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Carson's Ribs, etc.


ronnie_suburban
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Ok, I'll admit up front to doing a bit of friendly trolling here but I'd really like to know who out there thinks Carson's ribs are even remotely good. I cannot stand them. They're not smoked, not cooked properly (the meat never nears coming off the bone) and to make matters worse, every slab is covered in BBQ sauce that burns (not cooks) in the oven before they are served. If you like these ribs I'd really like to know why--maybe I can figure out what I'm missing. It's been years since I ordered them myself, but every once in a while I have one or two when a friend orders them. And yes, I always give my friends some sh*t when they order them. :biggrin:

On a brighter note, they serve some decent steaks at Carson's. On Valentine's Day I ended up at their Deerfield, IL location with my wife and my 7 year old son (a romantic dinner for 3 :blink:) because another family, who was supposed to join us, bailed out. My wife and I both ordered the bone-in rib-eye and were not disappointed. The beef is Prime. The steaks very good and both were properly cooked to medium rare. We both ordered caesar salads which were also very good--they make the dressing themselves--and the salads are generous. The sauteed spinach with garlic was okay but tasted bitter because of improperly-handled garlic and the broccoli was served somewhere between raw and warm--very disappointing.

My son ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries from the Kids' menu. It was, according to him, okay. The kid's menu had several decent choices. My son actually loves ribs. Once at Fogo de Chao, he ate 10 ribs and also asked the manager to bring him some bbq sauce (man did we cringe when he went 'Maverick' on us) to go with them. The fact that he doesn't like them at Carson's means something to me.

Service at Carson's is decent if not exceptional. The Deerfield outlet is only minutes from my house so we go there about once a month. Never too high or too low, the place chugs along with relative consistency. While low-carbing, it's nice to have a nearby place to grab a Prime steak. But I think the place trades a lot on its reputation. I'd never even think of hitting this place for ribs. Quite frankly, the crovac'd ribs at the grocery store are far more satisfying than Carson's.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Ok, I'll admit up front to doing a bit of friendly trolling here but I'd really like to know who out there thinks Carson's ribs are even remotely good. I cannot stand them. They're not smoked, not cooked properly (the meat never nears coming off the bone) and to make matters worse, every slab is covered in BBQ sauce that burns (not cooks) in the oven before they are served. If you like these ribs I'd really like to know why--maybe I can figure out what I'm missing. It's been years since I ordered them myself, but every once in a while I have one or two when a friend orders them. And yes, I always give my friends some sh*t when they order them. :biggrin:

On a brighter note, they serve some decent steaks at Carson's. On Valentine's Day I ended up at their Deerfield, IL location with my wife and my 7 year old son (a romantic dinner for 3 :blink:) because another family, who was supposed to join us, bailed out. My wife and I both ordered the bone-in rib-eye and were not disappointed. The beef is Prime. The steaks very good and both were properly cooked to medium rare. We both ordered caesar salads which were also very good--they make the dressing themselves--and the salads are generous. The sauteed spinach with garlic was okay but tasted bitter because of improperly-handled garlic and the broccoli was served somewhere between raw and warm--very disappointing.

My son ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries from the Kids' menu. It was, according to him, okay. The kid's menu had several decent choices. My son actually loves ribs. Once at Fogo de Chao, he ate 10 ribs and also asked the manager to bring him some bbq sauce (man did we cringe when he went 'Maverick' on us) to go with them. The fact that he doesn't like them at Carson's means something to me.

Service at Carson's is decent if not exceptional. The Deerfield outlet is only minutes from my house so we go there about once a month. Never too high or too low, the place chugs along with relative consistency. While low-carbing, it's nice to have a nearby place to grab a Prime steak. But I think the place trades a lot on its reputation. I'd never even think of hitting this place for ribs. Quite frankly, the crovac'd ribs at the grocery store are far more satisfying than Carson's.

=R=

Ribs that are "coming off the bone have been either boiled or steamed. Either way they lose a ton of flavor. I've always been fond of Carson's and the whole meal is always great. Start with the chopped liver while waiting for a table. Their garbage salad is excellent and the Au Gratin potatoes are incredible.

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I, too, was a semi-regular at the Deerfield location in the mid-1990s.

