{Barbakoa} Latin Flavors Ignite!

I couldn’t help but say “yes!” when I was invited to dine at Barbakoa a couple of weeks ago. I had passed by this new restaurant situated in the old Buona Beef establishment but never had a chance to make it in. There are so many exciting things about this restaurant that I am certain that I will make this a regular destination.

The lively vibe and bright spacious patio makes you feel like you’re in the city, almost. The vivid decor reminds me much of Carnivale in the West Loop, probably because one of the partners belongs to the restaurant Klein restaurant group. If you’re familiar with the high ceilings, colorful splashes of red, purple and orange, you’ll know what I mean.

On a Thursday night, the place wasn’t packed but there was quite a crowd. The room was a bit cool but the patio was perfect for a summer night. Unfortunately, there was a wait for the patio so we sat inside. Ladies, bring a pashmina!

The restaurant menu is designed for tasting, but if you’re not into multiple courses, you can order a la carte.  But check this out!

The most economical tasting menu will leaving bursting at the seams and satisfied.  I can’t wait to go back and try their upgraded menus!

Let’s have a look at the $22 per person menu which is what we enjoyed.  We asked our server to bring out his favorites (actually, he offered!) and we gladly obliged!  Highly recommend doing this…

Guacamoles, not your average guac!

A simple but pretty presentation.  The first guacamole at the top is finished with chicharron also known as fried pork rind.  The avocados had a nice balance of flavor, mild (some guac has too much onions or garlic) and a crispy top.

Second item, mango guacamole  had just a touch of sweetness. Again, nicely balanced and flavorful, the mangoes were like a celebration of summer!

Salsas…..

…if you can’t take the heat…let your server know!  We love spicy food so not an issue.  the first was a serrano pepper green salsa (mild) and the second was a habanero salsa.  Both excellent and not the knock your socks off kinda spicy. I was still able to taste my food after eating this.

The main event…TACO’s – wow. my favorite part to tell you about!  LOOK AT THIS FEAST!

We were given four taco to try – EACH!  Short ribs, halibut, shrimp and carne asada.  the carne asada was so amazing I almost ran to the kitchen to beg for more.  But I had some more serious work ahead of me, that is, to taste the rest of the tacos.  I loved that the taco are the tiny tortillas, the size of your palm but the chef stuffs it as full as a burrito.  Tasty stuff my friends.  I loved all the textures of soft, crispy, crunchy, sweet, salty – all of the above (except bitter).


Wait, I just lied. I think my favorite part is dessert.  A five course dessert!  Amazing.  Small bites of 5 different desserts was a heavenly way to polish off a meal.

Need I remind you that it was only $22 per person?

Add a couple of giant mojitos and dinner was $75 including drinks, taxes and tips.  WHOA!  Date night is going to happen more often.

{Q-BBQ} Not Your Average Smokehouse

Downtown Naperville has always been an attractive place to dine – bustling with independent boutiques and often pricey restaurants -however the town is now complete with it’s very own fast-casual smokehouse,  Q-BBQ.  Q-BBQ earned it’s following at their flagship location in LaGrange several years ago and has now found a comfy spot on Main St. in downtown Naperville.  Their location is a huge stomach tease on the nearby population as you can smell the delicious smoked meat from MILES away!

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Naperville seems to only have two smoke houses:  Gemato’s and now, Q-BBQ.  I went to Gemato’s over the summer and found it extremely mediocre. But of course, I’m comparing it to the lip smacking quality of Smoque BBQ or Honky Tonk’s in the city.  I ordered the smoked chicken and the ribs and remember clearly that the chicken was so dry enough that my toddler refused to eat any. The high chairs really needed a severe cleaning – who wants to put their kid in a sticky high chair??  I love that Q-BBQ is a modern restaurant – like the feeling you get when you walk into a Chipotle. It’s clean, bright and inviting.   The staff is good looking and friendly.

Now, I mentioned Honky Tonk – it’s hands down, my favorite BBQ in the city. We used to live about 5 mins from there and ordered as often as our waistlines could afford.  I can easily say that the calibre of Q-BBQ may EXCEED that of Honky Tonk. Let’s compare apples to apples.

1) Q-BBQ offers FOUR sauces where Honky Tonk only offers 3 – My favorite is definitely the South Carolina Mustard. They also have a Texas spicy, North Carolina Vinegar and Sweet Sauce.

2) Q-BBQ offers both SLICED and CHOPPED beef brisket (Honky Tonk only has chopped it seems)

3) Q-BBQ’s memphis style chicken wings might make you orgasm upon first bite. Not offered at Honky Tonk

4) Q-BBQ may just win this comparison with their BURNT ENDS. (More on that later)

What Q-BBQ doesn’t have are the fun additions that Honky Tonk has, like fried green tomatoes or bacon candy.

Not know what to order, we opted for the Q-COMBO where you can choose 4 meats and add sides.  As the platter of BBQ deliciousness was passed under my nose, I felt a mouth boner erect inside me.  My salivary glands began to express themselves and I found my throat beginner to swell. My heart palpitated just a litte as the tray slid in front of me.

::Pulled chicken, chicken wings, chopped beef brisket, pulled pork.  Hush puppies, mac n cheese (whisper “smoked…….. meat………”)

Without blinking an eye or letting another second pass without having BBQ in my mouth, we quickly divided up our share and each of us attacked the food in our own way.  Uniquely different right off the bat was the chicken wings.  They are so covered in brown sugar & spices then smoked – the flavor was finger licking good!   Everything else was very good but we weren’t able to stop at just tasting this 4 meat combo. (btw, Hush Puppies are are the BOMB – sweet kernerls of corn pop nestled in the soft potato sing glorious songs in your mouth).

