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My family loves barbecue. Even my picky daughter who doesn’t eat a lot of meat can eat her weight in barbecue ribs. We also have four kids in school, two in fall sports, one in dance, jobs, youth group, birthday parties — you know, the typical busy life. Which means sometimes, maybe more than I care to admit, we have to find a fast option to feed our family on the go, without going broke. We generally visit one of the typical fast food, drive-through restaurants, but after being invited by Bill Zimmerman to come try Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Gurnee, we have found a new favorite place for a quick dinner on the run.
Bill got into barbecue five years ago when he opened Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Kenosha. While Dickey’s is a franchise, it’s still family owned by the Dickeys, who started it in Texas in the 1940’s. Bill’s passion for barbecue and desire to own his business led him to open the restaurants. Sidenote, since meeting Bill and hanging out at Dickey’s, my kids are trying to convince my husband he should open a barbecue restaurant — although endless ribs may be their main motivation.
All of the meat at Dickey’s is hand rubbed and cooked on-site. It’s fresh — never frozen, and you can see it right there in the clear refrigerator behind the counter. As a guest of Bill’s, I was treated to a slightly closer look than most people get, and took a peek at how the ribs are slow cooked, in-store:
In case the dancing kids didn’t give it away, everyone loved it. Order by the plate with your choice of one, two or three meats and sides. There are also sandwiches, and salads that you can get topped with your favorite meat. Kids can order a kids’ sized plate in the same style as their parents, a slider, or the always popular chicken nuggets. Bill walked us through the menu with a sampling of the different meats available and the three sauce options. Unlike the rest of my family, I am not an “all kinds of barbecue person;” I’m a little picky. And I still loved every single thing I tasted. The spicy Polish sausage was a surprise stand out that all my kids enjoyed and my husband, the “all-meat guy,” actually really enjoyed the chicken.
The kids all requested the macaroni and cheese, of course, which is extremely cheesy and creamy. My husband and I opted for mashed potatoes and beans with a two meat plate — so we could share. My oldest son also managed to devour a two meat plate all by himself! The potatoes were another surprise. As a fast food place, I assumed they would taste like boxed potatoes, but the potatoes tasted just like homemade with tons of flavor and lumps! We were also thrilled to learn that cornbread from Alpha Baking in Chicago will be added to the menu soon, because for my boys, nothing goes with barbecue better than cornbread.
The best part of dinner was that for the same cost as a fast-food dinner, we had food that tasted so much better. It felt like we were feeding our kids a real dinner we would make at home, and we all left full, but not feeling heavy or stuffed. Normally, we would have to go to a sit-down restaurant for that kind of feeling, and when we need a fast dinner, no one can wait for a sit-down restaurant meal. Dickey’s has become our go-to place for quick meals after sports and before school performances. Family and party packs are also available for pick-up, and there is a catering menu, too. Want to give them a try? On Sundays, kids eat free with every adult meal purchased. Now there’s an incentive!
I would be remiss if I don’t comment on the yellow cups; you will notice them as soon as you walk in, stacked on the counter. Every plate comes with a yellow cup, and you get free refills from the choose your own flavors Coke machine. The cups are also a souvenir: take them home, wash them, bring them back and you will receive a discount on your next meal.