Sidetrack Bar & Grill

5 04 2009
  • 56 E. Cross Street
  • Ypsilanti, MI 48198
  • (734) 483-1035
  • Website
  • Menu
Sidetrack Bar & Grill in Depot Town in Ypsilanti

Sidetrack Bar & Grill in Depot Town in Ypsilanti

When I see that there’s a place that serves a burger someone has proclaimed to be the best, I’m gonna take an opportunity to try it for myself.  That was the case when I was working in Ann Arbor recently.  J made the trip to Ann Arbor with me and picked me up after my game was over.  Somewhere, I saw that a bar in Ypsilanti made one of the best burgers in the country.  I looked at a map and saw Ypsilanti was near Ann Arbor.  So I dragged J to another bar in search of the perfect hamburger.

Sidetrack Bar & Grill is located on Cross Street in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.  Guess what.  It sits beside a set of rail road tracks.  As I’ve already alluded to, GQ Magazine proclaimed Sidetrack’s hamburger as one the 20  burgers you must eat before you die.  It was also featured on an episode of the Oprah Winfey Show.  With that much hype, it was something I was looking forward to all day.

We parked behind the building and entered through a back door.  There’s a sign that points you to the front door where a hostess took us back through the dining room we just walked through to a table along the wall.  The decor is that of an old bar.  There’s exposed brick walls, tin ceilings and hardwood floors that have seen better days.  The walls are covered with dead animals.  There was a big moose head right above my head and some giant penguins hanging above the door.  The tables are packed into the space.  When I initially suggested a bar for dinner, I was a little worried that we would have trouble getting a table.  Word is,  Sidetracks is always packed on Friday and Saturday night and this Saturday night, MSU was playing in the Final Four.  Read the rest of this entry »





Li’l Porgy’s Bar-B-Q – Champaign, IL

30 03 2009
  • 1917 W. Springfield Avenue
  • Champaign, IL 61821
  • (217) 398-6811
  • Website
  • Menu
Lil Porgys Barbecue on Springfield Avenue in Champaign, IL

Li'l Porgy's Barbecue on Springfield Avenue in Champaign, IL

My last day in Champaign and I needed something good for lunch.  As I was driving away from Eichelberger Field on my lunch break, I remembered a BBQ place I ate at a couple years ago.  I was pretty sure I remembered how to get there once I found Springfield Avenue off of Neil Street. 

Li’l Porgy’s has two locations in the Champaign/Urbana area.  I chose the Champaign location which is on West Springfield Avenue near Mattis Avenue.  There are a number of other restaurants in the area including a Famous Dave’s. 

The building is nothing more than a run down old fast food joint.  It’s not much to look at and I wondered if it was even open on a Sunday morning when I pulled in.  As I was nearing Mattis Avenue, I knew I was close, but it wasn’t until I got right up on the sign that I noticed it.  As I turned in the parking lot, I noticed a couple other cars, so I figured I was go for Q.

Inside gets a little wierd and I remember I didn’t quite get it my first trip.  There obviously used to be a huge order counter like you’re familiar with at the fast food joints, but they put an oven or food warmer or something right in the middle and divided it up into two windows.  The openings are very small.  There’s not really room for anything but the cash register at the order window. Read the rest of this entry »





Bone Daddy’s BBQ

14 03 2009
  • 3216 Bay City Road
  • Midland, MI 48642
  • (989) 496-2266
  • Website (disabled)
  • Menu
Bone Daddy BBQ on Bay City Road in Midland

Bone Daddy BBQ on Bay City Road in Midland

Last year, I saw a story in the LSJ about a BBQ place in Midland that won a rib cook off in Las Vegas.  I told J then that we needed to find an excuse to go to Midland.  I always thought the excuse would be a baseball game.  Turns out, the excuse was butterflies.

J’s parents were in town and both J and her mom wanted to see the butterfly exhibit at Dow Gardens.  They had been to similar exhibits in Chicago and thought this would be a neat way to spend a Saturday afternoon together.  I didn’t object because it means we had our excuse to go to Midland.

Bone Daddy BBQ is on the corner of Bay City Road and Waldo Road in Midland.  We took a wrong turn off the highway because my GPS showed an address both in the city of Midland and the adjoining township (that, for postal reasons, has a Midland address) and I chose the wrong one.  It was only a mile out of the way.  I turned around and headed two miles in the opposite direction and we found our destination on the left.

There’s not much of a parking lot in front of the building and what few spaces there are are taken up by Bone Daddy’s trucks.  I drove around the building and weaved in between the two giant smokers to find another parking lot behind the catering business. 

Once inside, you order at the counter then they bring you your food.  There are menus in bins on the wall as well as paper menus and a menu board above the counter.  The place was pretty packed.  There are two dining areas in the small building.  Each has maybe a half a dozen tables or so.  There was a kids birthday party in one room, so I grabbed a table in the other room while J and her mom put in our orders. Read the rest of this entry »





Texas Roadhouse – Lansing

19 02 2009
  • 208 E. Edgewood Blvd.
  • Lansing, MI 48911
  • (517) 887-8181
  • Website
  • Menu
Texas Roadhouse on Lansings south side

Texas Roadhouse on Lansing's south side

Finally!  Home!  I left Illinois this morning not knowing how long it was actually going to take me to get back to Lansing, but I hit things just right and didn’t see more than a few flurries on the way home.  Didn’t slow me down at all and I actually made it home before dinner.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been home in over a week, so there’s no food in the house.  I didn’t feel like going shopping, so I asked J if she wanted me to pick her up and we’d just go out for dinner.  We’re starting to run out of places to go on the south side of Lansing.  All that’s really left are a handful of chains.  I didn’t feel like thinking, so I suggested Texas Roadhouse.  I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been to one before.  I always get Texas Roadhouse and Lonestar Steakhouse confused.  I know I’ve been to at least one Lonestar, but after that, it’s anybody’s guess.  This may well have been my first time at a Texas Roadhouse.

Texas Roadhouse is on Edgewood Boulevard near the Target and Sam’s Club.  We pulled up on a Thursday night and were really surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot.  Don’t let anyone tell you restaurants are struggling during these tough economic times.  I’m convinced no one knows how to cook anymore, so if they want a decent meal they HAVE to eat out.

We found a parking spot and went inside.  When J said we’d like a table for two in non-smoking, we were told there would be a little wait, so we made our way to the peanut barrel and starting eating.  I love places that put peanuts out.  I always eat too many though.

A few minutes later, the hostess said our table was ready and our waitress showed us the way.  The walk to our table went right by the kitchen, so the waitress grabbed a basket of rolls and some butter so we didn’t have to wait for it once we were seated.  J told me before we got there that she loved the butter at Texas Roadhouse.  How many places do you know of where someone actually craves the butter?  Once we were seated, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I buttered up a roll.  I see know why she likes it so much.  It’s a cinnamon butter.  It was sooooo good.  After we polished off one basket of rolls, the waitress brought a second.  Uh-oh.  We’re going to fill up on rolls.  We polished that one off to and the waitress said she would come back with more, but we stopped her.  If she brought it, we would eat it and we didn’t need anymore…no matter how much we wanted it. Read the rest of this entry »





Patio Restaurant of Orland Park (IL)

8 02 2009
  • 7830 W. 159th St.
  • Orland Park, IL 60462
  • (708 ) 429-7575
  • Website
  • Menu
The Patio of Orland Park on 195th Street

The Patio of Orland Park on 195th Street

We finished up our mini-vacation in Illinois on Saturday.  The  purpose of our trip was so J could judge an IHSA speech regional in Orland Park which is another one of Chicago’s south suburbs.  I slept in, but met her at the school later in the day.  When it was time to head back to Michigan, we left straight from there instead of going back to her parents.  Before we could do that though, we had to make one more stop for food.

