When canning season arrives, I am driving around the fringes of Lake and McHenry counties buying produce to consume fresh and preserve. One of my places to stop for a rest and refresh is O's BBQ in Lakemoor across from Le Vichyssois.
Oliver and his wife started O's after Oliver took a roadtrip to Texas to learn his craft. Unfortunately, his parents in Mississippi took ill and they moved to back to help. For a year, their daughter-in-law and son moved up from Florida to take over with the hopes the parents would return or they would sell the business. Last year the business was sold to new owners who maintained the recipes. They had a larger ambition of buying a pizza oven, but they fizzled by late summer and closed. Oh no, no more Sloppy O's.
Several weeks ago, I was on a day-time-occupation visit to McHenry passing O's when I saw it was open with a new name: Paradise Grill. The smoker was emitting smoke, so whomever took it over had it in use. On my way back I pulled in to visit. Paradise Grill is run by two Mexican partners, who learned how to use the smoker from a former O's employee.
Cheeky person that I can be sometimes and also full from my lunch appointment, I asked if I could sample a bit of the Sloppy O's. I told them I wanted to check if it was as good as before, which the owner actually appreciated because he never had the original. The original Sloppy O's used the crusty bits of the pork which would have otherwise gone into the waste container (not mine, but theirs, I like crusty bits). They would dice the crusty bits add their sauce, then filled a hamburger bun to became Sloppy O's.
The new owner gave me a sample with a bit too much sauce. The meat wasn't chopped, didn't have the high ratio of charred bits and was shredded in the Mexican style for tacos. Granted it is the same meat, texture shouldn't change taste that much but it did. Shredded versus diced charred pork did make a difference.
Last night, I took Mom2 to Paradise Grill for an early Mother's Day present. The owner was pleased to see I returned to order Sloppy O's. It was the same shredded pork, so I gave him tips on my recollection of how O's did the Sloppy O. He seemed very eager to learn, so I am very hopeful we will see the original Sloppy soon enough. (I didn't race into an explanation the first time because I didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth)
Frankly, I am very grateful the new owner has a willingness to try to get it right. A legend, in my mind anyway, has not died, I have not had my last Sloppy O!
Now, if I can work my magic on the guy whose whipped cream needs improving ...
209 West 120 (west of Rt 12, but not too far)
Monday-Saturday: 6 AM - 8 PM
Sunday: 8 AM - 3 PM