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burgerdogboy's Recent Reviews
If you tool around the Upper Midwest, you’ll undoubtedly run into a regional burger and custard chain named “Culvers.” Their motto is roughly “home of the butter burger.”
Believing that depends on who you ask. Culver’s version is to fry the burgers on a flattop and nestle it on a toasted, buttered, bun.
But on the East Coast of the state, in Milwaukee, one will come across Solly’s Grille, which opened in 1936 and purports to be the inventor of the actual “Butter Burger.” Or “Butterburger.”
What the term means at Solly’s is completely different than Culvers. At Solly’s, their patty also starts out on a flattop, and the buns are also toasted, but…wait for it……when the burger gets placed on bun, atop it comes an ice cream scoop size dollop of pure Wisconsin butter, which quickly melts, flavoring the patty, soaking the bun and pooling on the plate.
They say they use 150 pounds + of butter weekly, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.
There are different toppings on tap for burgers, various cheese, bacon, and such, but according to the server, there’s never been a pickle or mayo in house and there never will be.
The full menu includes breakfast. (Yes, you can get a burger during breakfast hours). Sides can be crinkle cut fries, rings, or potato pancakes. (After all, Wisconsin at its heart is very German).
The standard Butterburger is also topped with Solly’s own stewed onions.
There’s a guy in America named George Motz, who is considered by many, far and near, to be America’s Hamburger Expert. Here’s a little video about Solly’s from one of his programs, and introducing the main man at Solly’s these days. (George has a book and a documentary that share the title “Hamburger America.”
You’ll see a million “WOW” reviews of Solly’s online. And I always try to find something cool about every place, every experience, but you know what? This place was a lot better in my imagination that in reality. To me.
The factory produced, frozen patty is nothing special, and the onions were rather overpowering for me. Of course I loved the butter and how it flavored both the bun and meat, but the downside is as it pools on the plate, it soaks the bottom half of the bun and your sandwich can quickly become unmanageable.
Seating is limited to a long counter, and a very few tables, if that influences your decision. Service is hit and miss. And you can expect your multi-layered meal (burger, fries, shake) to not come out in any particular order or proximity to each other. You may have consumed your fries prior to even catching a glimpse of your burger.
The rings I liked. Crispy, a little beer in the batter I suspect, and the waitress “upsold me” on the dipping sauce, which was more than the usual restaurant fare. I’m gonna take a guess it is mayo and Tabasco. Not unpleasant. But I didn’t expect to be charged for it. Oh well. Fries are top-notch as well.
This is a great place to hit for a nostalgic thing if you’re going to Milwaukee. Kind of like hitting the Billy Goat in Chicago. In either case, you’re not going because the food is gonna make you say “WOW OH MAN.”
But it’s fun nevertheless. Two burgers, fries, rings, dipping sauce, one soda, $21.
Butterburger with cheese
Perfect crinkle cut fries
Crispy flavorful rings
There’s a burg on the Wisconsin/Illinois border, on US 14, about halfway between Chicago and Janesville, WI (home of JerkInChief Paul Ryan), or halfway between Rockford, IL and Milwaukee.
Name of the town is Bigfoot. No relation to the legendary monster whom we never see, because Noah didn’t let him on the ark. Along with the dinosaurs.
Blink and you’ll miss Bigfoot. There’s a cemetery. A used car dealer. A closed manufacturing facility of some sort, and a “Welcome to Illinois” highway sign. The Bigfoot High School is in Walworth, WI, a few miles north.
Bigfoot is also home (since the mid 1940s) to the Bigfoot Inn, a survivor of a dying breed of restaurants in the Upper Midwest we call “Supper Clubs,” which wikipedia defines as “a dining establishment generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. These establishments typically are located on the edge of town in rural areas.”
Supper clubs became popular during the 1930s and 1940s, and generally feature “simple” menus with somewhat limited offerings featuring “American” cuisine. Menus include dishes such as prime rib, steaks, chicken, and fish. An all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry is particularly common at Wisconsin supper clubs.
Full meals are quite inclusive, starting with a relish tray, cracker basket or rolls and butters, and entrees generally include soup, salad, starch and vegetable. Some establishments even include dessert.
The Bigfoot Inn is no exception to the aforementioned generalities, but their menu is quite extensive, features daily and nightly specials, and offers an AYCE champagne brunch on Sundays. The establishment is open seven days, has a large, full bar, and video gambling machines.