The Patio Restaurant of Orland Park is one of four in a local chain.  It’s another place that J’s parents eat at often and have suggested to us in the past.  The Patio sits on 195th Street.  The building is huge.  The parking lot…not so much.  It took a while for us to find a spot on a busy Saturday night.  I didn’t have much hope of actually getting a table, but J assured me we would be ok.

The inside of The Patio is a wide open space that is decorated to resemble a patio.  The furniture is more patio furniture than lawn furniture and the ceilings are high, vaulted, and decorated to make you feel like it is open air.  The restaurant is set up so you order in the front of the building then take a seat with a number.  Your food is brought to you a few minutes later.  Read the rest of this entry »





Slows Bar-B-Q

25 01 2009
  • 2138 Michigan Avenue
  • Detroit, MI 48216
  • (313) 962-9828
  • Website
  • Menu
Slows Bar-B-Q on Michigan Avenue in Detroit.

Slows Bar-B-Q on Michigan Avenue in Detroit.

My biggest complaint about the food here in Mid-Michigan is that there’s no good BBQ.  After a rant one day, I was told by more than one person to eat at Slows Bar-B-Q the next time I was in Detroit.  That was probably six months ago, but we’ve only been to Detroit once.  J and I were in town for the North American International Auto Show and we wanted to do both lunch and dinner in the Detroit area.  We were too early for lunch at Slows, so we settled on BBQ for dinner.

Slows Bar-B-Q is on Michigan Avenue in the shadow of what’s left of Tiger Stadium.  There’s no parking lot that we could see, but we were able to find street parking around the corner.  The area looks a little rundown and not some place I would really want to be at night, but Slows stood out as a diamond in that rough.

Our first challenge was getting in the place.  We couldn’t find the door!  There are two doors that actually look like doors, but both are looked and not an actual entrance.  We stood looking at the store front trying to figure out how to get in!  Fortunately, someone came out.  The door is blended in to the facade.  It’s has the same wooden slats the cover the building.  No windows or even a handle.  There’s a hole cut out of the wood to pull the door open.  It’s actually a really cool look and once we figured out how to get in, we had a little chuckle and could appreciate the design.

We made it to Slows just after three o’clock.  Not a prime dinner time.  We thought we’d be ok, but when we got in, there’s was actually a wait.  There were two large groups in front of us as well as a couple normal size parties.  We gave our name to the host who told us it would be about twenty minutes.  A twenty minute wait at three in the afternoon!  Again, that’s usually a good sign, so we stuck it out.  Turns out, the wait was about ten to fifteen.   Read the rest of this entry »





BonaPit Grill & Smokehouse- Palos Heights, IL

29 12 2008
  • 12200 S. Harlem Ave
  • Palos Heights, IL 60463
  • (708) 361-9610
  • Website
  • Menu
BonaPit Grill and Smokehouse on Harlem in Palos Heights, IL

BonaPit Grill and Smokehouse on Harlem in Palos Heights, IL

I told J as we were eating dinner, it’s a good thing we don’t actually live in Chicago.  Every time we go home, I gorge myself when we go out because the food is so damn good!

J and I were at one of her friends house catching up with them when dinner rolled around.  They ordered pizza from a place I’ll probably blog about next time we go home.  They encouraged me to try a slice and a slice ended up being two and a half. It was delicious.  We didn’t eat because we had plans to meet her parents at a BBQ place in Palos Heights. 

BonaPit (not Bon Apetite) is located on Harlem near 122nd Street in Palos Heights.  J’s mom said there used to be a fancy, white tablecloth restaurant in the building and that was the first thing we noticed.  BonaPit doesn’t look like a BBQ joint.  The floor was a wood planked floor, but the tables, walls and ceiling all looked like we should be sipping wine over candlelight.  Read the rest of this entry »





Weber Grill Restaurant – Chicago

30 11 2008
  • 539 N. State St.
  • Chicago, IL 60654
  • (312) 467-9696
  • Website
  • Menu
The Weber Grill Restaurant on State Street in downtown Chicago.

The Weber Grill Restaurant on State Street in downtown Chicago.

