Category Archives: Naperville Restaurants

A Review of 10 Reasons to Love Sharko’s BBQ in South Naperville

Sharkos_Restaurant_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

Simply put, BBQ Rules!  My regular readers over the years know that BBQ has been a way of life for me since my childhood growing up in Kentucky.  The continually growing interest in the art of BBQ is beginning to truly benefit us in Naperville as for the first time we are blessed with real deal low-and-slow pit BBQ restaurants which pay tribute to the great BBQ regions of America.

Sharko’s BBQ has opened its family-owned doors in South Naperville (4931 South Route 59 in front of Caputo’s) and after two visits I’m pleased to say I’m hooked to yet another great BBQ joint.  Asking me to name my favorite BBQ place is worse than asking me to name my favorite child, so there will be no comparisons here.  Instead, I thought I’d share my 10 reasons to love Sharko’s BBQ.

10)  The interior walls of the restaurant are boards from an old barn with sheet metal accents.

9)  You can already smell the heavenly smokey hardwood aroma as you walk in from the parking lot which affirms the authenticity.

8) The complimentary self-serve soft-serve ice cream machine in the dining room which all of the kids love… especially us big kids.

7)  You can buy meats, including ribs, by the ounce… a Texas tradition and great way to get just the right amount to satisfy any appetite.

6)  Love beef brisket?  They slice it Texas-style… fresh off a whole brisket before your eyes. Sharkos_Food_edited-1 The brisket has a monster smoke ring, a sweet smokey bark, tender with just the right “tug” in the meat fibers.  During both visits, owner Brian Sharko (hence “Sharko’s BBQ) gave me a couple of free cuts from the brisket point… a personal favorite for me.

5)  The pulled pork is almost a hybrid between Carolina pulled and Georgia chopped yielding a nice moist and subtle smokey flavor.  Speaking of flavor, whether Sharko’s injects their shoulders during the smoking process or adds some type of seasoning or mop sauce after pulling, the meat is so flavorful it would be a crime to add any sauce.

4) The regional BBQ sauces are delicious, but the meat is so flavorful you’ll find little need for the sauce… the measure of true BBQ.  In some places in Texas, sauce is by request only and even then you’ll often get just a little cup.

3)  The ribs… oh, the ribs… just the right amount of tug from the bone which affirms they were cooked correctly.  Slightly a dry rib with a sweet and smokey outer bark and nice big bones from good quality cuts.  A point of education as you might see the ribs pulled from the holding warmer in plastic wrap.  Just about every BBQ restaurant wraps its ribs in this manner to seal in moisture as ribs can dry out fast.  I’ll agree it’s a sight I would prefer to not see as I’m ordering, but I understand the importance.

2)  Everything, including signs, are set up almost like a cafeteria/buffet which is also a tradition in some regions.  It’s great to see how fresh the food is right before your eyes.

1)  Sharko’s BBQ is owned and run by the Sharko family of Naperville.  They have five kids and the family has been in the restaurant and catering business for a very long time.  An interesting point of trivia, Brian’s dad actually won 1st place for Best Sauce at the very first Ribfest over 25 years ago.

Okay, so I capped my overview at 10 reasons, but there are still great features like the saddle stools along the outer wall, thick-cut texas toast bread, the Pig Juice Sauce, the hand washing sink near the dining room, the perennial BBQ dessert standard… Banana Pudding and allot more.

In a nutshell, I give Sharko’s BBQ my full recommendation and look forward to them being a part of the growing Naperville BBQ lineup for many years to come!

SM

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It’s All About Food, Community and the Experience at Twisted Olive in Downtown Naperville

Twisted Olive_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

While the concept of gourmet free sample olive oil and balsamic vinegar shops is no longer novel, there is one such place tucked away in Downtown Naperville where they have turned the concept into community through equal ingredients of passion for food, a love for people and a true understanding of the ways in which food connects us.

I first discovered the The Twisted Olive , which is tucked away down the quaint alley off of South Washington Street between Jefferson Ave. and Chicago Ave., shortly after they opened their doors I believe a couple of years ago.  The owner approached my wife and I that day with that fresh and enthusiastic smile you expect in the opening days of a new business.

With the smell of fresh baguettes in the air, I listened to the owner’s vision for Twisted Olive_bottlesthe store which stretched far beyond their gourmet oils and vinegars into classes and events.  From day one, The Twisted Olive aspired to become a community space designed to bring people together using one-of-a-kind foods as the ingredient.  The space itself includes an area with plush chairs designed for planned gatherings, events or a simple reprieve while shopping.  As for their products, the weight of our bag as we exited out to the alley was a testament to the quality.  We’ve returned a number of times since our first visit and our kitchen is regularly stocked with Twisted Olive Oils and Vinegars.  More recently, they’ve also added select wines and craft beers to their experience.

My personal favorites… OLIVE OIL – Fior Fiore EVOO and Truffle; VINEGARS:  25 Year Aged Traditional Balsamic and Lemon White Balsamic.

To those unfamiliar with The Twisted Olive, you are free to sample all of their oils and vinegars to your hearts content, which is always an experience in itself.

Congratulations to the owners and team at The Twisted Olive for your continued growth in popularity and thanks for being part of the World of Naperville!

The Twisted Olive is located at 232 S. Washington Street, Suite 6.  To visit their website, CLICK HERE

SM

4 Ways to Source Locally Grown Foods in Naperville

Naperville CSA_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

As a child growing up in a small Kentucky town, it was easy to understand and appreciate that food did not grow on grocery store shelves.  We always had “community supported agriculture” because we would simply drive out to the family farms where we could buy most everything in season directly from the source, from vegetables to eggs.  All you had to do was pick up what you wanted and either knock on the front door to pay or leave a little money there in the honor-system box.

Nowadays, not only do our kids know less about where our food comes and how it’s produced, often times they miss out on the beauty of how fresh produce and fruit really tastes directly from the source at the point of harvest.  Once you taste fresh foods direct from the source, everything else pales in comparison.  Sure, we can buy watermelons and blueberries in February but the taste is almost always diminished because they were picked at a ripening stage designed for shipment over long distances, which still adds time between harvest and consumption.

Eating fresh locally sourced foods in support of community agriculture and family farms is very much possible in Naperville.  Below are 4 ways to “eat local” here in and around Naperville:

1)  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  We’ll start with CSA’s as number one because these local farms are not only a food source, they are anPicking Green Beans incredible source of hands-on education in farming and environmental sustainability.  Here in Naperville, the Green Earth Institute runs a 60 acre CSA farm out on Knoch Knolls Road just around the corner in South Naperville.  They grow 40 different crops and make their fresh harvest available via their CSA farm which the general public can purchase a “share” each Summer.  A share entitles you to either a weekly or bi-weekly portion of the week’s organic harvest which you pick up directly from the CSA farm.  Our family purchased a share last Summer and often times during the season you are allowed to hand-pick a portion.  The kids love the experience and just picking up our share was an education.  However, the  Green Earth Institute doesn’t stop there as they also offer children’s programs and volunteer opportunities.  Click hereto learn more.

2)  Naperville Community Garden Plots and Home Gardening:  From your backyard to Naperville’s backyard, there are terrific opportunities to grow Garden Plant Shoppingyour own fresh harvest.  The City of Naperville, through the Naperville Parks District, sets aside land over on West Street during the Summer months where you can reserve your own community garden plot and grow your own garden.  Of course, with a myriad of garden centers in town, including Keller’s Farmstand, you can always set up a small garden at home either in the ground or using planters on your back deck.

3)  Farmers Markets… with a Caveat: Naperville and many of our surrounding communities offer Farmers Markets weekly during the warmStrawberries weather months.  The Naperville Farmers Markets takes place in season every Saturday at the Fifth Avenue Station and, a newer addition, at Freedom Commons out by I-88.  Wanna find the freshest local products at these markets?  Simply ask the seller whether or not they are the actual grower.  Buying from the actual grower, as opposed to a reseller, means you’re getting it direct for the source and supporting family farmers.

4)  U-Pick Farms:  From the western suburbs to Michigan, there are abundant Blueberry Bucketoptions to take your family out for a fun day of harvesting your own local foods.  Each year, our family heads to South Haven, Michigan to DeGrandchamp Farms to pick 10-20 pounds of fresh blueberries at a time.  Don’t tell anyone, but we may eat one or two during the picking process.  While we eat a ton of fresh blueberries during the Summer, which are as sweet as candy, you can also freeze fresh blueberries for the winter by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then putting into a freezer storage bag.Raspberry Picking

In the Fall, we head just out West to Jonamac Orchard to pick fresh apples right off the trees and enjoy some fresh apple cider doughnuts.  We also stop to pick fresh raspberries along the way from a number u-pick farms.

So there you have it, whether you love to cook, simply love to eat or would like to looking to teach your children that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves, there are plenty of ways to experience and support the miracle of locally grown foods in and around Naperville.  SM

Naperville’s Q BBQ Converted Me to Chicken Wings

Q BBQ_Exterior_EDITED by Stuart Meyer

Anyone who knows me knows that I nearly have a pedigree in BBQ.  My father was a pitmaster and one-time BBQ restauranteur, I’m a backyard pitmaster, I produce BBQ food media, I shoot BBQ food photography, a couple of years ago I produced “Behind Ribfest” a feature length documentary film about Naperville Ribfest,  I’m a charter member of the Illinois BBQ Alliance, I’m a member of NBBQA and my company even manages social media efforts for one of Chicago’s legendary BBQ joints.  *Deep breath*

Needless to say, joy filled my heart last year when Q BBQ, based in LaGrange, opened its doors in one of my favorite places in the world… Downtown Naperville.  The restaurant space is a wonderful tribute to the BBQ culture, with glorious smoke aromas that cover a multi-block radius, counter service, visible stacks of wood and walls adorned with framed pages from Wyatt McSpadden’s “Texas BBQ” coffee table BBQ photography book (a must have for BBQ fanatics).