I haven't had Carson's ribs in years, but I do remember the yucky burned-on sauce. As far as the rib meat itself, I remember it was pretty good. Although as you note, Carson's rib meat is not of a fall off the bone ("FOB") consistency, this type of ribs you have to gnaw a little is certainly a valid style, distinct from the FOB variety (and preferred by a lot of people, expecially those outside Chicago; I think FOB style may be a Chicago thing). What I DO recall really liking at Carsons was the pork chop dinner. Those were always huge, succulent and cooked right, and the sauce for them was always applied (properly) near the end of the cooking cycle.

Edited by JimInLoganSquare (log)

In abdomen veritas

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:smile: Oh yeah. I forgot to mention the chopped liver which is fantastic. Also, I think their cole slaw is great. Even their sauce is good, but their method of applying it; I mentioned above why I don't like it.

I don't think steaming and/or boiling are the only ways to produce fork-tender meat and I've had too much fantastic 'falling off the bone' BBQ in too many places (NC, Texas, Memphis, KC, etc.) to believe that such a method reduces the quality of the product. Also, I have to disagree about the au gratin potatoes. I think they're kinda bland. :sad: But these issues are completely subjective and that's why I asked my question in the first place. I appreciate you explaining what you like about them. :smile:

There is no question about the quality of the goods at Carson's either. I don't think they take any shortcuts. And, in its class, it's a decent value too.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I'll not enter this fray, since I haven't been to Carson's in a good ten years, and I don't remember what I ate. I will, however, back up Ronnie in his assertion that FOB is not necessarily the product of boiling or steaming. FOB is the result of the connective tissue having reached the point of collagen-gelatin conversion, whereupon the meat is released from the bone. This can be done a number of ways, including boiling, steaming -- and long, low exposure to a hardwood fire.

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I'll not enter this fray, since I haven't been to Carson's in a good ten years, and I don't remember what I ate. I will, however, back up Ronnie in his assertion that FOB is not necessarily the product of boiling or steaming. FOB is the result of the connective tissue having reached the point of collagen-gelatin conversion, whereupon the meat is released from the bone. This can be done a number of ways, including boiling, steaming -- and long, low exposure to a hardwood fire.

I think it's those who use the shortcuts (boiling or steaming) who give FOB a bad name and who have come under harsh criticism from fans of the low, slow barbecue process. Ronnie, is it safe to assume the various FOB style ribs you've had in NC and other places were done sans any sort of shortcuts? When I said FOB ribs are prevalent in Chicago, I guess I meant the steamed/boiled (shortcut) kind. It's a sign of my ignorance I didn't know there's more than one way to reach FOB status!

Edited by JimInLoganSquare (log)

In abdomen veritas

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I'll not enter this fray, since I haven't been to Carson's in a good ten years, and I don't remember what I ate. I will, however, back up Ronnie in his assertion that FOB is not necessarily the product of boiling or steaming. FOB is the result of the connective tissue having reached the point of collagen-gelatin conversion, whereupon the meat is released from the bone. This can be done a number of ways, including boiling, steaming -- and long, low exposure to a hardwood fire.

I think it's those who use the shortcuts (boiling or steaming) who give FOB a bad name and who have come under harsh criticism from fans of the low, slow barbecue process. Ronnie, is it safe to assume the various FOB style ribs you've had in NC and other places were done sans any sort of shortcuts? When I said FOB ribs are prevalent in Chicago, I guess I meant the steamed/boiled (shortcut) kind. It's a sign of my ignorance I didn't know there's more than one way to reach FOB status!

I'm assuming it...can't say whether it's safely or not. :wink: But yeah, I've been taken to joints by locals in all the places I mentioned above and they were hardcore places. Some of them I would bet did not boil or steam their product but I don't know with certainty. Unfortunately most of this took place 15-20 years ago so the details are a bit fuzzy. And most of those experiences took place long before I cared about food the way I care about it now, so I was paying less attention to the details and asking fewer questions than I would today. :cool: That said, I do remember seeing a distinct 'smoke ring' on a lot of the things I've tasted over the years. Does that indicate something about the manner in which the product was prepared? I honestly don't know. Also, I'll ask the friends who hosted me about specific places we went, and I'll try to post the names shortly.

Either way, I'm not sure the method matters to me as much as (the attributes of) the finished product because the experiences I alluded to above were some of my most enjoyable and memorable food experiences. Here it is 15+ years later and those BBQ experiences still hold up as the best I've had...so long ago that I can't remember the specific names, but the food is still very memorable to me. As for Carson's ribs, I have one friend who insists on having them every time he comes back into town. I also remember someone (can't remember who) telling me they liked that 'tug' of Carson's. But between that tug and the burnt-tasting sauce, I have just never appreciated their ribs like others seem to.

