The trend of barbecue restaurants popping up all over has subsided a bit, with many falling to the wayside. So it was a little surprising to see another attempt to latch on to the public's love of barbecue.
The Park West Restaurant & Smokehouse in Villa Park is both a new and an old face along Roosevelt Road.
Park West Restaurant & Smokehouse10 E. Roosevelt Road, Villa Park, (630) 530-4600, www.parkwestsmokehouse.com
Cuisine: High-quality Texas barbecue teamed with classic Chicago/Greek diner food, including an extensive breakfast menu
Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Opened in October, Park West is owned and operated by the Omega Restaurant chain and located in the old Kappy's Restaurant location. So you get a familiar Omega-style menu of filling breakfasts, numerous sandwich and salad options, and dinner entrees. Yet for Park West, the Omega management has teamed up with Chicago barbecue chef Ted Gianopoulos of the venerable Park Ribs (at Archer and Harlem in southwest Chicago) to create signature barbecue items to head up the menu.
The menu does give warning that some of the barbecue options may run out each night, and that's what happened on our visit. At 6:50 p.m., we were told that the last order of BBQ ribs had just gone out. The signature item of just about any barbecue joint was out in the middle of dinner! After a few other tables also expressed disappointment, the waitress returned to announce that the chef had decided to grill up some extra slabs ... which were quickly ordered.
We were rewarded with succulent, pull-off-the-bone pork ribs. The tender, juicy meat was slathered in a sweet, yet slightly spicy "family-friendly" Tennessee-style sauce that complemented the ribs rather than masked their flavor. These were ribs worthy of return visits.
We also tried the brisket -- a meat that for me marks whether the chef truly is a barbecue master. The meat came unadorned on the plate, with no added fanfare. Just simply prepared and presented. Although a serving of the wonderful barbecue sauce was provided, the meat really didn't need it. While it's easy to overcook and create a dry and chewy brisket, Park West keeps it tender and moist.
Other barbecue options include pulled pork, rib tips and either smoked or barbecue chicken. All are smoked on site over a combination of whole apple wood, hickory and oak logs. All barbecue options are served with a choice of two of the 13 side items and come with a large slab of garlic bread. A dessert of ice cream or apple pie is also included with your barbecue selection.
The two big winners among the side dishes were the creamy mac and cheese and the moist red-skin potato salad. Each serving was ample and the creaminess of both were perfect complements to the sweet and tangy barbecued meats.
Park West also offers family-style special dinners featuring ribs, rib tips and barbecue chicken along with copious amounts of sides. If you want to carry the barbecue theme along, other sections of the menu offer up a Barbecue Pulled Pork Chopped Salad and the Texas Brisket Panini. Look for a few Southern-inspired dishes to be added to the menu in the upcoming months, including Texas Caviar, a combination of black-eyed peas and pickled vegetables served cold with tortilla chips.
If Park West can continue to offer high-quality barbecue, then locals should be lining up every night. Just make sure to get there early before the ribs run out.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not review restaurants it cannot recommend.