As we transition into colder weather and earlier darkness, morale-boosting comfort food is important to our collective positivity this time of year. To answer the call in the form of heaping plates of barbecued goodness, the new BBQ'd Productions in Lake Zurich is dishing up the meat -- and a whole lot more.
In a white-stone building on the west side of Rand Road that was previously a Japanese restaurant, BBQ'd Productions fired up the grills in September to bring all-American barbecue flavor to this corner of the Northwest suburbs. Other locations include Third Lake and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
On a pivotal Saturday night with several key college football games playing on flat screens surrounding a packed house of sports fans of all ages, we took positions at our high-top table by the bar and were immediately impressed with the service. We received a friendly greeting from our host, a thorough explanation of the menu and the nightly specials and a tutorial of all six signature barbecue sauces on our table. Our waitress even left her business card on the table in case we had questions. Service throughout was spot-on, very prompt, and no, we didn't have to call the number on the card to get her to come back.
We started the evening with the brisket mini nachos appetizer on the Nibblers portion of the menu. It arrived at our table stacked high in a square tin pan featuring tortilla chips draped in cheese, bits of tomatoes, green onions and lots of tiny beef brisket cubes. It was the starter that nearly finished us. Other notable Nibblers include the smoked bone-in chicken wings, the spicy pickle chips with barbecue ranch dressing and fried corn nuggets.
If you have a hankering for meat, entree options include baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork and the dino bones barbecue filet, which is smoked for 12 hours, flash-grilled and then topped with a maple chipotle glaze.
If you can't make up your mind about how you want to carnivore, BBQ'd productions serves up several half-and-half combo platters. You can even try all seven of the most popular meats by ordering the Chef's Special, which is made for sharing.
If you prefer seafood, there's barbecue salmon as well as fish or shrimp tacos. Feeling like you need to mix in a little green? BBQ'd Productions plates a smokehouse salad that combines a choice of several meats topping romaine and iceberg lettuce, a smoked Gouda cheese blend, bacon crumbles, tomato, green onions and barbecue ranch dressing.
The entree that was calling my name was the burnt end burger, which included an angus brisket and short rib blend burger patty with burnt end cubes on top. This tower of protein came with a serrated knife stuck through the entire burger to hold it together. The combination of savory, smoked and grilled meats really made it stand out.
Along with our orders came notable signature side dishes. The maple bacon roasted Brussels sprouts were a huge hit, especially with my fellow diner who was a bit skittish at first, but ate most of the smokey-flavored sprouts. On the flip side, I felt the smoked Gouda mac and cheese side was a bit of a miss -- lots of gooey cheese covering rubbery noodles that never really jelled.
It's worth pointing out that the menu features several gluten-free side dishes, including mashed potatoes, coleslaw and even cornbread.
The barbecue smokehouse theme even spills over to the drink menu, where you'll find a Smoked Manhatten (spelled with an e). It's a traditional bourbon-made Manhattan that gets its signature smoke flavor while the drink is smoked right at your table.
But the drink that stands above all others, literally, is the Sam Adams Mega Bloody Mary. This colossal meal in a mug, only available at specific weekend times, is a two-shot vodka Bloody Mary combined with Sam Adams Boston Lager and a sprinkle of house-made rub. It's adorned with pulled pork and brisket sliders, a homemade pizza roll, two ribs, half a dill pickle and smoked Gouda. Plus, there's a celery stalk in there somewhere. It looks like the drink that could crush challengers from the entree menu.
In the mood for a sweet treat? The Kahlua brownie, Mom's bread pudding and the cookie explosion (a giant cookie and salted caramel pretzel topped with ice cream, whipped cream, caramel chocolate drizzle, chocolate chips, marshmallows and sprinkles) all sound tempting.
With a menu filled with comfort food favorites, service aimed at making sure you have a good time and an overall friendly atmosphere in spacious confines that can handle a big crowd, BBQ'd Productions is hoping word spreads about its new Lake Zurich location.
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BBQ'd Productions Bar & Grill
405 N. Rand Road, Lake Zurich, (847) 550-1234, wegrillitall.com/
Setting: Casual sports bar
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.