Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

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Super Smokers – Eureka, Missouri

Note: On January 6, 2006, The St. Louis Business Journal announced that Super Smokers closed unexpectedly. As it turns out, only one of the five St. Louis area restaurants remains open. This will add several miles to our trips to Chicago, but any detour that leads to outstanding barbecue is well worth it. St. Louis, Missouri isn’t widely recognized as one of America’s barbecue capitals as is cross-state barbecue bastion Kansas City, but perhaps it should be. St. Louis based Super Smokers may not just serve the best barbecue in the state, they have been certified as ‘cuing the very best pork in the world.

The Super Smokers BBQ team has finished in the top ten in nine of twelve years competing at the World Barbecue Championship at Memphis in May, including a 2000 first place finish in the “whole hog” competition. Nicknamed “The Super Bowl of Swine,” Memphis in May is the largest pork barbecue event of its kind with more than 240 teams from all over the world participating.

Meeting and exceeding the lofty quality standards and unwavering consistency required to win at the World Barbecue Championships has influenced the way Super Smokers conduct business at their St. Louis area restaurant. The competition not only helped them develop their best dry rubs, barbecue sauces and marinades, but the head hogs treat each day in their restaurant operations as a barbecue contest with every customer being a judge. Super Smokers strives for perfect scores from every person who walks through their doors. From me, they’ve got as close to a perfect score as I’ve ever accorded to anyone other than the incomparable Arthur Bryant’s!

Super Smokers is among the very best barbecue restaurants in which we’ve ever dined on fine swine. Just as the Greeks were unable to resist the sirens’ call, it may be impossible to resist the alluring aroma of succulent swine as it is smoked to perfection on the Smokers’ barbecue grills. The barbecue ribs may rank second only to the one from which Eve was created as the best ribs in the history of mankind. Glazed with a nearly honey sweet “championship” sauce with a slight tang, the meat escaped easily from the bone and was as mouth-wateringly tender as any rib meat we’ve ever had.

You couldn’t pull me away from the pulled pork in what was quite likely one of the two or three best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had. The sesame seed buns were overstuffed with succulent pork yet a generous amount of pork remained on my plate for ravenous consumption. Despite their proficiency with pork, it was Super Smokers brisket we thought stood out. Nowhere in Texas where beef is king, have we had a better, more tender and delicious brisket.

The sides were fitting accompaniment to the magnificent meats. I thought I had experienced outstanding okra in the Deep South, but the fried and lightly breaded okra at Super Smokers made all previous experiences pall in comparison. Similarly, the sweet potato fries were beyond comparison to any I had previously. The baked beans were just a tad sweet, but generously doled out. Super Smokers’ jalapeno cornbread is sweet, moist and absolutely wonderful.

Super Smokers BBQ is a world-class barbecue competition team, a successful catering company, and a restaurant business that we now call one of my very favorite barbecue restaurants in America.

Super Smokers
601 Stockell Drive
Eureka, MO
(636) 938-9742

LATEST VISIT: 25 November 2005
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 24
COST: $$
BEST BET: Brisket, Pulled Pork, Ribs, Fried Okra, Sweet Potato Fries

Hackney’s – Lake Zurich, Illinois

Signage that's familiar throughout the Chicago area

The second city doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to burgers and if you have to hire a hackney (carriage or automobile) to get to Hackney’s, by all means do so. Hackney’s, a family tavern with a history dating back to the 1920s has a half dozen franchises throughout the Chicago area and features burgers worth going out for on a Windy City day.

The eponymous Hackney burger on dark rye and Hackney’s bleu cheese burger stand out! In fact, the Food Network’s “Best Of” show named the Hackney burger as one of America’s best burgers. Michael and Jane Stern waxed poetic about the Hackney Burger in their book, Eat Your Way Across America. It’s truly a special burger. The dark rye has a fresh, out-of-the-oven taste to it while the beef patty is succulent and prepared the way you like it. At medium, it’s got plenty of pink for that juiciness all great burgers need. Mustard is the only condiment you need, but each burger comes with fresh tomatoes, leafy lettuce and succulent onions.

