To the left right is another dining room that is a little bit larger with more tables. We weren’t quite sure of procedure. I went to the window and picked up a paper menu, but J noticed the menus on the table. Someone in the kitchen told us to take a seat and a waitress would be right with us.
We headed into the larger dining room and took a seat along the back wall. None of the furniture matches and every table is unique. The decor is really out there. J said it looks more like an art gallery than a BBQ place, but there were some of the traditional pig knick knacks mixed in with the paintings and large murals.
The waitress came over with a couple cups of water while we were looking over the menu. We didn’t really need a whole lot of time because right on the menu they brag about their 3rd Place finish at the Memphis in May competition. Their pork shoulder was their prize winner and since we both really like pulled pork, we both ordered the sandwich with a side of macaroni ‘n cheese.
The pulled pork comes served on a ciabatta hoagie roll. Usually, I’m not a fan of pork being served on a bun like that, but the ciabatta bread soaked up the sauce but still remained a little crispy, so I didn’t complain. The pork was fantastic. We overheard the owner talking to another table about the process. The pork they use is pretty much an organic pork product. He lives above the restaurant and gets up at 5:00 AM to get the process going. The meat is never refrigerated and that’s something he’s proud of. The meat is served dry and there are three options for BBQ sauce on the table. I really liked what I was hearing because his philosophy is the same as mine. Honky Tonk leaves it up to the eater how much and what kind of sauce they want to put on their sandwich.
The three sauces were typical BBQ sauces. There was a sweet, a tangy, and a garlic mustard. Neither of us are very big fans of mustard BBQ sauces and we both loved the tangy. We used about half of the bottle that was on the table. The meat itself was served in pretty big chunks. I loved it. J prefers the meat to be more shredded so I got some of the bigger pieces of her sandwich. When the pork was put down in front of us, we had to dig in with a fork first. There was so much meat between the bread that it was impossible to pick up and eat like a sandwich until we got some of the meat off.
The mac ‘n cheese was pretty good, but the portion size was too small for the price. Everything is served a la carte, so we didn’t get a side with our meal. The mac ‘n cheese is $3.50 for a serving that probably isn’t much more than a half a cup. It was good, but there wasn’t much there.
Before we left, J texted her parents to see if they’d be interested in some BBQ, so we brought them home one sandwich to split and two sides of mac ‘n cheese. It took another ten minutes or so for their meal to be brought to us. As we were finishing up, more and more people started coming in. One group even came in with their own six pack. Honky Tonk is BYOB and cash only.
Our bill for the three sandwiches, four sides, and two drinks was just a little over forty bucks. It was great BBQ and a helluva find in a neighborhood that is dominated by Mexican restaurants. They’re getting a lot of good press right now, but they still seem to be overshadowed by the BBQ place on the north side that was featured on Triple D. Honky Tonk is one of those great neighborhood spots that I love about Chicago. It’s not in a big strip mall near the Interstate. It’s smack dab in the middle of a very densley populated neighborhood. These are the things I love about Chicago’s neighborhoods.