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Off Cue

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Welcome to Mastication Monologues, one and all!  If you’re new to this site, I am a world traveler and eater who posts about my adventures in restaurants and life through witty and delectable anecdotes.  If you’re a returning fan, thank you for keeping up with my blog even though it has been on pause again.  This time it’s due to the Thanksgiving holiday season and transition to another university teaching gig, but that doesn’t mean that my food forays have ceased by any stretch of the imagination.  Today’s post is about Q-BBQ, a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to the smoked and savory stuff.

There are lots of different branches for this barbecue joint throughout the Chicagoland area, but I went to the La Grange location.  It is quite pleasant in the summer since they have the patio open for diners along with seating inside if the sun and the Q-Style sauces get too hot to handle. q-bbq-lagrange-il-537x489 Looking over the menu, they boasted a wide variety of meats ranging from pulled pork to wings which are prepared with a 13 spice blend and smoked up to 22 hours over hickory and apple wood.  So I could see that they talked the talk, but could they walk the walk?  My mom eventually settled on a basic pulled pork sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes and the complimentary hushpuppies ($7.99).  As for me, I got a brisket sandwich Q-style which meant that in addition to the sauce and meat, I got a helping of Q slaw and blue cheese crumbles on top, and for the side I had cornbread.

We took our seat outside on the patio since it was still a warm and enjoyable late summer day in Chicagoland which seems like a pleasant, distant memory now that the freeze of winter has set in.  Eventually, our food was brought out to us, and it looked delicious.  However, I wasn’t that impressed.  I’ve had barbecue in the Carolinas and Memphis, and this was a pale comparison to those respective grilling styles.  I felt that Green Street Smoked Meats in the West Loop in Chicago even did a better job.  Why did Q BBQ not measure up to my other barbecue experiences?  Easy, the meat. IMG_4251 I felt like my brisket was rubbery, semi-tasty but not bursting with flavor, and covered up by the cole slaw and blue cheese crumbles.  I even had a bite of my mom’s pulled pork sandwich, and it was a shrug of the shoulders from my stomach. IMG_4249 It had a supposed North Carolina vinegar sauce slathered all over its porky interior, but I didn’t taste one bit of the sour tang from this Southern thang.  As for the sides, the mashed potatoes were admirable with their beef based gravy with a bit of spice to liven up an average meal. IMG_4248 The cornbread was dry and uninspiring, and the hushpuppies were mediocre.

Even the mustard sauce couldn't cut it

Even the mustard sauce couldn’t cut it

Instead of being light balls of fried dough, they were dry and crumbly which left my big dog of a stomach woofing for something tastier.   I don’t think the taste of each item fully justified the price they charged.

So if you’re looking for some delicious barbecue, I would look elsewhere in the Chicagoland area.  Q BBQ will just leave you with more Qs than As.

Q BBQ on Urbanspoon

Bearing the Grunt of Good Food

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Welcome to the 220th post on Mastication Monologues!  It has been quite a trip, but what better way to celebrate another small milestone than going to the first ever Lettuce Entertain You restaurant:  R.J. Grunts.  It still is as funky as it was back in the 1970s, and the food is as unpretentious as their self-deprecating menu humor.

This food adventure was prefaced by an enchanting time at the zoo with my girlfriend Janice at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Adult Night.  After enjoying seeing the animals chilling at night in their habitats sans shrieking urchins scurrying about, we stumbled upon the mythical establishment.  IMG_4093We walked in on a Saturday night, and it was packed.  However, we were able to get a table for two right away.  We walked past happy, chatting diners along with an epic salad bar that seemed to have every condiment under the sun along with some interesting sides like various neon colored Jellos. IMG_4107 When we sat down, I surveyed the walls that were coated with pictures of random people who I never really found out who they were.  However, the menu was a work of art, and it was gigantic as shown by my semi-hidden boo. IMG_4094