Spoiler alert. Was I ever impressed! Our server “the guy from Elkhorn,” was informed and attentive without being intrusive. He knew the menu and the area well. He boasted that everything was made from scratch, and after eating (btw, servings are HUGE), I had no reason to doubt his claim. I over ordered, because there were so many good things on the menu.
Started with appetizers of saganaki (flambed cheese, a Chicago thing) and perfect onion rings, large cut, nice breading, mildly seasoned, fried perfectly.
Along with the appetizers came complimentary crackers, rolls, butter, and cheese spread (another geographical thing). Soup? Yes please, and a tale from the server of when he met the actual “Soup Nazi.” Salad, with a wide choice of dressings, and then the entree; they come with vegetables and a choice of many different starches. With my Wienerschnitzel Holstein style, I went with steak fries. Couldn’t finish the steak or the even start on the fries, was too full with the prelims.
Also at the table, perfectly grilled, inch thick pork chops, a huge spud with all the fixins’ brought without asking.
$70 for two dinners, two appetizers, an adult beverage, and worth every nickle. Actually, I think the place is under priced, but don’t tell them.
Will I return? You bet. The bottomless champagne brunch (Sundays only) is around $13! Egad! The Washington Times did an interesting bit on Wisconsin supper clubs. I was recently at another, “Donny’s Girl,” which apparently I didn’t write about. It was out in the sticks, kinda hard to find, but worth the trek.
What’s better than getting a restaurant meal with quality ingredients, cooked precisely to your order, at a great value?
Not much I can think of. I have found my new “home away from home” for breakfast out, the Village Inn Family Restaurant, in Huntley, IL, a distant Chicago exurb. “Chicago area diners” lean towards large portions, and the Village Inn is no exception.
Throwing three eggs on a plate, next to (at least) a half pound of potatoes, along with your choice of meat and toast (rye, for me, always), their breakfast will satisfy any sized appetite.
Two things stuck out for me. First, I love ham. But I especially love GREAT ham. And by “great,” I mean “real,” not some pressed, chopped, and formed, ham-like meat.
No, I crave real muscle meat, full of texture and flavor. Village Inn more than satisfies.
Second? I crave my ham to have a little “char” on it, adds to texture experience, and I like my breakfast potatoes extra crispy.
Scored on both accounts, in fact the waitress brought the eggs and toast first, said the ham would be up in a minute, she didn’t think the cook charred it enough. And when she delivered? Spot on.
I like going to Huntley. It’s a peaceful little town, away from the hubbub of the big city, but with all the requisite access to commerce and great little mom and pop places, like the Village Inn and Sal’s Pizza, down the street. Oh, and the most excellent Diary Mart. I also try to get out there to support local charity feeds, like the Boy Scout Pancake breakfast and such.
Village Inn? I shall return. Often. My compliments to the kitchen.
I love this place. Been in regular attendance for the past two decades. They’ve had their share of troubles, flooded twice cause of storms, but they keep coming back, stronger and better than ever.
Caveat one: this is a New Orleans AREA restaurant, not in the city, it’s about a 30 minute drive north on I-55. It sits perched on the edge of Lake Maurepas, which in turn empties into Lake Ponchartrain. There’s a nice outdoor deck when the weather is nice, which it usually is.
Middendorfs, like a lot of area restaurants, serves tons of local seafood, prepared in all manners and styles, but deep fried is the New Orleans way; you can get giant combo platters of shrimp, oysters, fish, and crab. But most people go for a dish unique to the restaurant, deep fried catfish filets, but they’re cut lengthwise into paper thin slivers. Unique. Crispy. Tasty. Dinners come with fries, slaw and hush puppies. Never had any use for the latter, personally.
You can get a piece of beef or chicken if you insist, and there is an adequate ankle biter menu. You can get raw or BBQ oysters or delicious gumbos as a side or starter.
I only get here once every few years, and I hope they keep on and on. It’s my place for ‘cat’ in the New Orleans area. (Oh and they also serve them whole, bone-in, if you like it that way). I like to bring out of town company here. If I haven’t taken you, it’s because I hate you.
I’ve written a lot about what I (and apparently others) call “gas station chicken.”
Across the deep south, you’ll run into these fairly often. Some call them “fry delis,” and the independent ones often have a melange of offerings, fried chicken, tenders, egg rolls, corn dogs, catfish nuggets, potatoes.
I’ve done kind of an overview in the past, traveling across the south.
