Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe — located in a former rock music club in Burbank, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago — has somehow become part of our family.
Last Thursday, we spent Thanksgiving at Chuck’s, just as we did the year before. On Easter, we also gathered at Chuck’s. And it’s a regular destination for birthdays and other family milestones.
When wife’s cousin family — who happen to live next door to us — celebrated their son’s graduation from law school, they rented out Chuck’s party room. When the power went out last summer in the middle of an important White Sox game, I headed over to the Voodoo Lounge, Chuck’s New Orleans themed bar, to watch the final innings.
Which got me to thinking about why Chuck’s has become my family’s favorite gathering place. Part of it is certainly the food. Chuck’s features Southern-style barbecue mixed with New Orleans Cajun and Tex-Mex.
All of it is amazing, but the barbecue in particular is really exceptional, especially the smoked pork, chicken and ribs. Everything is made from scratch. It’s the kind of place where they make their own barbecue sauce and sell it by the bottle at the cash register.
The staff is friendly and warm, and you feel like home when you are at the restaurant. Chuck himself — a bear-sized man with a booming voice and a permanent smile — constantly makes the rounds and checks in with every table to see how they’re doing.
This past Thursday, he came to our table to insist that we all try some pickled beets that he made from the harvest of his own garden. They were spectacular.
The restaurant is large and comfortable. The decor is like Mardi Gras meets Southwest. There’s lots of colorful masks and beads side-by-side with original paintings that are reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe.
It’s a relaxing place where you are immediately put at ease the moment you walk through the door. And we always see people we know from the neighborhood dining at the tables in the dining room.
The South Side of Chicago tends to be a clannish place and outsiders are not usually made to feel welcome. Yet Chuck’s is the rare exception where everybody can gather for a good time, great food and a comfortable, relaxing dining atmosphere.
Chuck’s has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” as well as “Check, Please!” , the locally-produced restaurant review show. In both cases, the reviewers were glowing with their praise of the restaurant.
While Chuck’s is never going to win any Michelin awards or be written up in exclusive magazines, its combination of comfort food in a laid back setting make it one of my family’s favorite destinations.
If you ever find yourself on the South Side, make sure you check out Chuck’s Southern Comfort Cafe. Just give me a call first so I can join you!
Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe is located at 6501 W. 79th St., Burbank, IL. The phone number is 708-229-8700. Reservations are accepted.