Memorial Day Deals for Vets and Active Duty Personnel

(From Foodandwine.com) Others can be found on https://militarybenefits.info.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
If you dine with a veteran, active duty service member, or Gold Star family on Memorial Day, they’ll get a lunch or dinner entrée for free (equal to or less than the cost of your entrée).

Hickory Tavern
25% of proceeds from sales of the ‘Merica’s Burger on Memorial Day will be donated to the Independence Fund, according to Hickory Tavern’s site.

Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub
Veterans and active duty military can buy one entrée and get one free on Memorial Day—all you have to do is present your proof of service or military ID. You can pick from nine different dishes (all from the “9 real size entrées for $9.99” menu), but know that beverage, tax, and tip aren’t included.

McCormick & Schmick’s
Gold Star parents, spouses, veterans, and active members of the U.S. military and National Guard can get one free entrée (either for lunch or dinner) on May 27. Options include salmon rigatoni, buttermilk fried shrimp, and tender beef medallions—check out the full spread on the restaurant’s site.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop
All veterans and active military members can grab a free sandwich, salad or “pick-your-pair” as a BOGO deal for Memorial Day. The offer runs from May 26 through May 27—simply show ID to redeem.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill
Rubio’s also has a BOGO deal for Memorial Day—veterans and military members can purchase any adult entrée, and get a second one free. Bring your military ID and this coupon to redeem.

Texas de Brazil
We cannot thank all the heroes out there enough. Today, just like every day, military members/veterans can come in and enjoy a 20% discount with a valid badge or ID: http://bit.ly/2vyyRKR

TGI Friday’s
TGI Friday’s Memorial Day deal is enough to feed a crowd. Family meal boxes (appetizers, entrées, sides, and salads), which feed four to six people, are fifteen percent off; or, if you’re really hungry, party platters are 15 percent off too. An entire platter of loaded potato skins sounds pretty good right now, if you ask us. To see all the different options and combinations, check out the menus on Friday’s site.

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Super 8 Motels Review – Nationwide Chain

Super 8 Motels Review - Nationwide ChainAfter decades of business travel on the company time, in posh hotels where your every single whim is attended to, I’m happy these days to mostly stay in ‘value priced’ motels. Generally franchisees, locally owned, and adequate for as little time as I will be in attendance.

Super 8 is in the top 5 of the segment, overall I find them well maintained, well furnished and up to date.

I do have two things I take exception to.

While I laud the development of the complimentary breakfast in motels, Super 8 is on the more modest end. No meat, no eggs.  Your ubiquitous Golden Malted waffles (these guys must have made a bucket load of $$$).  juice, fruit, yogurt, bread, cereal.  Adequate.

Second, and most importantly? No matter how many website with the identical rates you show the front desk when you are checking in – they are going to have some excuse or another to charge you more, and they know you’re beat from being on the road and odds are good you’re going to suck it up and pay it.

This month in Mount Vernon, Illinois, and Sikeston, Missouri, in both cases the demanded rate was $30 north of the published rate on hand.

Wyndham?  You need to sort that out. And amp up breakfast. Other than that? No complaints.  (Tho I am old enough to remember that the rooms used to be $8.88).

Locations near you

 

 

 

Super 8 Motels Review – Nationwide Chain

Super 8 Motels Review – Nationwide Chain

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Cracker Barrel Review, Mount Vernon, IL

Cracker Barrel Review, Mount Vernon, IL

Catfish, fries, greens

I’m not a regular. I stopped in one a few years ago and had breakfast, and my immediate impression was they had gone down hill. Pre-prepared heat and eat entrees and such.

I changed my mind last week after dinner at the Paducah, KY location. Immediate impression upon sitting down was the menu had expanded and the prices had been lowered.

And we had an angel of a server in “Abigail.” Young, enthusiastic, new to the job, not yet suffering from the malaise that comes from working in the service industry too long and having to put up with people’s inane requests.

I had the single filet of fried catfish, with choice of sides (fries and greens) and everything was prepared perfectly. $8. Dinners include ‘made from scratch biscuits or corn muffins.’ Didn’t there used to be more ‘pass arounds?’ Maybe not.  Also? “New” Southern Fried Chicken. Superb.

Anyway, it was great. Food was great, Abigail was great.

