It’s a sweltering summer day and I’ve been on a BBQ rampage lately so a light dinner was definitely in order. But today, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. An invitation from the Food Father to Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ located at 441 N. Clark St. in Chicago. Located next to another culinary icon, the bright red building was bright and easy to spot.
After entering and cooling off from the suffocating heat, I noticed how busy the place was. It wasn’t a terribly large dining room yet the set up with communal but chic picnic tables lined the south wall allowing for an easy flow of customers and employees. I also noticed owner Billy Dec silently surfing his social media pages off in the corner. How cool is that?? We were immediately seated and tended to by our waiter for the eve, Victor.
Going with a BBQ/Asian fusion theme, our picnic table consisted of a few squirt bottles of sauces and a mason jar stuffed with napkins, silverware and yes… chopsticks. Victor made a few drink suggestions. I chose a “Rockit Man” which is a Manhattan and the Food Father opted for the “Bushwacker”, a specialty cocktail consisting of Bacardi Rum, Kahlua, chocolate syrup and some other ingredients. Both drinks were refreshing however, I did immediately regret not ordering one of their Moonshine cocktails. As an appetizer, we delved into the “Cracklins” which were BBQ flavored pork rinds. I didn’t dislike them but the order was a bit large for just two people, even if one of them is the Food Father, a champion of consumption. They also had deviled eggs and other interesting things on the menu for appetizers.
For my main course, I selected Steam Buns. Like I said earlier, I’m a bit BBQ’d out right now so opted for a bit more of the Asian. The Food Father went with a half order of the Spare Ribs and we both split an order of the Mac and Cheese which our waiter, Victor recommended. The pork Spare Ribs came with an incredible hunk of corn bread. It wasn’t your traditional corn bread because its consistence was a bit soft and moist more akin to cake. I actually loved it. The pork ribs had a delicious rub with an Asian tang on them and if you like ribs, you’ll have to try these.
My Steam Buns were outstanding. I had a choice of rotisserie chicken, smoked pulled pork or smoked chopped brisket. I went with the brisket also per Victor’s suggestion. These are not traditional steamed buns and came deconstructed. My large ceramic plate complete with a flower pattern reminded me of simple dining in a southern, family restaurant yet the 4 warm, steamed buns with a slit in the side of them waiting to be stuffed with chopped brisket, jalapeno, chopped carrots and sprouts reminded me I was about to eat something other than a country fried steak.
We both loved our meals as well as the mac & cheese, a rigatoni noodle smothered in cheeses. Post meal, we split desert, S’Mores. Yes, I said S’Mores. A homemade marshmallow perfectly warm on the inside and charred on the top sat on a cool chunk of chocolate ganashe and a soft, gram cracker flavored crust.
I would say I had two very small negatives. My meal came atop a plate covered with a butcher paper. At first, this wasn’t even noticeable however, later in my meal, after the paper was soaked with the delish side sauce which I happily drizzled atop my steam buns… I realized that I some paper made its way onto my fork. Not a huge issue but I can see how some people may accidentally consume some of the paper while in their food frenzy. The other negative is that I was provided with 4 delicious, small buns. They came on my plate however, I think that it may or may not have been better to have those in a separate basket covered with a cloth to keep them warm. By the time I got to my fourth bun, it was a bit cold.
I’ll definitely be back and yes, I’ll even have the Steam Buns again. The food was excellent. The service was swift, concise and friendly. The atmosphere was definitely different with a clean and fun country feel. Great job!!