One thing I was able to do on this visit was solidify the fact that I have to make my way to South Carolina very soon.  I’ve found the style of sauce that I keep going back to.  Not shown here (it’s around the backside) is this yellowy, mustard bbq sauce.  Who can recommend a place to go in South Carolina??

::Round Two

Not satisfied yet, at the recommendation of the manager, Abbey (who’s adorable by the way), we ordered the Burnt Ends.  I am not sure I have been burnt ends any where else, or maybe just never took notice.  At Q-BBQ, they smoke the brisket, then cut off the burnt ends, re-rub and smoke another two hours for a total of 24 hours.  Intense meaty smokiness unless any other meat I’ve had before.  I was afraid they might be uber dry but actually very tender!

::Round Three, Food Whores don’t quit easily

You just can’t leave a BBQ joint without trying out the ribs, right? I am a bit of a pork rib snob – Because we make ribs at home often enough – I have a preference in the cut of meat a buy.  We never buy ribs from the conventional grocery store anymore because all the big name brands have super fatty, super thick meat on the bones. Sounds like I would like it, but I don’t!  My idea of a perfect cut of ribs is uniform meatiness across the bone and at Q-BBQ, you get exactly that.  Look at the smoke ring around the meat? Yum. Perfect.

::Last round – salad for digestion.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer my salad post entree.


Hardly a healthy salad with REAL bacon, chunks of bleu but definitely fresh.  You can add meat onto the salad for just a few bucks more.

So there you have it, another invite to dine complete with pictures to show off the deliciousness.  Of all the items we ate, I highly recommend the burnt ends, the ribs and defintely the BBQ wings!  Since our visit, Q-BBQ added a few items to the menu including mashed potatoes, stuffing, chili, and a side salad to their ever-expansive menu.

~Vivian

Category:Restaurants Barbeque

103 S Main St Naperville, IL 60540
http://www.q-bbq.com/

 

Isacco Kitchen – A World Kitchen in St. Charles

It’s extremely refreshing to see a restaurant of this caliber in St. Charles, IL.; read on and you’ll see why.

James and I just moved to the Western suburbs – if you’ve been following my posts, my husband knocked me up and we quickly made a move out to Batavia where we would no longer endure 3 hour daily commutes to our day time jobs in the western suburbs.  I was completely torn up when we packed up all our things and left our awesome downtown loft…I thought that Olive Garden’s and Chili’s would become my staple restaurants.

I first heard of Isacco Kitchen when I saw it walking to a nearby bar (no worries, I drank O’Douls) on my way to watch one of the last games of the NHL playoff’s before the Hawks won the Stanley Cup(!). I was immediately intrigued at the yellow exterior, pretty landscaping and unique spelling of the restaurant name. At first, I didn’t quite understand how to read the name but later learned it was just the letter “A” sideways.

Little did I know, restaurants like Isacco’s exist here!! Just think, “Blackbird, minus the foam”.  Unique and fresh ingredients prepared by highly skilled hands.

This trendy little restaurant was just about to close after their lunch service on a Saturday afternoon when we drove up. Luckily the waiter saw us and quickly ran into the kitchen to double check with Chef if he wanted to continue serving us.  I’m SO glad he did because this was absolutely one of the best meals I’ve had THIS YEAR (see my Macku Sushi review for the other oustanding meal) .  We were also STARVING as we had spent the morning painting our kitchen. We don’t normally eat like this for lunch but we felt it was well deserved!

It was a gorgeus day and not too hot so we opted for a seat outdoors on their cozy patio overlooking a highly professional landscape and herb pots.  J and I perused the menu and immediately a few things caught our eyes.

Should you decide to try Isacco – all of our dishes were superb, fresh and organic!  Turns out Chef Isacco was executive Chef on one of the most prestigious cruise ship lines in the world and has experience cooking using flavors from all over the world.

Let’s begin with the Beef Tartare – You can’t really see but the tartare appears to be properly chopped with the double knife method, then garnished with mustard, chives and seasoning.  Although I’m NOT supposed to eat any raw food, I couldn’t help myself but take a small taste and it was one of the best tartare’s in the city (would you believe that the tartare at Paramount Room is pretty kick ass too?)

I opted for the seared Diver Scallops appetizer and I felt like I was ripping the restaurant off by ordering this – 4 giant succulent scallops seared to perfection and paired with organic greens, ratatouille and mango papaya relish – $11 – I couldn’t make it at home for $11!!!!

One sexy dish…

Our entree’s were also outstanding and a steal for the price:

Rack of Lamb with artichoke salad (it’s artichoke season and these were yummy!), aged percorin, balsamic and crispy potatoes au gratin ($15)  I couldn’t believe there were 4 full chops – again, I can’t do it for this cheap at home!!

Finally, my entree was slightly screwed up – it was supposed to come with gnocchi but Chef accidentally made pasta but I’m REALLY glad because I was more in the mood for pasta than gnocchi’s. DID I MENTION THAT THEY HAND MAKE THEIR PASTAS???  Chef came to talk to us and told us about his Italian pasta roller – and he has every right to be proud because the noodles were soft, tender and had the perfect bite.  Served with perfectly seasoned and melt in your mouth oxtail. One of my favorite cuts of beef.

If you’re in the suburbs looking for a high caliber restaurant, please – try Isacco Kitchen – it’s definitely going to be one of my favorite restaurants in Chicagoland.  I can’t wait to go back for dinner and pay suburban prices for City of Chicago quality food. (Entrees maxed out at $21).

Categories: Restaurants, Lounges  [Edit]

210 Cedar St
St. Charles, IL 60174

(630) 444-0202

www.isaccokitchen.com