=R=

Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I have never liked Carson's. When I sink my teeth into ribs, there's a certain smoky flavor that I am seeking, and they just don't cut it. I will admit to enjoying the pork chops, and the cole slaw, and the chopped liver, but I would never recommend them for ribs.

I am also not a fan of sugary sauces which seems to account for why it burns. It always reminds me of Open Pit. My mother would use Open Pit when she made "BBQ" in the oven during the winter months :sad: .

Man if Carson's doesn't always remind me of those tired-ass winter ribs.

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LOVE THE CHIX LIVER. We fill up on the chix liver and bialays (sp?) and take home the unfinished ribs. Went to the orininal Carsons downtown years ago and had a terrible meal. Went to the Carsons in Deerfield as well Skokie and was not disappointed. Hubby likes the chicken. Ribs are good but it is the most fancy 'rib joint' I know. The Little Ricky's (O'Neil owners) rib place that opened in Winnetka has received mixed reviews. Heckys is still good but no dining in or Chix livers.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

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I like Carson's ribs. While they aren't the best I've ever had by a long shot, they seem to be a fairly good exam[ple of what I call the Chicago School of Rib cookery. What I mean by that is the ribs are cooked with the sauce added sooner in the cooking process, so you do get fairly heavy carmelization, there is no smoke involved in the cooking, and the meat tneds to take on a chewier texture rather than the FOB that comes with slow cooking and collagen degradation.

Their ribs remind me of the late, great Leon's Ribs.

As for the sides, I am a big fan of the au gratin potatoes, although I agree with Ronnie that the seasoning could be more aggressive. One disappointment in the last few years is that their house dressing, which used to be very piquant, with a good solid note of anchovy, has become more bland. The cole slaw also lacks the same crisp bite it has had in years past.

I also agree with Ronnie that their steaks are generally on a par with steakhouse quality, at a slightly more reasonable price.

On balance, my feeling is that while Carson's is not as good as it was 15 or 20 years ago, they still deliver a solid, more than merely acceptable product.

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I like Carson's ribs.  While they aren't the best I've ever had by a long shot, they seem to be a fairly good exam[ple of what I call the Chicago School of Rib cookery.

Yes! Very well-put. I think my issue is more with the 'Chicago School' than specifically with Carson's. Thanks for chiming in Mark. Very nice to get opinions on such a widely-enjoyed item.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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My rib joint of choice in Chicagoland was always Robinsons. It's been a long time since I've had them but remember that I liked them better than Carsons.

In my former career I spent my days interviewing cancer patients about their quality of life for a large study. One woman I will never forget had me captivated in her hospital room while she described to me the rib feasts she would make for her fellow church members. The half oil barrel filled with coals, her secret sauce (gosh darn it, she wouldn't tell me the secret, though I tried!), the cornbread, slaw, greens and potatoes. She was just the sweetest woman; beautiful in spirit like you don't meet very often. God and gratitude and cooking were one for her. I left work that day absolutely famished and we hit Robinsons on the way home. Not as good as hers would have been I'm sure, but they did the trick!

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Their ribs remind me of the late, great Leon's Ribs.

as of a few month's ago, Leon's was still around.

If you are referring to the quality, that is another issue. :smile:

edited to add: A BIG PASS on Carson's, skip them!

Edited by Sweet Willie (log)
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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as of a few month's ago, Leon's was still around.

I wasn't sure if the South Side location was still around.

My Leon's was the one on Clark, just North of Fullerton. I can remember many a youthful evening, wrapping up a night of pub-crawling by sitting down on the curb right outside the joint with a bucket of rib tips, and some squishy white bread to soak up too much beer.

I don't know if it was the bread, the ribs, or just fool luck that staved off many a hangover. But I knew it was a good combination that I was smart enough to stick with. :cool:

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My Leon's was the one on Clark, just North of Fullerton.  I can remember many a youthful evening, wrapping up a night of pub-crawling by sitting down on the curb right outside the joint with a bucket of rib tips, and some squishy white bread to soak up too much beer.

OH, THAT Leon's. I too have fond memories of their rib tibs. My brother and I hated each other while in high school, but on those odd saturday nights where we both came home plastered at the same time, we would give the knowing nod, grab a few more beers and head to Leon's for some rib tips, then go to the lakeside to chow. It was a couple rare hours where we did not fight and all in the world was right.

