*LONG POST ALERT*
Driving over to the Depot American Diner yesterday, I caught a heady whiff of smoke and barbecue. I looked about desperately for the source of this intoxicating aroma, but was in heavy traffic and couldn't locate it. On the drive back, however, I had the Picky Eater (Mr. Ursi) help me scout and we found it. It was hard to miss as there was a line down the street running from their window, always a promising sign. Too full to eat there after a full meal with dessert at DAD, we decided to go back and hit it up today.
Located at the corner of Pulaski and 5th, Mary's Bar BQ:
I love their slogan, "Where the sauce is boss and every bone is well worth eating." I'd like to note that we proved the latter part of this true today.
It's a colorful little building, festooned with really terrific advertisements, housing a business that has been proudly serving their community since 1968.
I have to admit, faced with these fantastic graphics, the Picky Eater and I were half in love with this place before even trying the food. As we pondered the menu, a steady flow of customers came by, they seem to do a very brisk business. Apologies for the photo quality, we were dodging patrons trying to get to the window and were snapping quickly as we were receiving some VERY odd looks for taking pictures.
As you can see, they are very proud of their homemade chili, so we had to go with an order of that. We asked the extremely friendly gentlemen at the counter what they recommended and received a strong endorsement for the tips and links combo, so we got a large combo and a 5 piece wing as well. With two cokes, the total came to about $23.00. I managed to remember to ask for sauce on the side, which earned me a quizzical look. More on the sauce later...
They countermen were quite proud of the fact that they have been in operation since 1968 and were very amused at my questions and photo taking, so I'm guessing I'm the first person to show up on their doorstep with a camera. They asked why I was taking pics and I told them I was going to post the pictures on the internet and not to be too surprised if anyone else showed up with cameras. They asked which site and I let them know, lthforum.com. They were very pleased to know that there is a group of ravenous barbecue eaters out there that like to take pictures of food and talk about it on the net, although they couldn't understand why I wanted to get a picture of the smoker, which I managed to do by sticking my arm in the window:
A large aquarium smoker proved to be the source of that lovely, traffic stopping aroma. I'll admit that I neglected to ask about the cooking methods, but they were very busy and I was VERY hungry. I don't think they'll be quite so surprised the next time I show up, so I'll try to remember to ask them then. In any case, a very tidy and homey operation with a great staff and a lot of regular customers! We had some very friendly conversations with the clientele as we waited for our food. Asked why we were there, we responded that the smell had pulled us in. They understood and smiled knowingly. I'd have come back here based on the friendliness of everyone we met alone, we got a number of waves as we left and one little girl with whom we had an interesting conversation (At all of 4 years old, she already disapproves of ketchup on hotdogs and demanded only mustard when her mother ordered for her. "No ketchup on hotdogs" she said firmly!) waved and shouted "bye bye" over and over as we pulled away. This place was ALL smiles!
Heading North on Pulaski, we spotted this interesting spot serving "Boom" Fried Rice and a hardware store with their supply of smokers set out:
We took our food over to Garfield Park and spread our feast out.
The Picky Eater was very anxious to eat and ready for me to put the camera away.
The highly touted chili was quite good and prepared in the midwest manner. If not quite as thick or spicy as I typically like, chili changes from day to day and this one was good enough that I'd certainly try it again.
The chicken wings were really fantastic, hot, crisp, moist, and not at all greasy, I would wholeheartedly recommend them. The only thing they needed was some hot sauce. You can't see it in the photo, but under the chicken is a mound of fries. The fries were nothing special, but I rarely expect them to be at a barbecue place:
The main attraction, ribs and tips, proved to be an absolute treat. The photo does not do the helping justice, it was more than enough and then some. In fact, we wound up sharing with some ladies out for a stroll who admired our picnic and asked from whence it came. Upon learning it was from Mary's they extolled it's virtues. We offered to share, but they politely declined, only to come back 10 minutes later to take us up on it as they couldn't resist. We commented on the rather mild, sweet and tomatoey sauce we had received with the bbq and mentioned that hot sauce would have made the meal perfect. They told us that they have a killer hot sauce at Mary's, but you have to REQUEST it. Note to self - next time request the hot sauce. I need to know WHY the sauce is the boss!!!
The tips were very smokey, meaty and had just the right amount of pull with the flavor of pork shining through. As I neglected to inquire about the cooking methods and I'm not a barbecue guru, I can't be sure, but they certainly tasted nicely of woodsmoke and had a good pink ring. On their own, without sauce, they were very, very good. So good, in fact, that the Picky Eater, for whom I had gotten the chicken wings as a safety, declared that I needed to step away from the rib tips and leave them to him. This is from a man who has steadfastly refused to eat rib tips since being imported to Chicago from Boston! I deferred to his new found enthusiasm for tips, and concentrated on the links:
The links were my favorite. Although a tiny bit dry, they were very spicy, relentlessly studded with peppers, nicely fatty and had a dense smokey taste. Nice casing, lightly charred, great coarse ground texture, with a good snap and miles of flavor. These links will make you sweat!
Sorry for the length of the post, but I could not find anything at all about this spot on the internet and decided to be thorough. Overall, a very promising first visit, we were quite happy with everything. I won't compare it to other barbecue places in town based upon one visit, but I'll certainly be back to try it again and look forward to hearing the thoughts of the rest of the LTH community.
Mary's Bar BQ
606 S. Pulaski
Chicago, IL 60624