I’ve driven by another operation with multiple locations, Dodge’s Southern Style, but my attempt at research to find their origins or number of locations came up dry. (Other than they are old, and possibly based in Tupelo, MS). But I bumped into one recently in Dyersville, AR, near the Tennessee border. For many people, Dodge’s is a gas only operation, they pull in, fill up without every experiencing the wonderment which lies just inside the glass doors.
In a word, I like Dodge’s a LOT. Their batter has more cornmeal than competitors, so it comes out crispier. They also feature “Jo Jo” potatoes, and while different places offer a product with the same name, most often they are deep fried potato wedges, quarters. Why no one ever trademarked/patented it/them, I’ll never know. First time I ever recall seeing them was on a Shakey’s pizza buffet. Various places attribute the name originally to a joint in Waconia, MN, and the name spread across the Upper Midwest. Who knew?
“Dinners” or “plates” also come with a dinner roll, which is fine, nothing to write home about. In any case, lacking a national director of Chesters, Krispy, and Dodge’s, and having to rely on highway information signs to locate them, usually, I know now I can be satisfied at any of these three operations!
Dodges published monthly specials on their spartan website.
The Sugar Bowl has been an integral part of downtown Des Plaines since 1921. It has, over the years, been a sweet shop, candy store, ice cream parlor and restaurant. Today it’s heavily into the restaurant biz.
Have seen this place many times when I’ve been zipping by on the train and had a hankering to try it, which I did early one Sunday morning.I went for ham and eggs, and I’ve been on a winning streak with breakfast ham in restaurants lately, like the Village Family Restaurant in Huntley, IL.
I have a penchant for “REAL HAM,” full muscle meat that’s been cut from a butt or loin, not that pressed, chopped, and formed stuff that so many restaurants serve. Please dear god, no.
The kind of ham I prefer, at least in Chicago area restaurants is called (some variation of) “Ham off the bone.” And it’s damned near porcine heaven to me. Especially heavily aged and smoked, and NOT cured or coated with any kind of sugar or substitute.
So, if you haven’t guessed, I’m sweet on the Sugar Bowl for breakfast. Great food, great service, good prices. If you’re going to or thru Des Plaines, stop by. It’s also not far from the reconstructed first (Ray Kroc version) McDonalds, now a museum.
The Sugar Bowl serves breakfast and lunch menus, which you can peruse here.
Eggs & Ham, Sam I Am!!
Main Street of America, the Mother Road, Will Rogers Highway, all names for US Route 66, established in 1926, and destined to become one of the most famous roads in America.
It ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean, at Santa Monica (Los Angeles), California. Towns and cities grew up along side it, merchants prospered as America’s love of the automobile grew. It was a major route for families escaping the dust bowl in the 30s.
A TV show, which began in 1960, romanticized the road.
Lou Mitchells, open early, and serving breakfast and lunch menus seven days, there are certain things patrons of Lou’s have come to expect: being greeted at the door with a hot donut hole, being expediently served by a professional and happy staff, complimentary Milk Duds on the table, an orange slice and a single prune as an “amuse,” and an offer of free ice cream upon the completion of your meal.
Not to overlook the obvious, expect quality ingredients, meticulous preparation, and large servings of the menu items.I went with fried eggs and ham, 3 (4?) eggs served in a skillet along with home-cut hash browns, four strips of perfect bacon, and two thick pieces of toast. Like many Chicago diners, Lou’s has a giant dish of butter on the table, so feel free to overindulge. I did.
Whether you’re beginning or ending traversing the Mother Road for a vacation, or just passing thru Chicago on business or pleasure, be sure to include Lou Mitchell’s on your “must” list. Especially for those who pine for a time when things were “better” in America, Lou Mitchell’s will transport you there.
Eggs Over with Bacon
I don’t think anybody knows exactly how many hot dog stands there are in Chicago. It’s a well known fact that there are more than the total McDonalds, Wendys and Burger Kings combined.
Estimates vary between 1500 -2000.
In Chicago, a “hot dog stand” can take many forms, from street cart to brick and mortar carryout only, to full service restaurants, with most having remarkably similar menus, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, Italian beef sandwiches, and gyros, and a majority of those items coming from just a few local suppliers: hot dogs and beef from Vienna Beef, gyros from Kronos. Buns from Turano or S Rosens.
OK, so all these places have virtually the same menu and many use the same suppliers – what sets one apart from another? Well, geography is obvious, but also (to me) cleanliness, method and care of preparation, and attention paid to other contributing factors, like condiment suppliers.
Like I was at one the other day who offered “char-broiled” burgers. Nothing could be farther/further/more distant from the truth. The burger seemed like had been simmered in grease. Truly awful. Two bites.
But today I’m writing about one of the more distinctive ones, PJ Moon Doggies in Glenview, IL. In addition to the aforementioned menu items, Moon Doggies also has ribs and chicken. Decor is 50s diner with a fully-loaded replica Wurlitzer jukebox. Counter service and daily specials.
I had their burger and fries and it was excellent. This one was actually char-broiled, was a very flavorful meat patty, great bun and fabulous pickle (an important thing for me). Hot, crispy fries. Here’s their full menu.
I find myself in that part of the city about twice a year for one thing or another. I’d stop again, for sure. You should think about it too.
Vietnamese cuisine is all the rage, isn’t it? Where else can you spend $25- $40 for a bowl of soup? Spoiler alert, if you want authentic Vietnamese in New Orleans, ask for directions out to the cluster of Vietnamese shops and restaurants in New Orleans east.
Vietnamese settled along the Gulf Coast and are busy in the shrimp industry, so there’s been a mini-explosion of Vietnamese “style” restaurants. I’ve had a couple of good experiences, at Mo Pho, which is Vietnamese/Creole fusion, interesting, tasty. And at Namese, in mid city. I’ve also driven down to the docks where the shrimp boats come in and purchased right off the boats. That’s fun and cheap!
Anyway, Magasin is on Magazine Street in New Orleans, a hub of shops and restaurants catering to the aspiring affluent. Just as sushi places come up with a unique “roll” of their own concoction, Vietnamese restaurants increasingly have added a special Bahn Mi (sub sandwich) and recipe Pho (soup) to their menus. These can be nit and miss.
At the Magasin Cafe, the special sandwich is called the “Deli Special.” Usually these sandwiches, undoubtedly developed during the French occupation have one or two kinds of meat, cucumber, pickled vegetables, cilantro, occasionally jalapenos, and occasionally some type of dressing.
I asked the waiter what was on the “Deli Special” and altho we were both speaking the same language, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was trying to say. I think we settled it on being two kinds of pork, but then he said “chicken pork.” Chicken and pork, I asked? No, you know, “chickenpork.” Well, I do not know, or did not, I ordered it, and it’s not to my taste. Whatever “chickenpork” is, it is surely the Americanized version of Vietnamese pressed, chopped, and form lunch meat.
Ick. Companion diners loved their pho, but to my observation, the plates were not adorned with as many things to add to the broth as I have seen at other restaurants.
It was near 6 on a weekend. It was pretty busy. There are shops to poke in after and some pretty fair coffee, across the street and to the west.
I’ll wander off the beaten path to try a place I’ve heard about it. It’s a crap shoot.
But for a couple years I’ve been infatuated with “sourthern style” fried chicken, and did a fast food comparison tour across the south for chicken tenders, and I’ve written a number of pieces on gas station chicken.
Which I like. ALOT.
Miss Dots has a rep, very basic menu, of fried chicken, whole, pieces, or bits. I went for bits. They call them “bites.” “Plates” were $9 and up and came with a side and a roll. I went with the “bites” and mac/cheese.
The place was immaculate, sparkling clean. Employees were newish and not very knowledgeable about the product or even the POS system. Orders were taken, food was prepared, brought to the table. Pretty fast, actually, surprised me.
It’s a lighter breading, not much cornmeal, not seasoned, or lightly seasoned. The chicken was juicy and piping hot in its little breading overcoat. The mac/cheese was lifeless, dry, no particular flavor, could just as easily have been from a box. The same verdict for the roll. Nothing special. Sysco or a local grocer.
So yeah, it’s good, but for me, not worth an extra drive or the price. I was also under the impression this was a really old establishment (not sure why I thought that), but it’s not, it’s nearly a start-up. Additional location in Birmingham.
There’s the undisputed champion of fast food “roast beef” places, Arbys, which has more than 3300 units. There have been some ‘also rans’along the way, the Roy Rogers chain (once over 300 units) tried to be a national contender. Hardees, with over 3000 units, has always featured a similar product on their menu systemwide after acquiring both the Roy Rogers and Rax Roast Beef chains.
And there have been local/regional chains as well, which have somehow managed to survive, despite being outspent in marketing and dwarfed in the number of locations.
