CREST HILL – I’ve been all over the place eating barbecue.
From Texas to Kansas City to the Carolinas.
Some places have sauce varieties I love, others have some I could do without.
But the key is getting the right meat and sauce combination.
That’s why having plenty of options is important.
Walking into Fire Water BBQ in Crest Hill, it was clear I had those options.
For starters, the restaurant is set up like a picnic, with picnic and square tables set up throughout and bar stools near the windows. Then there’s board after board of menu options, written in different colored chalk.
I definitely just stood there and stared for a while, and I wasn’t alone.
Once I did decide, I went with the two-meat BBQ Dinner option ($13.95) with angus beef brisket and pulled chicken. I chose bacon and chive potato salad as a side.
Of course, I had to try all of the sauces. There was Texas heat, Alabama white, Original Sweet Home Chicago, Carolina vinegar and Georgia mustard.
The variety is good, but man, that sweet home Chicago sauce hit the spot and the brisket was as good as I’ve had. Certainly right up there with a hole-in-the-wall spot I’ve been to in Texas that’s always been held dear as the best brisket I’ve eaten.
In the Joliet area, from what I’ve tried, it’s the best.
So good that I had to go back.
So I did.
Because one of my co-workers was talking up the Texas Tacos ($8.95). I’ll admit, I was skeptical they could live up to the hype, or the brisket.
But I was willing to try.
So I went back and ordered them, and this time I was all in on both the Texas heat and Sweet Home Chicago sauces. One with the heat, two sweet.
On the side, I had to get the potato salad again. I didn’t mention it before, but the stuff is no ordinary potato salad. It was outstanding, without too mustardy of a taste.
This time, I also got the three-cheese mac. Because, well, I’m a kid at heart and I can really never resist an original mac and cheese dish.
Let me tell you, my co-worker was right about the tacos. They were delicious.
Fire Water BBQ also has a decent variety of beer.
On my first trip, not too long after the new year, I bought its last Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale. I knew what I was getting and was pretty happy it was available. My second option would have been a Lagunitas, which wouldn’t have been bad either.
What I know now is I have to go back and try the rest. Because there’s still smoked jumbo wings, pulled pork and rib tips in $6.45 or $9.45 options. There’s smoked hot link sausage, house smoked bacon, sweet potato fries and some burger/sandwich ($8.99-$9.99) options to try. There’s catering, too.
And, for what it’s worth, there’s something about root beer and a great plate of barbecue that makes me smile.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at The Herald-News. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Fire Water BBQ
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday
WHERE: 1847 Knapp Road, Crest Hill
INFO: Call 815-729-9755 or visit firewaterbbq.com.