Asian + BBQ, a Perfect Pair

October 8, 2012

Restaurant Entrance
I was invited by the friendly folks at Rockit Ranch to try their latest culinary hot spot located in River North. With the success of such restaurants as Sunda and Rockit, Rockit Ranch decided to open an Asian and barbecue fusion restaurant, Dragon Ranch. The River North restaurant features barbecue staples such as ribs, pulled pork and rotisserie chicken, all with an Asian spin.

Dining Room
Dragon Ranch Menu
Dragon Ranch has only been open for three months and just started a brunch service two weeks ago. I visited on a Sunday morning for brunch to try some of the items off of the brunch menu, as well as some lunchtime favorites.

The ambiance at Dragon Ranch has a southern feel with wooden communal tables and benches, country music twanging over the speakers and jars of pickled vegetables lining the walls.

My co-taste-tester and I started things off with some coffee, and I had a mimosa as well. Dragon Ranch also features several moonshine cocktails, some of which are made from their own label of moonshine. However, it was far too early to be drinking something so strong! The mimosa was good, but I prefer a thicker, more pulpy OJ and this was a bit watery and "Fanta-like".

Coffee & Mimosa
The brunch menu currently has about six dishes, one of which is their take on shrimp 'n grits. The dish arrived looking more like a Korean bibimbap dish (another nod to Asian cuisine) and featured a generous bed of creamy grits, topped with shishito peppers, a spicy sauce, buttermilk fried shrimp and a fried egg. I enjoyed the number of shrimp in the dish, but felt they could have been fresher. Maybe it was the fact they were fried that took away from that fresh seafood taste? I love the spicy sauce that blended in with the eggs and peppers and really enjoyed how the spicy Asian flavors paired with such a southern staple. I could have licked the bowl clean of those pillowy soft grits! This was definitely not a dish for the light eater!

Spicy Shrimp 'n Grits with Shishito Peppers and a Fried Egg
We both wanted to try the barbecue of course, so we had a 1/2 pound of the pulled pork. The meats at Dragon Ranch are available in either 1/2 pound or 1 pound increments, but even the 1/2 pound portion size was gigantic. The pork itself is dry-rubbed and smoked for 12 hours and is served with a chunk of sweet cornbread with bourbon honey butter and Brussels sprouts and red cabbage coleslaw. The meat was a bit on the dry side so I covered it in some of the housemade spicy and Asian barbecue sauces. I really enjoyed the cornbread as it was extremely moist and featured large corn kernels. The American-Asian slaw was a mix of vibrant flavors and a nice pairing with the smoky meat.

Housemade Barbecue Sauces
Pulled Pork Shoulder with Cornbread and Asian Slaw
We also had to try barbecue's natural BFF, a side order of mac 'n cheese. Dragon Ranch's version was quite unique as it featured homemade tube-like noodles baked with a four cheese blend of jack, gouda and white and yellow cheddar and was topped with parmesan and scallions. This was absolutely delicious and incredibly creamy. It was easy to tell the noodles were homemade because of their softer texture and I always appreciate a restaurant that makes its own pasta. While it didn't feature any Asian influences, the mac was hands-down one of our favorites of the meal. Just writing this I'm salivating.

Mac 'n Cheese with  Jack, Gouda, Sharp White and Yellow Cheddar
Mac 'n Cheese with  Jack, Gouda, Sharp White and Yellow Cheddar
The menu at Dragon Ranch also has a bit of Thai and Vietnamese influence. They offer their take on a traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwich with your choice of some atypical meat options, pork, rotisserie chicken or chopped brisket. Since I had already sampled the pork, I went with the rotisserie chicken. The sandwich is served on a baguette with some of the usual toppings such as cilantro, jalapenos, daikon and carrots, but also features some non-traditional items such as a saracha ailoli. I loved how the sandwich was served with fried wonton strips (you know, the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant with sugar sprinkled on top) as well as that fabulous Asian slaw.

The rotisserie chicken was extremely tender, oozing out delicious juices that the crispy baguette was quick to soak up. The heat from the jalapenos was hot, but not unbearable, making my favorite item from our tasting.

Rotisserie Chicken Banh Mi with Wontons and Asian Slaw

Rotisserie Chicken Banh Mi with Wontons and Asian Slaw
From plates adorned with Chinese letters and chopsticks, to mason jars, doilies and butcher hooks that double as light fixtures, there were numerous hints of that perfect Asian and barbecue pairing. It's amazing this pairing was practically non-existent for how well the two concepts joined together.

I truly felt my experience at Dragon Ranch was a unique one. The wide array of brunch and lunch items we sampled all successfully featured mouth watering flavor combinations that only the chefs and entrepreneurs behind Rockit Ranch could dream up.

I give Dragon Ranch 4.5 stars for its uncommon concept, friendly and communal atmosphere and chutzpah to try something new! While it may not be the best barbecue in town, I'll certainly be back for dinner to try some different fusion fare and maybe a moonshine cocktail (or two!).

Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ
441 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654

Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ on Urbanspoon


  1. Looks very interesting! Definitely want to try!

    Also, not sure if I'm just late in noticing but I love the restaurant list on the side of your blog. Very helpful. Is it possible to create a list by neighborhood/location too or only looking through the Tags at the bottom?

  2. Thanks Katie! Adding a neighborhood list is a great suggestion!It may make the sidebar a bit more cluttered but I'll consider it!

  3. This looks delicious. I am going to use your blog as a bucket list of places to go/try around Chicago. Your pictures are mouth watering and the descriptions enticing. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures!

    1. Thanks Mollie! I'm always open to restaurant suggestions too, if you ever come across a great watering hole!


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