Hide and Seek at our own table

Hide and Seek at our own table

Not only was it hulking in terms of size, but also food and drink options.  One of the most interesting items on the menu was the temperature soup.  What it consists of is the soup of the day that costs the same temperature based on what it says on the lakeside thermometer, i.e. if it’s 32 degrees, you pay $0.32 for your soup.  It can be added to your entree with the following three conditions:  1.  The salad bar doesn’t come with it, 2.  They won’t pay you if it’s -0 F, and 3.  It’s only valid with purchase of an entree.  While it was intriguing, I was much hungrier and looking for something more substantial.  Thus, I came to the burger part of the menu.  After looking it over, I decided to get the Yowza Burger (a common phrase used as an exclamation of excitement during the 70s like in Happy Days) for $12.95 and a hand-dipped creamy caramel shake ($6).  Janice got the Grunt Burger ($11.95) but no shake.  They came out after a bit, and they didn’t look spectacular.IMG_4111  However, I made the mistake of judging a burger by its bun. It was stacked with enough spicy things to make someone yell its name, but with someone who has dead tastebuds after years of heat challenges, it wouldn’t trouble many chiliheads.IMG_4112  Normal people, maybe.  I really liked the pepper jack, spicy ketchup, and peppercorns that were coating the burger.  It was different kinds of spice that activated different parts of the palate along with the crunch from the smoked bacon and occasional peppercorn lodged in the juicy patty.  I personally preferred my girlfriend’s Grunt burger because there were a ton of fried onion strings and crumbly/melted blue cheese chunks on the Angus patty.  IMG_4125Two great, strong flavors and differing textures that would make me happy but sorely needing a breath mint by the end of the meal.  Then there were the fries that were more like potato chips but not really.  I really enjoyed them since they were unique, exquisitely fried, and were just the right amount of crispy leaning more toward the softer end of things.  The piece de resistance was the  milkshake I had there.IMG_4105  I’ve had my fair share of ice cream treats, both good and disgusting, but this was one of my top three milk shakes I’ve ever tried.  The butterfat of the ice cream mixing with the rich milk and sweet caramel created a cool ambrosia that washed over my palate with wave upon wave of dulcet notes that made me happy until there was none left.  I had no shame when taking it down in public like a sweet fiend.  It was a creative, classic all American meal for a fun date night.

Short hair, don't care

Short hair, don’t care

So if you’re looking for a restaurant with plenty of history, character, innovative dishes, and moderate prices, look no further than the blast from the past, R.J. Grunts.  Dy-no-mite!!

R.J. Grunts on Urbanspoon

Make Your Own Froyo? YOLO!

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So I’m sure that you have read all about my terrifyingly spicy experience at Onnuriye Donkatsu in my last post, so here is the follow up to what happened after my challenge.   My stomach still was feeling a bit funky even with consuming the antacid, white rice, and milk, so we decided to get frozen yogurt to sooth my scorched tummy.  We ended up going to Snow Spoon Cafe which is located in Hongdae, Seoul.  You come out of exit 9 at the Hongik University stop.  Then you turn left and turn right at the first street on your right.  There should be trees on both sides of the street.  You keep walking till you cross another street and keep heading straight until you see the Super 7 club on your left hand side.  The cafe occupies an entire corner of the building, so you can’t miss it.IMG_0702

When we walked in, it was semi-full of college students seemingly unable to choose what they wanted because not only did they have 10 different flavors, but they also had a fixins bar that seemed a bit healthier than the froyo places back home, i.e. more fruit and nuts instead of brownie bites and cookie dough chunks.  I guess Koreans haven’t gotten the hang of making healthy things unhealthy like Americans can do so easily.  If you don’t want frozen yogurt, they also have gelato, funny looking ice cream bars, and ice cream sandwiches. Flavor-wise, they had some stalwarts like plain, chocolate, and strawberry, but then they became a bit more mysterious.  I decided to get one flavor that was simply called “Blue”, and it had a picture of Santorini’s classic whitewashed houses interspersed on a mountainside while an endless blue horizon spread out behind it.

Greeks:  known for Democracy and ice cream?

Greeks: known for Democracy and ice cream?

What it would taste like?  I had no clue.  Maybe it would be indescribable, or maybe it would taste like gyros or souvlaki given the Greek picture.  Then I moved down the line to get the rice flavored frozen yogurt.  You read that right:  rice froyo.

Only in Asia

Only in Asia

Though this wouldn’t be the first time I ate ice cream made with rice.  The last flavor I got was blackberry.  I can only take so much razzmatazz in one cup.  I garnished my creation with some trail mix and gummi bears since I can’t say no to any form of gummi candy.  They charge you by weight, so I paid about 5,000 Won for a good amount of ice cream.

As for the actual flavors, they quickly put out the fire burning within my lower torso with panache.

Diabetes?  YOLO

Diabetes? YOLO

The blackberry flavor was delicious since it actually tasted like eating fresh blackberries minus the pesky seeds.  Then came the rice which was really odd because I couldn’t determine whether it had more of a vanilla flavor profile to it, or perhaps it was more like the plain frozen yogurt option.  Finally, there was Blue.  It definitely was the superstar of my cold creation much like the Eiffel 65 hit circa 1999, but it definitely wasn’t played out by any means from my first spoonful to my last.  Turns out it tasted like a tropical fruit punch of sorts. As a whole, my experience was a satisfying spectrum of flavors that ranged from more conventional to the more bizarre yet surprisingly delectable.

A French flag of funky flavors

A French flag of funky flavors

So if you’re looking to eat some delicious frozen goodies in South Korea, check out Snow Spoon.  It’s the perfect treat anytime whether that is after surviving one of Hongdae’s ear-splittingly loud clubs or just on a whim to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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