The capacious Alpine cabin which houses Hackney's in Lake Zurich, Illinois

For an added treat, order the fried onion loaf, a prodigious brick of tangled, fried sweet onions. Those golden brown onions just might be the best you’ve ever had even if they are a bit messy. Don’t dare desecrate these pearlescent onions with ketchup or any other condiment; they’re as close to perfect as you’ll ever find in an onion ring. Hackney’s crinkled fries are well seasoned and invariably delicious.

Hackneys has a full-service menu that includes a variety of sandwiches and comfort foods. An absolute “must have” is Hackney’s coleslaw which is made with a tangy horseradish. It’s the kind of coleslaw you remember for a long time and can’t wait to have again. Another favorite, perhaps attributable to Chicago’s proximity to Wisconsin, is the bratz with German cabbage. Bratz, a nicely seasoned Germanic sausage is a veritable religion in the Milwaukee area.

Hackney’s isn’t necessarily known for salads, but during a June, 2005 visit, we had a masterpiece of a salad–leafy spinach, in-season strawberries, caramelized walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing to crown it all. To wash down an excellent meal, try the Green River lime soda, Chicago’s original lime soda, brewed since 1919.

My brother-in-law Chuck, a fellow gourmand, lives within half a mile of Hackney’s and for that we’re ever so grateful.

Hackney’s
880 N. Old Rand Road
Lake Zurich, IL
(847) 438-2103
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 23 November 2005
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Hackney Burger, Blue Cheese Burger, Onion Rings

Siegelman’s Restaurant Deli – Arlington Heights, Illinois

Siegelman's Deli Restaurant, home of outstanding pastrami!

Who would have thought that a nondescript restaurant in a nondescript shopping center would feature food beyond description–food for which you run out of adjectives and synonyms for delicious (let’s see: savory, scrumptious, yummy, tasty, mouth-watering, appetizing, delectable, luscious)? In Siegelman’s, the quintessential Jewish deli, we found some of the very best pastrami (and it’s no surprise that it carries the Vienna Beef label) in America–perfectly marbled to bring out its dramatically captivating (not nearly sufficient to describe it) flavor and in such huge proportions that your mouth is agape (and watering) at first sight.

There’s a Yiddish word that perfectly describes Siegelman’s sandwiches–”farshtopt,” a word which means “stuffed” as in crammed full of meat. An even better word might be “overstuffed” because that’s what you receive with every sandwich order.

The thin-sliced, piled-high pastrami sandwich on fresh baked rye bread includes enough meat (a full 8.5 ounces per jumbo sandwich and 6.5 ounces on the standard offering) to make four pastrami sandwiches in Albuquerque’s chintzy sandwich shops. Jars of gourmet mustard are available for slathering on the pastrami. A perfect prelude to the perfect pastrami sandwich is the complementary soup sweet and sour cabbage soup which tastes even better on a cold autumn day.

If you’re really famished, order the “Hav-A-Catskill” described on the menu as “mountain high pastrami sliced so thin that it will take your breath away. You’ll think you’re in New York when you eat this delicacy.” The difference between this Hav-A specialty and the jumbo is that in addition to soup, you have your choice of either potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw or potato pancake. The latter offering is absolutely wonderful, especially if topped with Siegelman’s applesauce.

Pastrami’s first cousin, corned beef, is also a Siegelman’s specialty. Lean choice of corned beef is freshly sliced and boiled then served on freshly baked rye bread. The hungriest of diners will order the Hav-A-Nagilla, piled high corned beef served with soup and one of the aforementioned sides.

Kim, who is amazingly not a pastrami devotee, always orders something else which gives me an opportunity to wax poetic about something other than pastrami. Siegelman’s salami and corned beef sandwich is also worthy of tribute while the Monte Cristo sandwich is a towering example of just how high meat can be piled onto thin slices of bread. Complementary pickles are provided at each table in such quantities that you could probably fill two pickle jars.

Even though distance prevents us from partaking of Seigelman’s wonderful food more frequently, my in-laws and wonderful wife have graciously shipped several pounds of pastrami shipped to me so that I never have to go too long without its glorious flavor.

Siegelman’s Restaurant Deli
912 Algonquin Road
Arlington Heights, IL
(847) 398-0222

LATEST VISIT: 23 November 2005
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pastrami, Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup