Restaurant Review – Chuck’s Southern Comfort Cafe

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.

The barbecue is amazing

The barbecue is amazing

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.

Chuck with my neice, Megan

Chuck with my neice, Megan

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.

Green Bean Casserole

In my family, Thanksgiving is the Rodney Dangerfield of holidays. It gets no respect.

Take Christmas, for example. If someone in my family were to miss Christmas, you would hear about it for years, decades even. There is no conceivable excuse for missing Christmas, not even if you were hospitalized.

Like my handle-less casserole? Classy, right?

Like my handle-less casserole? Classy, right?

On Thanksgiving, however, you can get a pass. If there are in-laws to take into account, or if you have to work that day — as I did for too many years in the restaurant business — it is okay to skip Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, I can think of once, maybe twice in the past 30 years when my entire family went full Rockwell, enjoying the holiday seated around the dining room table.

Instead, what usually happens is that those refugees who don’t have other commitments gather at a restaurant for a mid-afternoon feast. For example, I’ll be enjoying the holiday for the second year in a row at the wonderful Chuck’s Southern Comfort Barbeque with assorted family members. They serve an excellent traditional Thanksgiving spread with amazing Tex-Mex and Cajun flourishes. Highly recommended.

Despite all that, I still look forward to Thanksgiving, and the simple treasures it contains. And I’m not just talking about afternoon football on a Thursday!

Sure, there’s turkey and stuffing. Although they are a Thanksgiving tradition, you really could serve them almost anytime during the year and they wouldn’t seem out of place. No, I’m talking about those dishes that would freak my family out if I made them any day except Thanksgiving.

Dishes like green bean casserole.

Can you imagine bringing green bean casserole to a Fourth of July picnic, or serving it on Easter? My family probably would have me committed. At the very least, some smart aleck would say, “What is this, Thanksgiving?!”

Yet this simple recipe defines Thanksgiving for me. A fractured, schizophrenic Thanksgiving, perhaps. But Thanksgiving nonetheless.

Maybe that’s one of the things I love most about Thanksgiving. It never turns out the way it’s supposed to.

Baked Chicken, Green Bean Casserole, and Stuffing

Baked Chicken, Green Bean Casserole, and Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole

2 cans French-style green beans, drained

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

2 TBS Sour Cream

Two dashes of Worchestershire Sauce

Dash of Hot Sauce

Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

2 oz can Fried Onions

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except fried onions and mix well. Go a little heavier on the pepper than you normally would. Pour into casserole dish and top with onions. Cover and bake at 350F for 35 minutes, then remove the cover and bake another 5 minutes so the onions toast a little.

What are some dishes that define Thanksgiving for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!