Menu. https://crackerbarrel.com/menu

Find one near you: https://crackerbarrel.com/locations

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cracker Barrel Review, Mount Vernon, IL
Cracker Barrel Review, Mount Vernon, IL

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Dari Ice Cream and Grill Review – Hebron, IL

Dari Ice Cream and Grill Review

Dari Ice Cream and Grill Review - Hebron, IL Hebron (Illinois, not Palestine) is a dinksquat town of around 1200 in northern Illinois. You may know it as the home of Chris Ferrara, who is in the Bugler Hall of Fame. No? Anyway, it’s right on the border of Wisconsin/Illinois.  Can’t miss it.

They have a Dollar General, that’s kind of exciting. (FYI, the bathrooms are kept locked). And a stoplight (well, flashing red, anyway). A small frozen pizza manufacturer (Champion) (but you can’t buy them there, you have to walk down to the gas station). (Yes, I picked one up, here’s what I thought).

There’s a bar, allegedly famous for good whiskey and bad pizza. (Local gossip, only). A couple or three restaurants, one renown for having a giant fiberglass chicken in the parking lot, then there is Hazels, a cafe and bakery, with excellent breakfasts and lunches. I confess  although the food is great, I went primarily to admire the help.

And then there is “The Dari” – a seasonal ice cream/burger place, right at the flashing red light. There’s a bunch of “mom and pop” places like this around Chicagoland. I like them. Seek them out. Down the road a piece, there’s The Dairy Mart, in Huntley, IL, a place I also like. Wrote about it a few years back. Another great one is Wedl’s, small town in Southern Wisconsin, been selling burgers from a seasonal shack on the sidewalk for a century!

The Dari has a pretty ambitious menu for a small operation. While I was tempted to go for the “gravy sandwich,” I opted for a double cheeseburger and rings, and a small chocolate malt, just because they offer “malts.” Not many people do anymore, sadly.

How was it?

Well, it’s a good value, at $5 for a half pound of ground beef. Excellent bun. There was a sign in the window saying they exclusively use some particular brand, I didn’t pay attention to it at the time.

The beef patties are standard restaurant supply frozen patties. Not a complaint, just an observation. It didn’t seem like they add any of their own seasoning. Very melty American cheese food. Good pickle. Diced onion. Pretty ok.

Onion rings also from a food service supplier. Slight flavor to the batter. These are seasoned, as an ingredient or after. I quite enjoyed them. Best part of the meal for me.

Chocolate malt. Real malt powder. Kinda hard to find anymore. I was hoping for scooped ice cream, but their base is soft serve.

I don’t fault them for any of their ingredients or prep methods. It’s a small operation, small kitchen, in a small town, but can get overwhelmed (when I was at the window, a guy was picking up $156 worth of food orders), so they have to be as efficient as possible.

The burgers were recommended very highly to me. They didn’t live up to the hype. But it was a pleasant day for a drive in the country and to have a meal sitting outside.

As I am a bigly yuge supporter of entrepreneurs, ‘mom and pops’ be sure to visit the nice South Asian couple that runs the gas station / market across the street.

Menu.

DARI Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dari Ice Cream and Grill Review
Dari Ice Cream and Grill Review

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Champion Frozen Pizza Review

 

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Champion Frozen Pizza ReviewChampion Pizza is a frozen pizza line started in 1981 in the microdot town of Hebron (Illinois, not Palestine).

Like many frozen pizzas in the Upper Midwest, they got their start supplying to restaurants and bars before landing shelf space in regional grocery stores. They also supply products for charitable fund raisers.

About their product, they say “We pride ourselves on using only the freshest ingredients that include our own hand made pizza sauce, freshly grated
mozzarella cheese and fresh raw italian sausage, not a precooked nugget.”

You can look in the window of their “factory” – the times I have, there has only been one person making pies. They boast about making nine different varieties in two sizes.

Surprisingly, you can’t buy the pizzas direct, but you can pick some up at the gas station at the end of the block, underneath the towns sole blinking red light.

The gas station is directly across the street from the Dari, local fast food establishment (reviewed), and across the other street from “Beaners” Mexican restaurant. (Hey, I just report, you decide).

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Packaging. Cello wrapped on cardboard

Champion is in the “value pricing segment” of frozen pizzas, clocking in at around $5 for their large, single topping pie.

The crust is cracker thin, but never quite gets to cracker crispness, except for the edges. Not sure why. Even experimented with more time than the instructions stated.

The cheese person must have been out the day my pie was made.

It’s quality cheese but doesn’t run out to the edges, and unwrapping this pie, the paper stuck to the top, and some of the cheese was a little melted, so this baby must have thawed somewhere along the line and then was refrozen.