I don't think I've ever missed a place more after it closed than that northside takeout location. :sad:

Edited by Sweet Willie (log)
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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  • 2 weeks later...

60 degrees F today here in Chicago, so I took the opportunity to make some baby back ribs...

smokedribandbarebone.001.smaller.jpg

Not boiled, not steamed. Instead, cooked for 7 hours in my $29 smoker over a fire of mesquite and hickory. I dry rubbed them on Saturday and threw them in the smoker Sunday morning. As the photo reveals, the meat was FOB (also moist and flavorful). If I can achieve this in my backyard, surely professionals should be able to do the same. It's too bad that in this town hardly anyone seems to be able to or even want to. I guess that's why even though we are "hog butcher to the world" we never make anyone's list for best bbq. :sad:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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My rib joint of choice in Chicagoland was always Robinsons. It's been a long time since I've had them but remember that I liked them better than Carsons.

I love Robinson's, definitely my favorite rib place in Chicago. The ribs are great, very good sauce (the only one I use at home) with good extras like the fried zucchini and excellent rolls with the liquid butter! An extremely fattening meal, but a must have every now and then. Gotta go to the original location if you want the ribs though. I will stop by the stand in the train station for lunch every now and then for a sandwich, but not the ribs...

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cooked for 7 hours in my $29 smoker over a fire of mesquite and hickory

Could you give me details on this smoker? I'vee been looking for something like this for quite some time.

Thanks :smile:

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I am also not a fan of sugary sauces which seems to account for why it burns.  It always reminds me of Open Pit.  My mother would use Open Pit when she made "BBQ" in the oven during the winter months  :sad:

My problem with any barbecue in Chicago is that all of the sauces are sweet...even the spicy ones.

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I am also not a fan of sugary sauces which seems to account for why it burns.  It always reminds me of Open Pit.  My mother would use Open Pit when she made "BBQ" in the oven during the winter months  :sad:

My problem with any barbecue in Chicago is that all of the sauces are sweet...even the spicy ones.

In general, I agree about the sauce. I usually just use a rub when I make ribs at home and serve the sauce (I like Sonny Bryan's from Dallas, TX) on the side if anyone wants it.

Alias...the smoker is made by Char Broil. It's bullet shaped, looks kind of like a red version of R2-D2 from Star Wars and seems to be Char Broil's answer to the Weber Smokey Mountain unit. I was at Home Depot last fall, saw them offered at $29 and bought one. It may have been the best $29 I ever spent. :smile: I've turned out some absolutely incredible food on that smoker...briskets, chickens, sausages, steaks and of course, ribs.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 2 months later...

Two things seem to detract from this Chicago hotspot. The food is hit-or-miss and they don’t take reservations. Because of this if the place is busy the quality of the food and service suffers. Compounding the issue is when they are busy they rush you through the meal. I rather save the coin anf get take-out from Leon’s or another local joint.

Living hard will take its toll...
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My brother and I went on a "Famous Ribs Tour" about 3 years ago. We grew up with my dad bringing home big, white Carson's take-out boxes, and we were really looking forward to our visit there.

I completely agree with the original post, the ribs were sub-standard; Way overrated.

What I do love is the au gratin potatoes as a take-out item. My mother would throw them in the broiler to crisp-up the top. Gooey on the inside, crispy on top and full of potatoes. Delicious.

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I think there's room enough for different kinds of rib preparations. I like Carson's ribs, but they're not the only type I like. But their pork chops are quite good - if you're fortunate enough to get some from the "dark" (i.e., fattier) end of the loin: demand this next time you go. If they're too lean they turn out like wood blocks. Not good.

I think L. Woods makes one of the best slabs around - smokey, sweet, and slightly hot as well (more so if you request they be make with their "devil" sauce.)

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I think L. Woods makes one of the best slabs around - smokey, sweet, and slightly hot as well (more so if you request they be make with their "devil" sauce.)

Well, as you know, before their recent name change, L. Woods was known as Bones...and they didn't call it that for nothing :wink: But, I've never had their ribs, because I'm addicted to their steaks--particularly their rib eye and skirt--which are both fantastic. And they turn out a very nice au gratin potato there too, IIRC.

I agree with you about the pork chops at Carson's too. They can be dry on occasion but when they're on, they're on. Have you ever actually requested the fattier chops there? If so, I'm curious to hear what the response was.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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