I recall visiting a Lion’s Choice, in St. Louis, (25 outlets), and this gem I visited to day, “Beef-A- Roo” in Rockford, IL. “BAR” has 7 locations and has been around since 1967, and while their initial focus was on roast beef, they now have a full menu, offering burgers, dogs, salads, wraps, soups and other sandwiches.
Like Arby’s “roast beef,” the meat at Beef-A-Roo appears to come from an emulsification process, that is, beef, a solution, seasonings, perhaps other ingredients are made into a slurry, packed into a mold, and pre-cooked. The meat has the same texture and color as Arbys, and or course, neither resemble pure “muscle meat” as one would find at a quality deli or prepare at home.
Regardless, it remains popular, and even tho Arbys has a good presence in Rockford, locals love their Beef-A-Roo, and I have to say my perception
of the roast beef sandwich was despite the similarity, I prefered this. To me, it was more flavorful than the competitions, and as I am a nut for any kind of bread, I have to mention that hands-down, Beef-A-Roo may well have one of the best buns in the industry. It’s terrific, soft yet firm, a slight buttery taste, and toasted.
I also tried the olive burger, a popular item in the Chicago area (i have reviewed others), tho different variations can be found. BAR’s closely resembles that one you will find on
Regular Roast Beef
most menus, with sliced green olives and melted white cheese. They added a sauce, and I really couldn’t tell what it was, resembling a mayo, and it’s not named on their website menu. The burger patty has come from the type of automation that makes it appear as if it was hand-formed (meaning not a perfectly round, “hockey puck” type patty like most fast foods) and like the roast beef, it was more flavorful than most of its competitors.
Read a bunch of BAR’s reviews and you’ll see people crow about the fries, and they are good, as good, or better, as the golden arches, which many people hold as the fast food gold standard. They are thin and crispy shoestrings, nicely salted, piping hot.
Other people think BAR is spendy, but I disagreed, came away with two large sandwiches, fries and a drink for under $10.
I wish they’d expand, at least regionally. In the meantime, you’ll have to go to Rockford, IL and try their food at one of seven locations.
I have seen the same name on other restaurants in the Midwest, no idea whether they were once affiliated, are franchises or operated by other members of the founding family.
I’ve previously opined about the original Sal’s Pizza location, an unassuming walk-in/delivery (only) storefront on the backside of a strip mall in Algonquin, IL.
If you read that piece, you’ll remember I found no fault with their pizza, in fact, for my personal tastes, I found it to be superb.
This review is about Sal’s Pizza newer location in Huntley, IL, which has a full menu, seating, full-service bar as well as video gaming area.
I had been in this joint under its previous ownership, and I really can’t even remember the name or how I felt about the product. But it’s of no consequence now that Sal’s has landed here. It’s the same great menu as Sal’s in Algonquin, with pizza, sandwiches, dinner entrees, including pasta and chicken.
I gotta say again, I love Sal’s Pizza. I’ve tried so many different places in the NW burbs, and disappointment after disappointment, I’m back to Sal’s. And while carryout and delivery is fine, it’s nice to take a little drive to Huntley and have a relaxing dine-in experience with the same great product.
Sal’s thin crust is flaky around the rim, and chewy as you work your way in, just the way it should be. Sauce is flavorful, on the thicker side, yet not overpowering. I love their sausage, don’t know where they get it, but it’s large ‘hand-pulled’ chunks of flavorful, seasoned pork, not those pre-cooked nuggets so many chains used.
Finally, their cheese blend is applied in very liberal quantities, has great flavor, melt-quality, and pull. You’re going to experience that ultimate pizza cheese experience where you lift a slice and see those delicious stretches of cheese. To me, that’s living. Especially when you do that and the toppings don’t end up falling into the pan. It’s very important that each slice of pizza remains intact until it gets to your mouth, I say.
Pies are cut into square slices, common in Chicago and the Upper Midwest, and sometimes referred to as a “tavern cut.” Again, that’s one of my ideals for pizza perfection.
At the table, we also had the fried chicken and an order of onion rings. No complaints there. The coating on the chicken is crispy and flavorful. The rings are thin cut with a little cornmeal in the batter.
Service was attentive. Didn’t catch the waitresses name, she had a bit of (my thought) accent from somewhere in the British isles. In any case, she was attentive without being overbearing.
Good show, Sal’s. Of course, we’ll be back. Sal’s also offers great value catering for your family, company, or school event.
