The first time I’d ever heard about Famous Dave’s was at a hardware store in Dubuque, Iowa, when I picked up a bottle of barbecue sauce. Years later, while driving back to Chicago from a wedding in Wisconsin, I learned that Famous Dave’s is a chain of restaurants. So when my wife and I were driving up towards Green Bay for a wedding this Memorial Day weekend, I insisted that we find a Famous Dave’s.
In between Chicago and our destination in Green Bay, there were at least two Famous Dave’s locations to choose from. And, while there are just as many locations within close driving distance to our place in Chicago, they are out in the suburbs. And driving from the city out to the Chicago suburbs to eat at a chain restaurant seems wrong. Besides, if I am going to eat chain restaurant barbecue in Chicago, I want to eat at Weber Grill.
The Famous Dave’s we were closest to when we were hungry en route to the wedding was the location in Greenfield, WI, just outside of Milwaukee. Getting there was obnoxious, as there was a ton of road construction, and my Garmin’s maps are way out of date. When we did get there, we nearly missed it because the signage is focused on the 2 of the building’s 4 sides that weren’t facing us from the direction from which we came.
Fortunately, once we got inside, there was no wait for us, but the two of us were seated at a table with eight chairs. It was a little odd at first, as the room we were in was flanked with booths filled with other families who were seemingly staring at us. Later, when a party of 25 was seated next to us, we felt a little less like we were being put on display.
Famous Dave’s is a lot of crap on the walls. It’s not quite as eclectic as a Friday’s; the restaurant theme is roadside bbq, so the wall crap is limited to things about cars or farming.
At every table, there is a six pack of sauces. At this particular table, the six pack was filled with five sauces and a bottle of ketchup. The sixth sauce was a new spicy sauce that was too small to fit comfortably in the six pack.
Not all the sauces at Famous Dave’s are good. I generally only like the original blue label flavor, which comes in the biggest bottle. It reminds me of Kraft barbecue sauce, but I’m not embarrassed to eat this. It’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s savory. It’s just a great all-around sauce, and it tastes wonderful on ribs.
I also enjoyed the triple xxx Wilbur’s Revenge, which was a smoky spicy version of the sauce. There’s also a sweet and zesty, which I find too sweet and not enough zesty. There a texas pit flavor, which doesn’t seem to taste very good, even on Dave’s brisket. There’s a Georgia something sauce, which I similarly don’t like on pork. And there was another flavor that I don’t remember.
On this particular evening, I suggested to my wife that we get an appetizer of deep fried cheese curds. We were in Wisconsin after all. But she declined. Instead, we went straight to our main courses. I had the half slab of ribs. She got the two meat combo platter: rib tips and beef brisket, her favorite type of barbecue.
The dinners at Famous Dave’s come with two sides and corn bread. But no matter what else you get, you should make sure you get fries. I don’t know what they do to them there, but they are heavenly. They are double fried and super savory. But there must be something else they’re doing to the fries because they’re just so delightful.
At the party of 25 behind me was a man in a nascar hat and a nascar bowling shirt with flames on it. This culinary sage ordered a full slab of ribs with double fries. Friggin genius.
If I had the forethought to order double fries, it certainly would have been better than the side of macaroni and cheese that I got. It was terrible. Like macaroni salad with cheese thrown in as an afterthought. It was cold, starchy, and mushy. And not cheesy at all. I was hoping for something closer to Boston Market’s macaroni and cheese.
The ribs, on the other hand, were perfect. They weren’t overcooked. They had a nice char on the outside, and each rib was tender and meaty. I ate these with great fervor. Apparently, when I like food, I can’t sit still. My wife calls it my food dance.
My wife’s rib tips were good, but there was a little too much tip and not enough rib in there for her liking. I think it just wasn’t a good match for the kind of barbecue she likes. I thought they were good and was glad to eat them for her.
The beef brisket at Famous Dave’s was well seasoned and had the consistency of prime rib or really good pot roast. Not exactly the kind that I think of when I think of beef brisket. It was really plump and juicy. My wife really liked it.
On the way out, we stopped by the take-out area. There, you can buy Famous Dave’s stuff. I was disappointed that, at this particular location, they didn’t sell t-shirts. So I just came away with two canisters of Dave’s Rib Rub.