Whether you’re fretting about where to take that cutie you’ve been crushing on in chem for a casual coffee date or looking for a romantic anniversary dinner locale, we’ve got all the details here. We hope you enjoy reading about these date destinations as much as we enjoy writing about them, and that you’ll give some of them a taste.
So, in the spirit of this selection: chow down!
Restaurant: Hecky’s Barbecue
Address: 1902 Green Bay Rd., Evanston
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sun 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Getting there: a 10 minute walk west of the sorority quad
Found in press boxes across the Chicago area (including the ones at Ryan and Soldier Fields), Hecky’s Barbecue is renowned throughout the Windy City. The eponymous owner’s troubled past has given rise to a Creole-inspired barbecue restaurant. This restaurant is Hecky Powell’s way of giving back to the community through food and employment opportunities for underprivileged youth. With such a legacy, Hecky’s sparked our attention and our appetites.
I’m a firm believer in the power of barbecue. In fact, I’ve already devoted a solid stretch of my summer to road tripping around my home state in the footsteps of the infamous Daniel Vaughn, sampling the best of what Texas has to offer. That said, Hecky’s does have some common ground with great barbecue I’ve had back home: the meat is expertly cooked. I ordered a Mutt special, which contained two wings of Hecky’s “famous” fried chicken, split sausage and a selection of rib tips (totally new to me), all served over sweet potato fries with a slice of bread.
While the sausage was a bit tough, the rib tips were fall-off-the-bone tender and marinated perfectly. This is, unfortunately, where the good news ends. Hecky’s motto, “It’s the sauce,” is taken to the extreme on the Mutt special, where literally everything in the dish is positively slathered in barbecue sauce. The meat, which would have been quite tasty on its own, was almost ruined by the utter excess of sauce. Furthermore, the fries were soaked in sauce to the extent that they were soggy and lukewarm. On the upside, portion sizing is great and I took home a third of meal to reheat and serve with some fried eggs the next day.
Service is not bad so much as minimal. The only seating in Hecky’s is a window bench along one wall, so the intention seems to be that people take their food elsewhere to eat it. I wouldn’t have minded doing just that, but the cashier seemed to forget about our drinks as soon as we had ordered and we wound up just eating inside as we waited for her.
The interior of Hecky’s is pretty plain and mostly occupied by the kitchen: A huge, cast-iron smoker squats just behind the main counter so that diners can, in a sense, see where their food is coming from. The non-kitchen portion of the room is small and relatively barren, with almost no seating. The only redeeming quality of the interior is a signed photo of Chet Haze hanging among the autographs of other famous Hecky’s patrons. It seems that while we may not be the biggest fans of Hecky’s, Chet certainly approves. To each their own.
Date Factor (3.5/5)
Reasonable pricing, large portion sizes and (honestly) not-bad barbecue make Hecky’s prime picnic fare, in my opinion. Order in or pick up some barbecue and enjoy it outside with someone you like. The weather is getting nicer all the time. My only advice is to be careful with sauce – I’m not the most graceful eater at the best of times and barbecue sauce can really bring out my inner infant at the table.
Hailing from Texas, I have high expectations when it comes to barbecue. I grew up eating pulled pork sandwiches in the park on warm summer afternoons with my family, so barbecue is the closest thing to soul food for me. That being said, I found Hecky’s award-winning barbecue to fall a bit flat. I ordered a classic pulled pork sandwich, which set me back $6.25. The pork itself had a good texture, but the sauce was underwhelming. Bits of pork were swimming in a surprisingly sweet barbecue sauce which covered up the meat's flavor instead of enhancing it.
For a famous barbecue sauce, I was disappointed with its mediocrity. The meat mixture was served on a Kaiser roll, which I found to be unexpected but a nice twist on the typical bun. A barbecue joint, though, is really only as good as its cobbler. Hecky’s serves a variety of desserts, but I chose to judge Hecky’s on the tried-and-true peach cobbler. Although the peaches were well-spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, this cobbler could have used another five minutes of cooking time: The fruit was watery and the crust was mushy. Hecky’s poorly executed this classic smokehouse dessert, which reflects my overall opinion of this barbecue joint.
The service at Hecky’s is practically nonexistent. (This is primarily a take-out restaurant, after all.) Our food emerged from the kitchen promptly, but the cashier did not prepare our drinks for quite some time. We had to remind her that we were waiting for our drinks even after receiving our food. This is not exactly service with a smile, but Hecky’s gets the job done.
The incredibly small and oddly-angled space at Hecky’s is pretty bare bones. A patron enters through the front door, reads a menu hung from the ceiling and orders and picks up his or her food at a main counter. There is no real seating at Hecky’s, but there is a window seat that runs along the front of the restaurant. Typical of businesses that do most of their business via take-out, Hecky’s is no exception to the rule of a compact, but productive space. The kitchen is easily visible from the counter and photographs of famous Hecky's fans are prominently displayed on the walls. This restaurant is not shabby, but its atmosphere is by no means its strength.
Date Factor (3/5)
Although nothing about Hecky’s Barbecue is flawless, this restaurant has its charm. The food is decent and reasonably priced; the restaurant itself is acceptable but not exceptional. On a pleasant day, Hecky’s would make a great carry-out lunch to eat at a park or on the Lakefill with your sweetie. Beware, though: Barbecue is not a graceful food to eat, so bring plenty of napkins! Customers can also order online or via phone, so Hecky’s is also a delicious in-dorm eating option for those nights when the dining halls just don’t seem to have anything to eat.
While Hecky’s may not quite live up to our barbecue standards, we enjoyed our lunch there. It’s a brief, pleasant walk from campus and there are several nice places nearby to enjoy Hecky’s fare. Hecky’s may be a situational date spot, but we’ll be back as the weather gets nicer. Nothing goes together quite like barbecue and a tall glass of iced tea in the summer.
If you've had an experience at Hecky's Barbecue or have suggestions on where we should dine next, feel free to leave us a comment below!