Sweet Baby Ray's, a bastion of barbecue in northwest suburban Wood Dale, has gone global. Inspired by a trip to the Texas barbecue belt, chef and catering culinary manager Duce Raymond and his uncle Dave Raymond (a.k.a. Sweet Baby Ray himself) have introduced daily menu specials based on the five major American barbecue styles, as well as a weekly international barbecue dish.
Already known for its Southern-style barbecue infused with a Cajun flair, Sweet Baby Ray's has broadened its scope to include Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, Chicago and global recipes, giving barbecue lovers a true taste of the world. Things kick off on Sundays with a different international barbecue style each week, such as Moroccan, Korean, Argentinian, Thai and Polish.
Mondays mean Carolina-inspired barbecue. Eastern North Carolina is known for using the whole hog, so Sweet Baby Ray's is offering a chopped pork sandwich served with that region's distinctive vinegar-based sauce (using no tomato or sugar), plus sides of Carolina cole slaw and hush puppies ($7.49).
Tuesdays feature barbecue from Memphis, where barbecue ribs are served either "wet" or "dry," meaning either basted with sauce or rubbed with spices and served sauce-less. Sweet Baby Ray's will be offering up one-third slabs of Memphis-style ribs, either wet or dry, with a "Mini Duce" sandwich, with pulled pork, grilled beef bologna and cole slaw, along with barbecue beans and collard greens ($8.49). You can also try Memphis-style St. Louis ribs smoked over hickory wood and charcoal served with cornbread, barbecue beans and collard greens flavored with hocks, onions and ham ($12.99 for a half slab, $18.99 for a full slab).
Wednesday offers two lunch specials: a full slab of baby back ribs for $12.99, as well as the international barbecue recipe featured on Sundays. After 4PM, diners can feast on all-you-can-eat baby back ribs for $16.99 per person.
Thursdays bring dishes from what many barbecue aficionados consider to be the epicenter of 'que in America: Kansas City. Pop into Sweet Baby Ray's to sample the restaurant's quarter smoked chicken with "burnt ends" (similar to a brisket reduction) served with the Original Sweet Baby Ray's Stovetop Recipe BBQ Sauce, a side of Kansas City-style barbecue beans and cole slaw ($8.49).
Head even farther south on Fridays, when the barbecue of Texas is the star attraction. Sweet Baby Ray's will introduce its version of Texas brisket, served lean or "with flavor," along with smoked sausage and pork spare ribs, all served in Texas-style barbecue sauce with beans and potato salad. Also in Lone Star State-fashion, you can dive into all-you-care-to-eat pickles, onions, jalapeno peppers, saltines and white bread along with your meal ($9.49).
Saturdays bring things closer to home as Chicago-style barbecue takes center stage. The team at Sweet Baby Ray's has studied the preferences of Chicago diners -- from the baby back ribs that North Siders seem to favor to the rib tips and hot links that West and South Siders love. The restaurant will feature a platter of rib tips and hot links topped with fries and Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, along with cole slaw and white bread ($7.99), as well as a one-third slab of baby back ribs with a quarter chicken (either white or dark meat and fried, jerk or barbecue) with fries and cole slaw ($12.99).
Sweet Baby Ray's, 249 E. Irving Park Rd., 630-238-8261