Damn, I love it when a place far exceeds my expectations. I was on the prowl for a new burger in the NW burbs of Chicago and stumbled upon this micro-sized diner offering burgers, sandwiches, and some Greek specialties.
I was intrigued by the “Zeus” burger, which promised a quality beef patty topped with Saganaki (a Greek-style cheese that has been flambed), tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, dill), and other toppings of your choice.
It was fantastic! Hearty bun, nice flavor in the lean beef patty, cooked to order. Looking at the menu, I also noticed they had kalamata olives for some items, and they would have been a good add-on for this style burger. I’ll remember to ask next time.
Bombas also offers “Greek fries,” which are oven baked, doused with lemon juice and sprinkled with feta. Delish.
If you’re not looking for this place, you might miss it, in a small strip mall next to a large pawn shop. And it seems Google maps has its location a little off the actual place. Or it seemed so to me.
I hope these guys have lots of success. They use quality ingredients with attention to preparation and presentation – at a fair price. Oh yeah, I’ll be back. Oh yeah, outrageously good dill spears, too!
A portion of the menu is below.
I generally eschew “legends” in the restaurant business (exception, New Orleans), as I have found over and over again, so many of them are resting on their laurels of decades ago.
Such is not the case with The Italian Village, really three restaurants under one roof in downtown Chicago, is the city’s oldest Italian restaurant, serving the ‘old-school classics.’
Opened in 1927, on the top floor, you’ll find “The Village,” serving all of America’s favorite Italian appetizers and entrees. On the ground floor, Vivere takes a contemporary approach to an Italian menu, and own a flight of stairs, “La Cantina,” serves some of the age-old favorites of the restaurant and adds a selection of steaks and chops to the offering, in a more casual atmosphere; those meat selections run from $29 – $40.
I was last in the Italian Village about 35 years ago, and had fond memories of it. Had my memories been jaded by time? Would it not live up to my memory? I’m delighted to say it exceeded my expectations on every level.
Service, quality of ingredients, size of servings, and value. At the table were spaghetti and sausage, clams in pasta (available but not on the menu), appetizers of a caprese salad, beef carpacio, an extra side of meatballs, and a mostacoli in a spicy arribiata sauce. (red sauce with chili peppers and garlic). And bread. And butter. And olive oil. In seemingly endless quantities.
Many of the entrees are cooked to order, and the menu cautions you on the wait time for those.
The food was delicious, service attentive but not intrusive, interesting decor to look at, and private booths tucked away in little alcoves if you’re desirous of a more discrete event.
The restaurants are open seven days for lunch and dinner, with private faclities available for small and medium size parties.
Dinner for four, ample glasses of wine, gratutity: $240. Valet parking at the door for $12. You know, I didn’t ask, but you might when you call, if it’s a concern. I don’t think there’s an elevator to the top floor restaurant, I made my way up a rather lengthy flight of stairs that lands at the front door.
(photos are from the internet)
A pub/grill, not the song. Tho the song is one of my favorites. Let’s pause, shall we?
The Penny Lane Pub is a modestly sized bar and grill with daily specials, live music on weekends, and open til 3 AM. They have a good bar menu with pizza, sandwiches, wings, tacos, and of course burgers.
I went with the “Olive Burger” which is kind of a thing in the Chicago area, a burger patty topped with sliced green or black olives. On some menus, it’s called a “Queen Burger,” and I’ve never been able to find out how it came into being. It was right up there in the mighty fine category, as were the fresh cut fries. Great beef taste, ample sized, bun substantial enough to hold all manner of toppings. Delish.
Penny Lane obviously buys quality ingredients, and fresh, attractive produce. The kitchen again, obviously, takes pride in their presentation.
Despite its location in Barrington, one of the poshest Chicago suburbs, I found the prices to be very modest. Sandwiches and drinks for two, $14.00.
Not far down the road, you can easily pay double that (or more) at other Barrington watering holes.
I’ll do it again, to check out the pizza and some of the nightly specials, you betcha. The location is on a not very well traveled road, but easy to find, head north of I-90 on highway 59 and hang a left on Penny Road, the joint is just ahead on your left.
Grover’s Grill and Bar, at 412 Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, IL, sits across the highway from the FRG Metra station. It’s been Grover’s for maybe 3 years. I think it was a Mexican restaurant before that, I had never been in there.
They did some remodeling before opening, took out a couple walls, added a game room, video slots, and a raft of wall-mounted big screen TVs to catch your favorite game.
The menu includes all the Chicago-area favorites: thin crust pizza, cheese cruds, sliders, nachos, tacos, Italian beef and other sandwich favorites, soups, wraps and salads. An extensive selection of custom ‘burgers’ is available as well. Choose from a beef, turkey, chicken breast, tenders or veggie patty, and graze on one of their signature configurations like “The Norge” (bacon, blue cheese and frizzled onions), “The Grover” (Pepper jack cheese, roasted pablanos, red onion and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun).
Or build your own from a selection of a wide host of toppings.
Pizzas are available in 10, 12, 14, of 16 inch sizes, with an extensive list of ingredients you can choose for toppings, including many not available at most pizza places. Gluten free pies are available in one size, 11″.
I had the Norge burger and it was WAY above my expectations. The amply-sized angus beef patty had great flavor and texture, and the toppings were all fresh and plentiful. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries, also great. Affable, courteous service, too. I’d do it again. I will do it again.
Grover’s is open til midnight Sunday thru Thursday, and til 2AM Friday and Saturday. And they deliver in the area. www.groversgrillandbar.com
It is so seldom you run into any place, product or service these days that the end result is that the experience exceeds your expectations. Spoiler alert. Niko’s exceeded my expectations on every level.
I was tooling around Northern Illinois and I’ve had some good grub in the town of Marengo before, so I decided to stop and try another joint. Pointers Saloon, on the main drag, called to me with the sign out from which simply said “burgers and beer.”
The decor is “outdoorsy” with a fair amount of dead animals adorning the wall. I don’t mind. The service was very pleasant and attentive, from the initial contact all the way through the meal and to my departure. Very enthusiastic young woman.
The menu is lengthy. Hard to choose, but I started with a Chicago favorite, Saganaki, a greek cheese set on fire at table side, that you can scrape up with pita. Love it.
Finally decided on a club sandwich, I love a good one, and this ended up in my top 3. Quality ingredients. Prepared with care. Nice presentation. Good sides, with home cut fries and a tangy slaw.
Also at the table was a patty melt, on marble rye, which was also pronounced ‘most excellent.”
How can I get so excited about a club sandwich? Two reasons: 1) There are a lot of crappy ones in the world, and 2) that Pointer’s cook would be conscientious and care enough to prepare this one very nicely.
Decor. Food. Good service. Two sandwiches, appetizer and one beer, $42 including tip.
Nikos Pointers Saloon Review, Marengo, IL
Based on my personal consumption, I’m thinking their slogan should be “come for the biscuits, stay for the chicken.”
One of the original highways across America, Route 66 ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA, a total of nearly 2500 miles.
It’s also been referred to as “America’s Main Street,” and the “Mother Road.” The highway was instrumental in boosting America’s migration to the west by automobile, and was full of interesting tourist stops, eateries and motels with creative architecture. I’ve written about some of the eateries in the past, including the Maid Rite and Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL, the onion burger establishments in El Reno, OK, Country Cup diner in Countryside, IL, and the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, to name a few.
I love driving Route 66, the trip evokes memories of a simpler time. I think it’s officially my own personal “happy place.”
The Chicken Basket grew out of a gas station lunch counter in the 30s or 40s, and opened in its present form in 1946. They are famous for – what else – chicken – and they offer it in a bunch of different forms, including a weekend lunch AYCE buffet.
The servers are very friendly and chatty, and the knotty pine room is adorned with Route 66 memorabilia. A basket of fresh baked biscuits is presented when you’re seated, and they were delicious, reminiscent to me of “Boy Scout dutch oven Bisquick drop biscuits” except these were perfect, not burned or half baked balls of dough that we used to have in scouts.
I started with an order of onion rings, large slices of sweet Vidalia’s in a crispy corn meal coating. It’s a large serving, adequate to share between two or more people.
We ordered a couple of meals, the chicken fried chicken, a boneless breast, which comes with fries, gravy, and corn “pudding.”
The menu cautions that it’s up to a 30 minute wait for the chicken, as it is all fried to order. The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, with the breading having some nice crunch. In the chicken dinner, the coating was considerably different, much lighter and less substantial, and I’m going to venture an uneducated guess that while the boneless breast was actually deep fried, it seemed like the chicken dinner was prepared more like ‘broasting,” a distinctly Midwestern thing, a deep-fry with less oil that also involves a pressure cooker. Maybe, maybe not.
