Calvin’s the place for homemade BBQ and sides

Lisa, a foodie buddy of mine, told me about Calvin’s BBQ, 2922 W. Armitage, a tiny shack on the outskirts of Logan Square.

She’s always on the hunt for rough-hewn places that look like they might churn out good grub. BBQ joints are always good for homey sides, too, so I decided to give it a go.

I arrived 15 minutes before Calvin’s opened, but a jolly fella who runs the place invited me in when he saw me shuffling around in the parking lot.

I grabbed a table, checked out the offerings and ordered half of the side dish menu?homemade baked beans, potato salad, mac-?n-cheese, and my new obsession, BBQ spaghetti?causing him to practically demand I move to a larger table.

Since the kitchen was in the process of boiling the pasta, I bided my time until all of the dishes could be served at once. When everything rolled out, I knew I’d take a whole bunch of food to go. Every dish could easily feed two for around couple bucks each.

Baked beans cooked-for-hours were slurpable, with tiny chunks of fat and specks of onion throughout. The hulking bowl of mac-?n-cheese was insanely creamy (possibly Velveeta, a childhood favorite). Usually, I’m a potato salad snob, but this version had just enough mayo, a hit of mustard, crunchy bits of celery and hard-boiled egg to make it spot on.

The BBQ spaghetti ($2.95) is the dish I’d come back for. Pasta was cooked al dente?no small feat for a BBQ place?and was mixed through with homemade BBQ sauce, slightly sweet, with a tiny kick at the end, and with ribbons of tender, black-around-the-edges pulled pork. Topped off with parmesan cheese, every single twirl was a taste sensation.

Being alone to enjoy my choices was quickly shattered. A few minutes after opening, Calvin’s filled with regulars, all claiming they knew the menu by heart. Judging by the breadth of their stomachs, I didn’t doubt them at all.

THE FINAL RAVE: One of the burly regulars told that if I didn’t try the homemade sweet potato fries next time, I’d be crazy. I guess I’m back on the fries again.

KEEP IT GOING:
READ IT: Garry’s BBQ Pit (bbq.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=bbq&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fbbq.netrelief.com)
Anyone who wants to get into the belly of BBQ must first master a good sauce, rub, mop, or marinade. This site has recipes for all of them, as well as a handful of smokin’ sides.

DRINK IT: Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division
There is no better way to enjoy a mammoth plate of BBQ smothered meat, than with an icy cold one and a live blues band jammin’ in the background. Especially when the music is free.

EAT IT: Merle’s, 1727 Benson Ave., Evanston
Taking notes from the famous BBQ masters of Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina, this bona fide BBQ institution doles out some of the best pulled pork around.

GET CRAZY WITH IT: Song Do Korean BBQ, 4918 N. Lincoln Ave.
Though I’ve never tried it myself, folks rave about the intensely flavored spectrum of meats offered up at Korean BBQ joints.

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