Honky Tonk BBQ 1213 West 18th Street (312) 226-7427 honkytonkbbqchicago.com
Hours Tue-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-8pm

Upon going to dinner at Honky Tonk BBQ, I was a little reluctant. I don’t usually eat BBQ, so I knew the food and the atmosphere would be foreign to me. In my life I had only been to one other barbecue-style restaurant, a little place referred to as a smokehouse in Forest Park called Smokin’ M’s. I enjoyed that experience but never really delved any deeper into the world of barbecue after that. My knowledge on barbecue isn’t very extensive, but I know that there is a rich history of barbecue in Chicago (along with many types of food), and that was evidenced by the dated pictures and past Chicago icons.

As soon as I walked in, I was very at ease. The vibe was very eclectic with unique artwork on the walls — a sort of carefully constructed messiness. It was very dark, but the darkness suited the ambiance well. I think the reason the lighting and music and everything suited each other so well was that it suited what in my mind’s eye was the perfect environment for a restaurant of this type.

In accordance to the name, there was Bluegrass music playing, which also went well with the rest of the experience. I’ve been to several other restaurants where something was off, the connection between the food and ambiance being very off-putting. One in particular that stands out was a restaurant that had amazing food but had odd caricatures on the walls. In fact, this struck me as so strange that it is the only thing I really remember about the restaurant; definitely not the lasting image one wants to have about their dining experience.

When I found a place to sit, the waitress came almost immediately. She was very nice and her service throughout the night was very good — I never waited very long for anything. I decided to go with the pulled pork sandwich despite the fact that I had never had that type of sandwich before.

Although it might sound odd to say I’ve never had a pulled pork sandwich before, it indeed was the first one I had ever had. For a while I was vegan, so maybe that helps explain it? Either way, it was one of the sandwiches I had always wanted to try, and I could barely wait to sink my teeth into it. It was delicious! I was very impressed as it didn’t need heaps of barbecue sauce. The smoked flavor particularly made it incredible because with every bite I tasted, it was like I wasn’t eating a sandwich but that I was ingesting the entire culture of barbecue and everything that experience encompassed. And it was humongous, at least to me. I could barely finish it.

I sat there feeling content and happy with my evening, but I noticed one particular painting I absolutely loved. It was of a light-complexioned man with reddish-brown hair and matching beard.  Even though I am a woman, this picture swayed me into declaring aloud how I dream of one day growing a beard as epic as that one. I suddenly had images of what I would look like with my epic beard, how people would suddenly look upon me with newfound respect and admiration, how I would be able to stroke said beard whenever I was deep in thought…or perhaps that was just the BBQ talking.

All in all, it was truly a wonderful experience. As I was getting ready to leave, I tried to observe as much as I could about the restaurant and its patrons. There was a very diverse group of people there, as there was a bar/lounge area with businessmen as well as some young people enjoying a night out. Particularly, I noticed families enjoying a night out together. That visual really encapsulated my feelings on the night: Everything you could want from a night out, I found there at Honky Tonk. Great food, a unique and captivating atmosphere and the kind of relaxed evening that can be had with colleagues, friends and families alike. This restaurant is definitely my kind of place.

As I was leaving, I noticed an awesome exit sign for the place which had an incredible design of red and yellow flames. Like the restaurant itself, that exit sign was the perfect cherry on top to my experience there. It also was a major contrast for me internally, as when I arrived I was unsure of how I would like the place. By the end of the night, however, I was completely thrilled by my experience. This parallel was a great conclusion to my night.

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