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Judge Vardigan

Summer 2002
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Speed Queen Bar-B-Q
930 Church Street
Evanston, IL
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What a name! I had no idea what it meant when I ate there, but while laundering my rank road trip clothes at the Quality Wash 'n Dry (big ups!) the other day, I discovered the dryers are made by a company called Speed Queen. Perhaps Speed Queen BBQ used to be a Speed Queen dryer dealership, I speculated, and they just kept the sign. I also found out there's an American Roller Derby (ARD) star named The Speed Queen. This didn't lead me anywhere. The real truth, just discovered on the Internet (where all the truth is): Betty (no last name given) got the moniker back in 1956 when she started what's now Speed Queen BBQ out of the back of a store.

There you have it. Her barbecue was well worth the many wrong turns I took in finding it. I had only an incomplete map of Milwaukee and an address to go on. My primary complaint with the otherwise instructive Roadfood book is its failure to give much in the way of directions. Even simple mentions of distance from major interstates would be helpful, but it's rare. (They do link to maps on the Web site, Anyway, I can't even now tell you where Speed Queen is located, but use the map above and you'll figure it out. Someone on the Roadfood message boards wrote this: "I recommend going during daylight hours. Maybe I've just led too sheltered a life but the neighborhood made me nervous. The interior of this establishment also had a lot of obvious security features."

The big, long, sign.

I didn't really feel nervous -- just hungry. True, you pay through a glass partition and order through a metal circular microphone thing. I'm bad with those. The woman gave up trying to catch my low-talker order and put her head down to the hole where you place the money. I sat and was quickly brought my Styrofoam container. With the gratitude of someone very lost and then not lost anymore, I devoured the nearly caramelized bits and hunks and crags of barbecued "outside" meat recommended in Roadfood. Sinful, baroque nuggets of smoked joy. I also had ribs ($9.29 for this two-way), of which I felt there could have been more. They throw in some Wonderesqe bread and decent slaw. For comparison's sake, I'd put Speed Queen's approach closer to Brother-in-Law's than Memphis Minnie's. The meat is pre-sauced, with the sauce obviously a huge factor. On Roadfood's advice I went "half-and-half" with it, meaning half-hot, half-not. However you split it up, it is really great. You can and should buy it, here: King Juice.


By this point, the white Chevy Malibu's back seat was filling up with plastic water bottles and coffee cups, which I got a great thrill from blindly chucking over my shoulder while exclaiming, "It's a rental!" I bet that's what the previous renter said about this Malibu after throwing up in it. Hotels offer a similar, giddy lack of responsibility. Yes, Motel 6, I will fill up the whole ice bucket just for myself. Yes, I will throw this towel on the floor, and even better, they tell you to, and no, I won't pick it up, and even better, someone else will.

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
468 State Street
Madison, WI
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Ye old shoppe.What's a summer füd report without an ice cream parlor thrown in? I fell by Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream one evening in Madison after strolling its tree-lined carless State Street, passing the dreadheads and scholars, desiring a cool cone with the day's heat fading but hanging on. Threw me back to kidhood and little league postgame sundaes, the sound of cleats clicking as parents call out orders in the refrigerated air. I ordered two towering scoops on a waffle cone. The waffle cones here are really waffle cones in that they're made quite fresh and actually taste of waffle, unlike the mass-produced variety you often encounter. I don't remember now what flavors I got, but I think they were Raspberry and Chocolate-Some-Nut. Rich, sweet, and cool. I walked to my hotel like a fool, dribbling ice cream down my chin and hand, imaginary batting helmet on my head in tribute to the cleated summer past.


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