Located in the heart of one of Chicago's most popular destination spots (for tourists, at least), Joe's Be-Bop Cafe on Navy Pier is the kind of jazz club you can bring your kids to. Colorful murals cover the walls of the interior and photographs of jazz musicians serve as a constant reminder of Chicago's ties to the music's roots. The kitchen boasts of deep-fried, barbecued or marinated beef, pork, ribs, chicken or shrimp; everything comes with zesty sauces, sides and cornbead (sandwiches run $8-$9, while main courses, including BBQ combos named for jazz greats, run $13-$21).
Start with an appetizer like the buttermilk-marinated shrimp in Cajun crust with smoky chipotle dipping sauce, then go all out with the Tennessee Hickory pork. Don't be alarmed by the rosy color of the meat; your food is fully cooked (slow-smoked for at least three hours and as much as 12). According to the menu, the red color comes from being cooked in real log smoke.
Local jazz bands will entertain you as you enjoy your food. If there's still some spare room at the end of the meal, finish the night off with some banana puddin' that would make grandma proud. And if you still can't get enough, you can buy a souvenir drumstick or t-shirt to take home with you.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Beatrice Smigasiewicz