In any case, unlike many legendary eateries, the Chicken basket exceeds its hype, the food is really great. Two dinners, one appetizer, two beverages and tip, $47.00.
Full menu is online if you want to ponder your choices prior to arrival.
If you’ve never driven Route 66, put it on your bucket list, even if you have the time only to do segments in one or two states. In addition to Illinois, the road crossed Missouri, a smidgen of Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and into California. It’s a very popular trip with foreign tourists, as well, and there are even “Route 66 Associations” across the globe.
Chicken Fried Chicken Dinner
Fried Chicken Breast
As a regular reader, you know I try and find positive things to write about every time I stop someplace. Spoiler alert: not here.
I’ve been in a Pizza Hut maybe three times in the past ten years, once in a small town in Western Kansas, the place was filthy, the pizza worse. I liked Pizza Huts in China, tho, it was before the Chinese became amenable to liking “cheese” and the menus said the pies had “melted topping.” Selections were ample and the salad bar (which the Chinese adored) was always well stocked.
Went into a Godfather’s Pizza Buffet a few years ago, and that was dreadful. Pizza Ranch, a fast growing chain based out of Iowa, has so-so pizza, but drop dead fried chicken and a lot of other choices. And it’s a good value.
Round Table, based in California, has a pretty fair buffet.
But Pizza Hut? At least this one? Ugh.
They had six pizzas out, nothing exotic, either standard thin or thick crust. I went in because I thought it would give me the opportunity to sample some of the innovations they have been bragging about lately – stuffed crusts, added flavors, blah blah. But this operator was interested in minimizing costs and maximizing revenue, so choices were pretty basis. There was a single bin of plain spiral pasta and plain red sauce to accompany it. One bin of “dessert bread sticks.” No salad. No chicken. I expected wings, since Pizza Hut has that whole “Wing Street” thing going. Buffet price, without drink $6.99 plus tax and gratuity.
I had a slice of sausage, a slice of pepperoni, one with pork pellets, one with ‘everything’ and one with cheese. The plain cheese was the best, despite being drastically under-cooked. To me, Pizza Hut just doesn’t taste like much. It will always be in a three-way tie for pizza of last resort with Dominos and Caesar’s.
The joint was clean. The help was friendly. They seem to have some ‘regulars,’ at least based on overheard conversations.
It is next door to a KFC which was empty at high noon. No buffet there. KFC buffets are kind of hard to find, but they can be a real treat!
The basic menu is below, I notice they have “rebranded” their specialty pies as “Flavor recipes,” and I also see they no longer offer salads or other alternatives at all. But speaking of rebranding, remember about 5 years ago or so, they made a big hubbub about how they were going to become just “The Hut?” Whatever happened to that? It was about the same time Radio Shack announced they were going to start calling the stores just “The Shack,” but that ultimately changed into “The location permanently closed.”
Pizza Hut Menu
(As Americans have become meaner, ruder, and armed) I no longer enjoy busy tourists areas, except in the off season, but I found myself in Lake Geneva, WI this week, as typical a tourist spot as any.
Feeling a might peckish, I was scoping out restaurants by how much I liked their exterior vintage neons, and opted for the Olympic, right downtown, a couple blocks from the lake.
It’s an old-timey coffee shop format, serving all three meals, with booths and tables. It’s also crowded, not with people, but with ‘stuff,’ and you’ll have to negotiate a path to the washrooms, for instance.
They have a HUGE menu, with enough variety to easily please any diner, and simultaneously overwhelm any kitchen. In other words, the menu is so long that most places are going to have to look for short cuts, and in the case of my selection, the “Meat Lovers Burger,” it meant going with food service ingredients instead of fresh, prepared, in-house grub.
Yeah, I know, it’s a coffee shop. The burger came with fries (which were OK), and was around $10.50, adding cheese would slap on a buck.
Didn’t eat much of it, didn’t take it to go, either. Service was “OK,” there was one young woman for the entire dining room when I arrived, and she seemed a little harried. Ambiance is a-ok. Bathrooms are fairly clean.
Maybe I made a bad choice, maybe the kitchen was having an off day, but they weren’t very busy. There are sooooooooooooooo many options in Lake Geneva, for dining at all ends of the price spectrum. This is probably one you can skip.
I rarely read other reviews, but I checked a few as I was writing this, and some make reference to it’s an excellent place to eat when you’re drunk. I’ll keep that in mind.
Meat Lovers Burger