The hand pulled chunks are good. Good flavor, good texture. Smattering of herbs.

Will I add this to my go-to list of frozen pizzas. Nah. But good for them that a small operation can make a go in a segment where two global players have about a 90% share of the market, right?

And locals seem to like it a lot.

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the package

 

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

14 mins at 425

 

 

 

Champion Frozen Pizza Review Champion Frozen Pizza Review

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La Pizza Via Review – Fox River Grove, IL

La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

Where else can you go that offers nearly every regional type of pizza from across the country??? La Pizza Via has NY/New Haven thin crust, Pan pizza with a thicker crust, baked in a square.

Of course Chicago’s favorite, cracker thin, cut in squares (many people call it “tavern style).” And what I went for, “Detroit style” which is a square pie, a focaccia like crust, caramelized edges, thick but very airy, cheese and toppings over that, then a few ladles of tomato sauce across the top.

I find fault with none of it. It’s a hearty, thick tomato sauce from one of the country’s premier suppliers to pizzerias. Hand pulled chunks of Italian sausage, flavorful, great texture.

Really nice pepperoni, no cupping or charring, and a great cheese blend. (If you want to win me over forever, add thick sliced “Sicilian” (marinated, herbed) green olives!

The shop has an order at the counter arrangement, but an attached dining room. Pastas, calzones, stuffed breads, sandwiches and snacks fill out the menu. Daily specials. Daily slices.

It’s gonna cost you less than Chicago’s regional chains, by 15-20% in my experience.

The Detroit takes about 15 minutes in the oven.  They are open seven days and deliver using some of the third party services.

If you’re from Detroit, this will more than satisfy your cravings, and you won’t have to go home and suffer through your relatives company just to get a slice.

Great product. Nice people. I hope they have great success  Full menu.

La Pizza Via Review

Detroit Style Sausage and Pepperoni

La Pizza Via Review

Properly caramelized crust

 

 

 

La Pizza Via Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

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Twisted Burger Review – Barrington, IL

Twisted Burger Review

With a few locations around the Northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Twisted Burger is a growing chain with designs on serving the quality fast food audience.  Just five years old, they have been getting rave reviews with each new location they open.

The menu has a lot of customized burger choices, as well as chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, (well, it IS Chicago), Italian beef, appetizers, wraps and salads.

I went with the “Captain America” – beef patty (you can substitute veggie or turkey) topped with  cheddar cheese, bacon, apple BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato and a giant onion ring. I had them hold the sauce.  Patty was flavorful and lean, toppings were crisp and fresh.  Bakery style roll, soft to chew, but firm enough for the toppings.

Also ordered the small size fries – garlic and parmesan style, which were really excellent. I wasn’t looking at the menu carefully enough, so I didn’t see a quantity option was “Side.”  Would have been better for one person, the “small” will keep the table happy.

There have been more than a few restaurants in this location over the 30+ years I’ve been coming around this town.  Most recent was a Mexican eatery. Before that, another casual burger place, which then moved across the street and has now moved to the adjacent suburb. Reviewed that one before.

I’m sure I’ll be back to “Twisted” to try some other items on the menu.  And more fries with that, please.

Twisted Burger Review

Captain America Burger

 

Twisted Burger Review

Garlic Parmesan Fries

 

Twisted Burger Review

Exterior

Twisted Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Twisted Burger Review

Twisted Burger Review

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Chums Shrimp Shack Review – East Dundee, IL

Chums Shrimp Shack Review(This will be the longest intro to a review that you’ve ever encountered!) When I was a sprout growing up on the shores of the Big Kitch-Gumee (Lake Superior), once per year, in late Spring, when the rivers feeding the lakes reached a certain temperature, the waters would be chock-a-block full of a small silvery fish called “Smelt.” The head upriver to spawn.

In the extreme, Smelt will grow to be about 7 inches long and weigh a few ounces. In nature, Smelt are food fish for salmon and lake trout.

The run would last a few days or a week, and one could count on the media for an announcement of “they’re running!”

Men would pile into cars and pickups, boys would hop on their bikes, and all would head to the rivers, with the official tool of the trade, a long handled dip net and containers to place their bounty.

In those days, one could literally dip a net in the water and lift it out teeming with hundreds of fish. Some people would fill actual garbage cans to take home.

