A rack of delicious baby back ribs with barbecue sauce, french fries, coleslaw and beer

Restaurant Review: Old Town’s Twin Anchors- 91 Years of Rib-Smacking Goodness

A rack of delicious baby back ribs with barbecue sauce, french fries, coleslaw and beer

Part neighborhood tavern, part Chicago institution, since 1932, Old Town’s Twin Anchors has maintained its reputation for tender, barbequed baby-back ribs and other BBQ delights. Families, couples and singles can all enjoy lunch or dinner in the ambience of a true historic building. 

According to their website, as far back as 1910, there was a tavern operating in this spot. Sometime during World War I, the Schlitz Brewing Company donated the bar that remains in use to this day. Notoriously, during Prohibition (1919-1933) a speakeasy known as “Tante Lee Soft Drinks” provided refreshments for the “thirsty” in this location. The Walters family, along with Captain Herb Eldean, were the original operators of the Twin Anchors, and provided the barbecued ribs recipe.

Swimming pools… movie stars

Twin Anchors’ exterior has been the location of 2001’s ‘Return to Me,’ with Minnie Driver, David Duchovny, and director/Chicago native Bonnie Hunt. In 2008, ‘The Dark Knight,’ starring Christian Bale was filmed at Twin Anchors. 

Word is that this was one of Frank Sinatra’s famous haunts back in the day. 

Ah, Memories … 

Twin Anchors has a special place in my heart, as we used to make annual trips to Twin Anchors to share my husband’s godmother’s birthday. This was her favorite spot in Chicago, and every year, she treated her favorite nephew and niece-in-law to a steaming platter of ribs with all the fixings… so large, that we could make multiple meals for a few days. 

A word of advice: while the servers bring plenty of napkins, you’re going to need a bundle, along with wet-naps, or whatever those things are called. Keep them nearby… at all times. The pork ribs are baked and slathered with sauce. The meat is so tender, it practically falls off the bones. If you’re a true Chicagoan, or learning to eat like one, knives and forks are verboten when eating ribs

After devouring the complimentary bread basket of black rye and crunchy bread sticks, share one of their newer creations…Crispy Potato Chips, which are fresh fried chips, served with homemade bleu cheese buttermilk dressing. Whether it’s your starter or accompanying your meal, I’d recommend their Zesty Baked Beans. It’s a hearty dish of baked beans, hand-pulled pork, and diced onions, simmered in their own tangy Zesty sauce. Whoever invented the phrase ‘rib-stickin good’ probably was talking about these baked beans. 

Lighter appetites wanting nothing to do with ribs or beans will enjoy their 1655 Salad, a six-ounce cut of Ruby Red Ahi Tuna on a bed of mixed greens, with pecans, cranberries, crumbled bleu cheese, and Balsamic vinaigrette on the side.

Finally, the Entrees… 

Their World Famous Ribs are slow-cooked, meaty and tender, and basted with your choice of sauce. A full slab has 12 bones, a half-slab has six.

For those who can’t decide, their Rib & Chicken Combo is a great compromise and combination. You get one half rib and one quarter chicken, basted with your choice of sauce, and would you like white or dark meat chicken? 

All entrees are served with coleslaw and a slice of dill pickle, and your choice of french fries, onion rings, baked potato, baked beans, pepper jack creamed spinach or steamed green beans. 

The Sauces…

A note: Their Zesty Sauce is their most popular since its introduction 40 years ago. We know why: this tangy tomato-based sauce “goes great on everything barbeque.” Their original mild sauce is what another reviewer describes “as bland as tomato soup,“ and they’re not wrong. But not everyone likes a ‘zesty’ sauce. To each, their own. 

But…try their ‘Prohibition Sauce’

This sauce features brown sugar, cracked black pepper and just a dash of ghost pepper for “just the right amount of heat.”

Kids are ‘Little Piglets’ Here

It’s said with love! And they have their own ‘Little Piglet Menu.’ Their Small Fry Slab isa kid-sized portion of their ribs and fries, with their zesty or original mild barbeque sauce. Just like the parents, dinners are served with slice of dill pickle. Then pick your choice of french fries, onion rings, baked potato, baked beans, pepper jack creamed spinach or steamed green beans. 

I’m not sure how you’d fit a dessert into this mix, but Twin Anchors has teamed up with some of the best bakeries in town to bring chocolate and carrot cake, cheesecake, and specialty dipped ice cream bars. Try to squeeze one in! 

No Reservations… 

Twin Anchors is located at 1655 N. Sedgwick Street. Unlike nearly every other restaurant in Chicago, they seat on a walk-in basis only, so it’s recommended you get there early or face a lengthy wait. Fortunately, they’re open seven days a week: Monday– Friday, 4:30pm-10pm, and Saturday–Sunday, Noon-10pm. For more information, click here

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago