Weber Grill, the company who put the backyard in backyard BBQ with its classic charcoal grill, deserves credit for at least attempting to put out a product the barbecue enthusiast, if not serious aficionados, would enjoy. Their River North location, a magnet for every tourist who's ever burned a burger, is run with brutal efficiency right down to the beepers carried by the perky "Hello-my-name-is" waitstaff. A flavorful vegetable dip, forgettable bread, and a carafe of water start the meal; appetizers and salads range from a drowned-in-dressing wedge of Romaine lettuce to a flavorful spinach and artichoke dip. Sides include slightly limp but tasty onion rings, a foil-wrapped baked potato saved by an abundance of whipped butter and sour cream, insipidly sweet baked beans, and incredibly sugary mashed sweet potatoes that, while not to my taste, my companion found appealing. Ribs, a nice-size meaty rack of baby backs, look wonderful, with a slight char and luminescent glaze, but lack the essential component: smoke flavor. Charcoal-grilled steaks, ten-ounce burgers, and moist beer-can chicken--hell, pretty much anything cooked on the cool industrial-size Weber kettles in full view--are safe choices. As we were presented with the check the manager appeared to ask us, somewhat perfunctorily, how our meal was and where we were from. Our answer--Chicago--seemed momentarily to puzzle him. Not tourists?
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