One of the best things about living in the North-east is there’s always new places to explore and discover.
The average Aberdonian is probably unaware that nestled in the foothills of Bennachie sits a large, rootin’-tootin’ American barbecue joint in the quaint village of Oyne.
But Lil’ C’s is the Garioch’s worst-kept secret and it’s wise to book in advance.
Busy upon arrival, it lived up to the promise of a casual dining experience; the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, there was a bit of Elvis playing in the background and youngsters enjoying table football.
The restaurant is like a cross between a Big Top and a saloon – almost every inch of the red and white circular room is adorned with an eclectic mix of cowboy hats, flags and ornaments.
Diners go up to the counter to order and help themselves to soft drinks from a large fridge adjacent to the bar.
You may question why a vegetarian would go to a barbecue restaurant, but there are lots of options for meat and non-eat meaters.
I went for the chipotle bean burger (£6) with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese (£2.50) and chose to bypass the fridge, instead going for a cocktail.
My husband went for a half dozen buffalo wings (£4), the Sissy Chick! burger (£7) and we shared sweet potato fries (£3).
Originally from America, the owners’ ethos is to recreate flavours from their childhoods and keep the food simple and fun.
The food may be simple, but clearly a lot of effort has gone into curating the menu and pulling together mouth-watering flavours.
You’d expect meat from a barbecue restaurant to be cooked flawlessly and I’m assured it was sublime.
The chicken wings were ‘perfection’, the crunchy coating and succulent meat was bang-on. The buffalo sauce was hot, but not overpowering and the homemade ranch dip provided a tasty accompaniment, especially mopped up with the sweet potato fries.
My husband claims they’re “the best wings he’s had in this country”, only bettered by ones he’s had in America.
Despite opting for chicken for the main as well, the flavours were entirely different. The Sissy Chick! burger consisted of two tender chicken thighs, slathered in a sweet and smokey barbecue sauce, topped off with Monterey Jack cheese and giant pickles.
You may think a bean burger would pale in comparison to meatier offerings, but when it’s stacked high with pickle, lettuce, tomato, avocado and ranch sauce between a large brioche bun, it is nothing short of sensational.
The chipotle bean patty was crumbly and mushed beautifully into the ranch sauce (you will need to squidge your burger down to fit it in your mouth).
My only regret is I didn’t ask for some cheese as well, but it would have been pure gluttony with a side of macaroni to get through.
Speaking of which, as a connoisseur of macaroni (it’s often the best option on a veggie menu), Lil’ C’s offering is tangy, cheesy and something I’d want to have as a main.
Although I couldn’t finish my burger and was bordering on food coma territory we managed to share a slice of peanut butter and brownie pie which was every bit as rich and sticky as I hoped it would be, although I did feel I needed a lie-down afterwards.
My only criticism is there is an exit door into the outdoor area at the far side of the room which youngsters kept leaving open, creating a bracing draught, but this didn’t detract from an otherwise great experience.
Lil’ C’s is brash, but brilliant, and absolutely deserves its reputation locally as a chilled out place to eat. It may be out of the way, but the food is far better and much more reasonably priced than similar chain offerings and is worth the drive.