not bad


The Full Slab
34500 N Us Highway 45, 847-752- 2BBQ (2227)

Tony got back from Toronto last night and I held off on eating dinner so we could go out. We drove a little aimlessly and wound up going down 45 and decided to try The Full Slab. We’d seen it before when going to the grocery store right next to it (great place for Greek stuff; though you’d never guess that from the name…something like Sunrise or Sunset or something like that). The Full Slab looked packed the last time we’d driven by, so we figured it would be a fairly safe bet.

From their website you can see that they say that “BBQ” is their claim to fame and that’s definitely the focus of the menu. Tony tried a half-rack of their St. Louis-style ribs (sides: slaw made with broccoli and loaded potato salad) and I had 3 barbecue sliders (1 pork, 2 chicken) and a loaded baked potato.

Tony said the ribs had a pretty good flavor and were overall pretty good. The one big issue with them is that they don’t bother to remove the membrane, which makes the ribs stick to the bone and much harder to eat. It’s a fairly easy step that a lot of restaurants don’t take and it makes such a huge difference if you do (much less tough, meat falls from the bone, very tender). They also do a baby-back style rib, so maybe those are a little easier to eat. The potato salad was prety good though it (strangely enough) tasted a lot like the kind of macaroni salad you find at potlucks. His dinner also came with a side of cornbread that ought to have a warning on it — it was good, but it was covered in cinnamon butter. If you aren’t expecting that, it really takes you by surprise (and besides, it goes better as a “dessert” thing than as a side dish).

The sliders were pretty good, though they were a little bigger than I anticipated. I prefered the chicken over the pork. One nice touch is that the table had 5 or 6 bottles of different style barbecue sauces (Kansas City-style, Chicago-style, etc.) so you could try out different flavors. Though the sliders were already pretty soaked in sauce (not sure which one), so you wound up mixing flavors. The baked potato was a disappointment. It had a weird taste to it, though the topping stuff (sour cream, cheese, crumbled bacon) was good. I’m honestly not sure what they did to the baked potato to get it to taste that way.

Inside, the place has a definite bar feel and that seems to be their main focus. The restaurant is divided into smoking and non-smoking and the non section was off to the side and much smaller. They do blues on Friday nights, which is cool. We were alone in the non-smoking section with one other family (including a little boy who showed us his air guitar routine — really funny — he was like a little mini Beavis or Butthead…definitely a heavy metal air guitar).

The drink servings, in fact, were very “healthy” as far as size goes. I had a strawberry lemonade (*really* sweet) and it was served in a huge mug. Tony had a somewhat pricey mojito and it was served in a regular water-glass size.

The servers were friendly enough and very smiley. Overall, I’d say the place was okay, but not great. I’m picky about ribs, too, since Tony makes some really, really awesome ones. It’s a hard thing to beat, especially out. They do have an all-you-can-eat rib night on Mondays, so if we’ve ever got some huge barbecue fans staying with us, maybe we’ll stop on by.

Charcoal Delights
500 Center Street, Grayslake, IL 60030
(847) 543-9838

From what their menu says, Charcoal Delights has been around since 1963. That’s quite a long time and quite a long menu it has. There’s a little bit of everything there — gyros, burgers, hot dogs, breakfast stuff, chicken dinners, every kind of sandwich…kind of a one-stop place for everything lunch.

Looks to be owned by a Greek family, so next time we go I think I’ll try a gyro. This past weekend I tried the Scotty Dog (hot dog with the works, Chicago style) and Tony tried the Charcoal Chicken Special sandwich. Both were pretty good.

Atmosphere-wise, it looks like it is located in a converted Wendy’s or some other fast food joint-type building. The Grayslake location of Charcoal Delights is fairly new (well, at least new enough to proclaim “new location” on the side of the cups). I’m curious as to what the others look like.

Whitney St. Restaurant “Grayslakes Homegrown Restaurant”
30 N. Whitney Street, Grayslake, IL 60030
847-223-0670

Okay, I don’t mean this at all in a bad way, but The Whitney is more-or-less a dive. Dives have their place. In fact, we often tend to frequent places that are either complete dives or really high-falutin’. We don’t go to too many things in the middle (well, okay, any place with really good pancakes, but that’s my personal weakness).

The Whitney had friendly people and the food was decent. Not the kind of stuff you write home about, but not bad either. And I like a place where they ask you “What are you having for dessert?” rather than “Would you like any dessert?” (we didn’t, actually, ’cause we were too full, but still, it’s a good question.)

Tony had salmon patties and I had a tuna melt. It was actually a pretty good tuna melt — bread toasted just so and the tuna warm all the way through. I hate it when the tuna is cold in the middle. That’s the mark of a bad tuna melt, if you ask me. I bet all their melts are pretty good.

Tsukasa of Tokyo
561 N Milwaukee Avenue, Vernon Hills, IL 60061-1593, (847) 816-8770

We tried Tsukasa the other day when we were out driving around and needed lunch. It’s hard to tell from the outside exactly what kind of restaurant it is (other than Japanese…you know, the name is pretty obvious). So we weren’t expecting it to be one of those Benihana-type places (the Florida equivalent being Arigato’s). Amazingly, a lot of the clientele were Asian. I mean, I like these type of places okay every now and then but I generally find them a little on the Asian-cheesy side.

This one is pretty classy inside. From their website I gather that it is a new location with over 10,000 square feet of space. It does feel pretty big when you are inside it. The decor is pretty understated but nice.

I had the chicken and shrimp and Tony had the steak and chicken. No complaints about the food but no stunning accolades either. The soup starter looked a bit better than it was, but it wasn’t bad. The chef was pretty quiet and didn’t do a lot of knife-flashing, but that could have been in response to the other people that were seated at the table with us. They were on a business lunch and pretty much chatted the whole time. There was one funny moment when the chef tossed some fake soy sauce on the one girl. She let out a yell and then did the little Japanese-girl-laughing-behind-the-hand thing. Kinda funny.

Max’s Dawg House
1438 S. Milwaukee Avenue, Libertyville, IL 60048, (847) 367-4515

We tried Max’s for lunch one day last week. I like Chicago-style hot dogs, but they take a little getting used to. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the biggest mouth in the world (reputation notwithstanding) and it’s hard to eat a hot dog with an entire slice of pickle on it. Pretty good dogs here, though. And the chili cheese fries were good too — just huge! Next time, we split the small instead of the large.

Interesting note: Max makes homemade croutons and sells them from the restaurant too. They looked pretty good. Maybe I’ll try some sometime.

Henry Yee’s Cantonese Restaurant
624 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Libertyville, IL, (847) 362-2292

We didn’t have anything in particular in mind for dinner tonight and we didn’t have anything to cook (we’d only gotten enough for one meal and a bunch of re-stocked condiments yesterday), so we drove out towards Libertyville. We stopped at a little placed called Henry Yee’s because a) my family name is actually Yee (even though Mom’s last name was Lee; it’s a long story and I won’t bore you with it here) so I could actually be related to ol’ Henry and b) Chinese sounded good.

The menu says the place was established in 1961 and it does have the aura of having been there for a while. When we went in there was just one other table filled up and most of the people were Asian. So that was a good sign. It turns out that they were actually relatives (the daughter of the owner), but another Chinese family was going in as we were leaving, so it still passes the test (you know, it should be at least 80% non-white…otherwise it probably isn’t that authentic).

We tried the Family Dinner for Two: soup (egg drop for me, hot & sour for Tony, both decent), a platter of appetizers (egg rolls [decent, though I swear I tasted peanut in them which freaked out my tongue…in other words, nothing like mom used to make…but then, no one makes egg rolls like my mother. You could feed an entire village with just a few of them.], crab rangoon [good], Bar-B-Q Pork [good], breaded fried chicken [not bad, though not like anything I’d had as part of an Asian meal before], and beef satay [really good]), and Sweet & Sour Chicken (not bad) and Pork Chop Suey (good).

I asked him before we ordered the chicken whether or not it was real or not (you know, the goopy orange stuff or the real stuff like mom used to make). He said it was. I’d consider him half right. The sauce wasn’t that toxic orange stuff, but it was still a bit on the goopy side, though it did have the right pineapple and bell pepper ingredients. And it was fried, which is something we never did at home. So I’d say that this place is fairly authentic (based on my experiences), but it does cater a bit to American tastes. Other hints support this…the place setting includes normal silverware, but the table had chopsticks as well.

The people were friendly, even the grandkids of Henry who were having fun running around. I’m interested in going again. This might even be one of those places where you can get more and more authentic stuff the more often you go. Who knows. It wasn’t the best Chinese I’ve had, nor the most authentic, but it wasn’t bad and the staff was nice. And besides, maybe we’re related somewhere down the line. My family was from around Canton.