Since my first visit the first week of their opening last year, I’ve just about tried everything on the menu at least twice and they’ve really fine tuned their operation in terms of consistency and quality.  The Q BBQ  meat line-up is a deliciously flavorful salute to all the great BBQ regions, from your Carolina pulled pork complete with house made vinegar sauce to their Texas Brisket (chopped or sliced) and Smoked Sausage to their KC Burnt Ends.  Did I mention ribs?  I recommend their Memphis Sweet Sauce and you definitely don’t want to miss their more recent arrival… Smoked Turkey.  Sides include a short list of perennial BBQ favorites, including fresh cut crispy fries and mac-n-cheese with a cheese-cracker crumbled topping.

Q BBQ_Chicken Wings_EDITED

Memphis Chicken Wings at Q BBQ… heavenly!

Aside from all of the above reasons to visit Q BBQ, there is one reason that has led to an almost weekly pilgrimage into Downtown Naperville for lunch… one reason this particular menu item should on the list of 100 things to eat before you die… one reason that surprised me immensely in my love at first bite… Q BBQ‘s Memphis Chicken Wings.  Allow me to premise this obsession by saying that up until my first trip to Q BBQ shortly after they opened, I was never a big fan of chicken wings in general, but these little babies are different.  First the wings are slow-smoked to lock in that heavenly flavor, then fried with a sweet rub applied while they are still hot (I presume).  The result is a rich, smokey, lingering savory sweetness.  At my small company here in Naperville, my colleague and I have declared each Friday as “Q Wing Friday”.

Thanks to Q BBQ for bringing real deal BBQ to Downtown Naperville and to everyone else… go to Q BBQ and order some of those wings… I usually do the two-meat Q plate and add the smoked turkey.

SM

Get Ready for Naperville Ribfest, Celebrity Chefs and the Ribfest Documentary Film

Who’s ready for Ribfest 2011!  It’s been an amazing year-long journey since last year’s Ribfest.  As you may recall, I have been working with the Exchange Club in producing a feature-length documentary film about Ribfest, of which production began almost exactly one year ago on June 18, 2010 and after a final shoot a couple of months ago, post-production/editing is in full motion.  The documentary is a behind-the-scenes look not only at what it takes to bring Ribfest to life each year, but more importantly the human stories behind the festival’s solitary mission of donating all net proceeds to area agencies working toward the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence… over $9 million to date.  Stay tuned for our premiere this Fall at the Naperville Independent Film Festival.

I’m also very excited to announce that another non-profit I’m helping out, America’s Chefs, will be featuring celebrity chef-hosted live cooking shows in the new America’s Chefs Kitchen Arena, including a daily hands-on kid’s cooking demo in which kids’ and parents and learn to make and actually prepare a healthy dish together.   The mission of America’s Chefs is to provide a “taste of home” and food/culinary entertainment to service men and women of our U.S. Military across the country and around the world, including events in the Persian Gulf region and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Each chef is an alumni restaurant owner from the hit Food Network series “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives” as well as numerous appearances elsewhere, including “Guy’s Big Bite”, the “Guy Fieri Roadshow Tour”, ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” and two of which are in the process of starring in their own food TV shows.  Take a look at the image posted up above for more details.  You definitely will not want to miss this one-of-a-kind opportunity.  Below you’ll find a couple of episodes I produced for America’s Chefs TV which provides an inside look at their mission.  Ribfest will be America’s Chefs first major civilian event and they are looking to build support and awareness for their non-profit mission.

See you at Ribfest! SM

Uncle Bub’s BBQ “Day in the Life” Web Series

Among my series of media production endeavors, I produced a documentary style 3-part web TV series for Uncle Bub’s BBQ in Westmont.  Catch the first episode below and you just might be on 75th Street heading to Cass Avenue to Westmont by the conclusion.

Uncle Bub’s BBQ Begins Monster Sandwich Challenge for Chicago and Western Suburbs

Get ready BBQ lovers in Naperville, Western Suburbs and Chicago…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my company, Social Frequency Media Communications, has been working with Uncle Bub’s to develop their multi-media interactive social media strategy and this fun contest/challenge, along with their new Uncle Bub’s TV channel on YouTube, Uncle Bub’s BBQ – Facebook , Uncle Bub’s BBQ – Twitter and Uncle Bub’s – FourSqaure is the starting point.

It’s also a continued step in my personal life journey toward my purpose and passion, choosing to connect only with those people and businesses who I admire.  There is definitely a human story behind this one as well.   The Link family, the owners/founders behind Uncle Bub’s, and their long-time BBQ team there are truly a great group of people whose passion for BBQ is equal to their belief and passion in giving back.  Spend some time at Uncle Bub’s BBQ in Westmont and you’ll see it shine through.

Again, I guess it goes back to the many intentional and unintentional lessons I learned from my father in his career as publisher of a small-town shopper newspaper.  As entrepreneurs, it’s so much more about the passion to create and serve people than it is about the money… and those are the businesses which deserve all of our support.  While the destination may ultimately be money/survival, the journey is so much more fun.

Discover your purpose and take the next step in living your dream… today!