Cherry-Coke BBQ Sauce

If you're tired of making the same old burgers and hot dogs, Chef Mike Cisternino of Tavern at the Park has a secret ingredient for pepping up your menu. His secret ingredient is Coca Cola. Chef Mikes teams it up with cherries for a BBQ sauce that will be a hit all summer long. It is delicious served on grilled chicken, beef or pork. The restaurant pairs it with a thick double-cut grilled pork chop. You can get it at Tavern at the Park, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601. For reservations, call (312) 552-0070 or visit

Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce


  • 1 bottle store-bought barbeque sauce (Bullseye is recommended)
  • 2 oz cider vinegar
  • 4 oz sun-dried cherries
  • 8 oz cola
  • 4 1-inch thick pork chops
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil the vinegar, then add the cherries and steep for 1 minute. Add the barbeque sauce and the cola, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Blend in a blender or food processor and set aside.

Season pork chops with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and grill for about 3 minutes on each side, brushing with about half of the sauce. Remove from heat, and brush with more sauce to finish. Serve chops with the BBQ sauce you did not use for basting on the side.

BBQ Rotisserie Chicken

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 4 lb Whole chicken
  • 1/2 head Garlic
  • 2 sprigs Rosemary (leaves only)
  • 2 oz Lemon juice
  • 2 oz Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 345 degrees. Combine all ingredients and pulse in a blender. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and rub the chicken inside and out with mixture. Marinate for 6 hours. Truss chicken with kitchen string and place on spit. Cook chicken on rotisserie for 45 minutes, brushing with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce every 10 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees. When chicken is cooked, remove from spit and cut in half. Flash grill the chicken, brushing on more BBQ sauce.


Ingredients: (Serves 8-10)

  • 8 cups Green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups Carrots, shredded
  • 2 cups Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 cup Sour cream
  • 3 oz Pineapple juice
  • 1 cup Diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar
  • 4 dashes Tabasco
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and toss until evenly coated. Chill for one hour before serving.

Baked Whipped Potato Casserole

Ingredients: (Serves 10)

  • 1/4 lb Butter
  • 5 lb Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups Heavy cream
  • 1/2 lb Cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Shredded parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumb mixture
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling, salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes, and then drain. Return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Mix in the milk and the melted butter. Bring cream to a boil, and add cheddar. Whisk until cheddar has melted. Place cream, cheddar and butter in with potatoes and whisk until light and fluffy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Cover the top with parmesan panko topping and bake for 3-5 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until top is golden brown.

Mac's Grilled Vegetable Salad

Ingredients: (Serves 1-2)

  • 3 cups Grilled romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Grilled corn, cut off the cob
  • 1/4 cup Grilled asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup Grilled red onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup Grilled Zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup Grilled red, green and yellow pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup Tomato confit, lightly grilled
  • 3 oz Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1/8 cup Pecorino cheese, shaved
  • 1 tsp Cilantro, chopped
  • (optional) 4 grilled shrimp or 6 oz. sliced grilled chicken breast

Place all ingredients in a stainless steel mixing bowl, and toss. Gingerly season with salt and pepper, as needed. Mound in center of large serving bowl. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette


  • 1 cup Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until emulsified.

The Commodore

Created by Managing Partner Donny de Castro, Tavern at the Park


  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve bourbon
  • 2.5 oz Peach puree
  • Iced tea to fill glass
  • Juice of one lemon wedge

Combine the ingredients in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with a slice of peach.

You're My Boy, Blue

Created by Managing Partner Donny de Castro, Tavern at the Park

2.5 oz Stoli Bluberi Vodka
Splash of soda water
Lemonade to fill glass

Combine the ingredients in a highball glass with a mix of blueberry and regular ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Blueberry Ice

Add frozen blueberries to water in regular ice trays and freeze.

Michael Cisternino- Chef de Cuisine

Michael Cisternino hasn't always known he's wanted to be a chef, but his familiarity with kitchens goes back to his childhood. Starting at age six, Cisternino would often find himself side-by-side with his southern Italian father and grandmother preparing traditional dishes for the their family gatherings. "I was always cooking as a kid, but I never thought about doing it as a job until I got older," says Cisternino, 29.

After spending a few years at Ohio State University studying psychology, the Chicago native decided to return to his roots and began pursuing a formal education in the culinary arts at Chicago's Kendall College. Now, as Chef de Cuisine at Tavern at the Park, Cisternino is combining his culinary expertise with his passion for creating memorable meals. "I want to give diners at Tavern those great memories that I've always had of food," he says.

While working toward his Associate of Culinary Arts degree, Cisternino worked for one year with three locations of Chicago's Rosebud Restaurants, learning a variety of skills. After graduation from Kendall, he headed to the South Loop's Gioco, starting off in Garde Manger and, after two years, working his way up to Sous Chef. But in order to truly understand Italian cooking, Cisternino pursued his passion to the source, spending six months working in restaurants in Northern Italy.

It was here that he discovered ingredients at their peak of their freshness. He recalls during his first week being asked to get some tomatoes, and after discovering none in the walk-in, was pleasantly surprised to learn that the tomatoes to be used were actually growing next to the restaurant. With the skills and knowledge he acquired in Italy, Cisternino returned to Rosebud Restaurants, first as Executive Sous Chef at Carmine's and then, for three years, as Executive Chef at Rosebud of Highland Park.

At Tavern at the Park, Cisternino has worked with Executive Chef John Hogan of the award-winning Keefer's restaurant to create a menu that appeals to a variety of tastes. "We took comfort food dishes and put a creative spin on them," explains Cisternino. "Anybody who walks in the door will find something they like, whether it's a hamburger, prime rib sandwich or a great Asian-style salad."

But while the cuisine at Tavern has a broad range of appeal, all of the dishes adhere to Cisternino's belief in using products of the highest quality, prepared simply. "When you start adding ingredients and trying to do too much, you're actually taking away from the food rather than adding to it," he says. "My philosophy is to use the best ingredients you can find and prepare them as well as you can."

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