I'm always on the hunt for good barbecue when I'm on the road. Sometimes it's tough to find a diamond in the rough. But when you do find one that gives you such a pleasant experience, it's almost a euphoric feeling. I got lucky on my initial visit to Brothers Barbecue, aka, Brothers Ribs, in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Palatine.
Brothers barbecue is tucked back in a strip mall called Regency Plaza in Palatine (see map). Years ago, I was averse to any restaurant in a strip mall. But I've since learned that it doesn't matter where the location is as long as the food is good. Brothers isn't all that big - it seats about 30 to 35 people. And there is no wait staff service. You order at the counter and one of the cooks will bring the food out to you when it's ready.
Brothers Barbecue has been open since 1990. Jimmy Findlay and his three brothers learned the art of barbecue from their father. They learned how to make barbecue sauce from their grandmother. They slow cook their meats in a convection smoker. In addition to ribs, brisket, pulled pork and other barbecue delights, Brothers Barbecue is also known for their rib tips - the tough and usually burnt end pieces of rib racks. Some people love rib tips. I don't care for them, myself.
I got into Brothers Barbecue around 8 p.m. one evening. I was the only one in the place. That's not a good sign, I thought. It turns out that most of their business is either take out or delivery (Thursday thru Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Probably one of the reasons they don't have many people in the dining area is because they don't serve alcohol. Another rib place that doesn't serve beer! What's this world coming to?
I soon found out that Brothers Barbecue is a "bring-your-own-beer" establishment. The guy at the counter said, "There's a Dominick's just over there that sells beer. You can go and get some beer and bring it in, if you want. One of the guys is over there now getting some beer for us when we close up at 9 p.m." I decided against beer for my initial visit to Brothers, opting for just water.
All around Brothers Barbecue dining room were signs touting their awards for best ribs and best sauce at various barbecue cook-off events held around the country. The signs all looked the same and it made me a little leery of their achievements. I suppose anyone can go to a printer and have them make signs that say anything. The food and their sauce would have to be their proof to me.
The menu is full of barbecue delights. You can get a dinner plate with barbecue and your choice of one side (beans, fries, cole slaw, etc.), or you can just get a dinner with the meat only. That made it easy for me as I wanted to try both their brisket and a half-slab of ribs. I ordered up a brisket dinner with baked beans, then a half-slab of baby back ribs - meat only.
While I waited for my meal to show up, a couple people came in to pick up carry-out orders. Then another couple showed up to eat in the dining room. The phone was ringing, so they were keeping busy.
The guy who took my order brought out the tray. It had a generous amount of beef brisket on the plate, along with a healthy slab of ribs. Actually, the beef brisket was sort of disappointing in that it wasn't the sliced brisket that I like, but rather a sort of pulled beef like you'd get if you cooked the brisket in a crock pot. They were moist, almost too moist. But the brisket did taste good.
The ribs were cooked perfectly. They had a great smoky taste that wasn't overpowering or distracting to the taste of the baby back rib meat. They were meaty and juicy - definitely not over-cooked.
But the star of the meal was their Brothers Barbecue Sauce (formerly called Grandma's Barbecue Sauce). It was a tomato-based sauce that was more tangy than sweet. It had a nice little peppery taste to it that gave it a nice after-kick after you swallowed the meat. I was sort of upset with myself that I didn't bring in a six-pack of beer to enjoy with the ribs.
As I continued with the meal, the more I got into it. The baked beans were very good, even more so when I added some of their barbecue sauce. And they also had great grilled Texas toast that I used to sop up some of the extra barbecue sauce. I'm telling you - the barbecue sauce was awesome!
When I finished my last bite, I was truly sorry the dinner was over. It had been a long time since I'd had great barbecue like what I had at Brothers Barbecue. The sauce was worthy of the praise it had supposedly received at various barbecue cook offs. It was so good that I bought a bottle to take home. But I screwed up - I only bought one bottle. It didn't last me very long after I brought it home. One bottle cost $3.49, two bottles are $5.99. Cindy didn't really care for the taste of it, but I certainly did. That's fine, as there will be more for me!
Getting more barbecue sauce from Brothers Barbecue will be my impetus to go back in very soon to have more ribs. Although I was disappointed in the brisket, it was still very good. But the ribs with their sauce were outstanding. I was very pleasantly surprised with my visit to Brothers Barbecue and I need to get back there as soon as I can.