Since 1977, Carson's has been serving barbecued ribs, chicken and pork chops to hundreds of thousands of Chicagoland people and tourists. I've been by the Carson's downtown on North Wells a number of times, but had never tried them. Until recently, that is.
Carson's was founded by Dean Carson who used a family recipe for ribs and sauce and has turned the combination into an institution known nationwide for Chicago-style ribs.
I was out in Deerfield in the far north suburbs of Chicago recently and it was getting late in the day. My last stop around 7:30 that evening put me right around the corner from Carson's Deerfield location of Waukegan Road (see map).
The Deerfield location is spacious and well lit, with a very nice outdoor dining area with a centralized gas fire pit to help keep people warm on cold evenings. As it was sort of spitting rain and the temps in the mid-50's that evening, there weren't a lot of people in the outdoor area.
I went to the bar area, much more dark and cozy than the main dining area. There were autographed pictures of famous celebrities and sports stars who have eaten at Carson's all over the walls. (A lot of current and former Chicago Bulls were featured on the wall - their practice facility is literally around the corner.) I saddled up at the bar and the bartender gave me a beer and a menu.
In addition to ribs, Carson's does seafood, steaks, pork chops and chicken. But I had to try this barbecue that people from all over the U.S. will overnight ribs to their homes or businesses. I went with the combo of a half rack of baby back ribs and a boneless pork chop.
About 15 minutes later, out came a small rack of ribs and one of the thickest center cut pork chops I've ever seen in my life. It had to be, at least, two and a half inches thick. On it's own, the pork chop was enough for one meal. And they serve two of 'em when you just order the pork chops on their own!
The ribs were OK, nothing special. Not too meaty and the sauce was OK. The sauce was very sweet and full of molasses. It made your hands very sticky. But I've had much better barbecue sauces.
And, unfortunately, the pork chop was over done and a little dry. I was disappointed because the pork chop looked like they had a lot of potential. Even adding the sauce to them to help wet them down didn't help that much.
OK, so I've been to Carson's. I don't know if the one downtown is any better. Carson's says that they cook their ribs at both locations in identical cookers. Like I said, the food was all right - I'd give it a C grade if I had to grade it. But, if the food at the downtown location is the same as the one in Deerfield, I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon.