burgerdogboy's Recent Reviews
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.
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.