It isn’t very often that J and I eat at the same restaurant twice, so when I tell you this is the third time we’ve eaten at Weber Grill, you should know that it’s a good restaurant.  After spending all day walking around Chicago, it was finally time for dinner.  We had a reservation for 7:30 and we left The Gap at about 7:00 to start walking towards our dinner destination.

Weber Grill Restaurant is located at State and Ohio in the bottom floor of the Hilton Garden Inn.  The downtown restaurant is one of four locations with two others in the Chicago suburbs (Schaumburg and Lombard) and the third in Indianapolis.  Weber Grill is like no other restaurant you will ever go to.

Yes, Weber Grill Restaurant is owned by the same comapny that produces those kettle grills you should have on your patio or in your garage.  There are no stoves here.  Just grills.  Giant ranch grills.  Everything is cooked over live fire and charcoal.  It’s a grill lovers paradise.  Read the rest of this entry »





The Pit Rib House – Hickory Hills, IL

25 11 2008
  • 9430 S. Roberts Rd.
  • Hickory Hills, IL 60457
  • (708) 599-7576
  • Website
  • Menu
The Pit Rib House on Roberts in Hickory Hills, IL

The Pit Rib House on Roberts in Hickory Hills, IL

How fitting is it that there’s a BBQ place in a town called Hickory Hills?  J and I were discussing dinner when her step dad starting throwing out restaurant names that they like in the area.  After ten minutes or so, he suggested The Pit Rib House and after a quick scan of the menu, I was sold.

The Pit is located on near the corner of Roberts Road and 95th St.  The outside of the building is lit up with neon which is supposed to resemble a 1960’s road house on Route 66.  There are parking lots on either side of the building and even on a Tuesday night, they were pretty full.  We found a spot to park (not near a light pole) and headed inside.  When you walk in, you’re again met with the feel of a stop along The Mother Road.  There are antique vending machines (for display only) and the walls are covered with pictures, newspaper articles, and old signs.  The first stop inside is the waiting room for carry out.  Just past that, a waitress met us and showed us to a table inside the dining room.  The theme continued with exposed wood walls and ceilings although the walls were covered with artifacts and pictures.  We were seated next to a table overlooking a patio area that was filled with fire wood for the upcoming winter. Read the rest of this entry »





Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ – Palos Park, IL

18 10 2008
  • 6523 W. 127th St.
  • Palos Park, IL 60463
  • (708) 489-1800
  • Website
  • Menu
The menu logo from Smokin Joes BBQ in Palos Park, IL on Chicagos south side

The menu logo from Smokin' Joe's BBQ in Palos Park, IL on Chicago's south side

Good BBQ is so hard to find in Mid-Michigan.  Not in Chicago.  J hasn’t used any vacation days since starting her new job and since we wanted to go see my niece, she decided to take a few days off which would give us a chance to catch up with both of our families and a number of friends in Illinois.  On our first night in town, we hung out at one of J’s friends in Crestwood.  They have a little one of their own so carry-out is one of their best friends.  We were hanging out in their living room when it started to get close to dinner time.  I haven’t known these people all that long yet, but they knew BBQ was a good way to earn a special place in my heart.

Smokin’ Joe’s is a little carry-out place in Palos Park.  I didn’t go pick up the food, but I’m told they’re in a strip mall.  The joint is strictly carry-out and since that’s what we were looking for, Smokin’ Joe’s was a good fit.  I didn’t want to eat ribs in front of people I still don’t know that well, so I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and fries.  When we were all putting in our orders, J’s friend asked me if I wanted coleslaw on my pulled pork.  Cole slaw?  That’s something I’ve never encountered before.  I know it’s a very Carolina concept and I see people doing it in the cooking shows I watch, but I’ve never actually eaten at a place that actually puts coleslaw on the sandwich.  I wasn’t really wanting to try it so I asked to leave it off.  J and her friend bothgot the pulled pork with the slaw and a side of jalapeno beans.  Read the rest of this entry »