The Beat Cop vs. the Streets & San Man
This fall Sgt. David J. Haynes, CPD, and Christopher Garlington take on the Streets & San Man in their challenge to his (Dennis Foley’s) 2003 masterpiece: The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats. Both books bring you the tongue-in-cheek, food-in-mouth expertise of our public servants who hit the city’s streets and its mom-and-pop eateries every day. They don’t agree on much except that calories don’t count, taste trumps ambience, and you shouldn’t pay more than ten bucks for lunch. Well, they do share a liking for just a few establishments: Hagen’s Fish Market (5635 W. Montrose, bring back your fishing-trip catch to be smoked), Frank and Mary’s (2902 N. Elston, bar serves a full hot dinner at lunchtime), and, oh, yeah, Crabby Kim’s (3655 N. Western), the bar with bikini-clad bartenders. The beat cop has been to more donut shops, the san man to more hot dog stands. Both have eaten plenty of tacos, ribs, pizza, burgers, fried shrimp, and meatloaf platters while others suffer through mid-day salads.
And, now, a quick taste from the beat cop to whet your appetite:
(337 E. 69th St., 773/892–1233, Cuisine: Barbecue)
How do you determine who makes the best ribs in Chicago? How can you possibly taste every rib at every joint in the city? Every restaurant sells ribs and everybody claims theirs is the best. The only thing you can do is break it down by neighborhood and let them fight it out at street level.
Or you can eat at Uncle John’s.
Here’s how good their ribs are: I can’t eat ribs anywhere else now. I will, I have, but I don’t really enjoy it. I drink Uncle John’s sauce straight. It’s just that good. It’s the kind of ribs that make you lose your manners, stick the whole rib in your mouth, and pull the bone out clean. In front of your grandma.
I will declare here and now that Uncle John’s makes the best ribs in Chicago—perhaps in the entire world. They sell their rub by the box but don’t think it’s going to help you recreate this ruby red masterpiece at home. You can’t. It’s some kind of magic, some kind of unholy power over pork and beef, some kind of smoker-pit-voodoo that only occurs at this take-out joint. Last time I was there I was in line behind God. That’s how good this place is.
Make sure you get the hot links. Yeah, a slab of ribs and a plate of hot links. What, are you on a diet or something? Uncle John’s hot links are divine packages of perfectly crumbled seasoned pork, cooked so they have that crisp tooth in the first bite then the inside explodes like a crowd-clearing flash grenade. I ordered two plates to go—one for my fridge and one to eat in the car on the way home. You will convert to porkism after just one serving.
But the best thing about Uncle John’s, after the world-conquering food, is the smoke. You might think Uncle John’s is run by a guy named John but it ain’t. It’s run by a pit boss named Mack. Mack tends the slabs over a smoker that pumps an intoxicating aromatic plume a mile in every direction. It gets into your uniform, it gets into your squad car, and for a while, you smell like ribs. I caught myself smelling my standard-issue white shirt (for good reasons) on the highway back from Uncle John’s and wondering how I could keep the perfume of mulberry and hickory wood in my car forever. I guess the only thing I can do is go back, fight for a parking space (you’ve been warned), and roll the windows down.
Remember this is a beat cop’s guide for cheap food, not for white tablecloths, so when you go there and find out there’s nowhere to sit down, just take a glance at those prices and your worries will vanish. Uncle John’s sells ribs so cheap, he must raise the cows in the basement.
You might consider calling ahead as they are incredibly popular–don’t be an idiot and show up at 5 and wonder why they’re out of ribs. Also, bring a wad of cash. They charge like it’s 1958 because they actually think it’s 1958 and they don’t take plastic.”
Posted by Sharon W. at 5:50 PM