While the rivers were shoulder to shoulder with people clad in waders, the shores were dotted with fires – as one didn’t know how long the run would last (it could stop as quickly as it began), hard core enthusiasts would stay out all night. The fish were so thick in the river, playful dogs would jump in and grab them with their teeth. Can’t really say whether they ate them or not, don’t remember that.

Concurrent with the effort, numerous charities would set up massive tents around town, and host “Smelt fries” where you could buy a heaping plate full of the fried beauties for not very much money. Due to their diminutive size, Smelts are fried and consumed whole, heads, guts, and all.

The less adventurous consumer might prefer to take their repast at a local bar, where most likely the fish had the heads removed before frying.

So to recap, in my hometown, you can be served fried smelt once a year. Not so in Chicago, where it’s on the menu year round at most Greek restaurants, as well as any of the dozens of places that specialize in fried shrimp.

Chums Shrimp Shack in new on the scene in East Dundee, IL. They offer fried shrimp, clams, oysters, smelt, cod, tenders as well as daily specials like a walleye sandwich, or catfish strips. Also in their regular offerings are wraps and po-boys.

As I am writing this, they’ve been open about a week, and are in a location that previously served an outstanding burger. Bomba’s Grill. I wrote about it. Sad that it’s gone, but Chums more than makes up for it.

I ordered the Smelt, in case you hadn’t figured out where this piece was going. The seafood offerings come in ½ pound or full pound servings. Some competitors offer ¼ pound servings as well.

The fishies were delicious. A light breading with a mild seasoning (lemon pepper?), very crispy, bite sized pieces. Childhood memories flood back.

Think I’ll be a regular. I didn’t try their fries or slaw today, but I will. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk them into offering onion rings.  Full menu below or online.

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Smelt on the hoof

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

1/2 pound fried smelt basket

 

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Menu – click to enlarge

Chums Shrimp Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

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Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam’s Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WIThere are a few times in my life when I’ve had a plate put in front of me at a restaurant and I’ve sighed and said “this is art.”

When/where this has happened, it’s never been dependent on the price or the number of stars, or some fancy name chef.

It’s about quality ingredients, meticulously prepared, properly plated, and probably a little love thrown in.

Such was the case at Sam’s Diner, a small eatery out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. It so exceeded my expectations on every level. It’d decorated with rustic Americana, about a dozen tables and booths.

I ordered the ham steak and eggs and was presented with a thick slab of quality ham prepared just the way I requested. I opted for “American fries” for the potato, thinly sliced crispy rounds, and marble rye toast.

Everything was superb including service and follow up, including getting chatted up by the manager and the chef.

It was about a 40 minute drive for me. Well worth it. I’ll hit it again and explore more of the menu.

You can find the full menu on Zomato. It’s pretty ambitious for a small joint.

Thirty miles Southwest of Milwaukee, eighty miles NNW of Chicago (map below). Opens early, seven days.

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Ham steak and eggs, American fries

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI
Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

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Caradaro Club Pizza Review – Milwaukee WI

Caradaro Club Pizza Review Arguably Milwaukee’s oldest pizzeria, the Caradaro Club was started in the mid 40s, as the popularity of pizza grew in the US due to returning European theater GI’s, who had experienced in while serving.

Starting with a fully-proofed, very thin crust made with low gluten flour, the Caradaro is all about “tavern style” pizza, cracker thin crust, cut in small squares. Toppings are from quality suppliers and are amply distributed edge to edge on the pie. Fabulous cheese. Sauce leaning towards “sweet” as pure tomato products should.

I went for the “Works” a common configuration in Milwaukee, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black olives. Ask for the “Kitchen Sink” if you want the “Works” plus anchovies.

The reputation of 75 years in business holds up. So often I go into a new city and hit the “area’s favorite” to find it’s a place resting on its laurels from decades ago. Not so with the Caradaro Club.

The proprietor “Wally” is affable and a story teller. You can take a minute to “meet him” in this video from a pizza trade magazine, starting at around the 2:20 market.

Here’s the menu, which is very pizza specific and brief. Caradaro stands by its pizza with three generations of pride, and has never felt the need to clutter up the offerings with the standard fare at big chains – wings, pasta bowls, and the like.

There are two locations, the original spot is open for take-out and delivery only, with the newer edition boasting ample seating – enough for large groups.

I get to Milwaukee every couple months. The Caradaro will be a regular stop from now on.

Caradaro Club Pizza Review

18 incher, “The Works”

 

Caradaro Club Pizza Review

Caradaro Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caradaro Club Pizza Review
Caradaro Club Pizza Review

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