Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category
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.
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.
Village Inn Review
I admit I’ve become fussy about fast food (and C-store) breakfasts. Think I’ve covered them all, and some are pretty good, some are absolutely dreadful. Some could be made better with very little effort or expense.
I stopped in a Hardees/Carl’s Jr on a recent road trip, in search of a menu item I’ve had before, the “Monster Biscuit (review)” which is egg, cheese, bacon, sausage and ham together!
Hardee’s gets extra points off the top for making their biscuits fresh, in house daily. Not sure anywhere else does that. In any case, the Monster Biscuit was nowhere to be found, so I thought I would try the Ham Biscuit, figuring I’d be disappointed cause they would probably use the standard fast food “ham” (which isn’t, is it?).
Lo and behold, behold and lo, no the biscuit had REAL ham on it, much like one of my other favorites, the ham biscuit at Bojangles, a southern chain.
So, surprise! I’m ok with Chik Filet’s breakfast biscuits (also because they have tots), and Einstein’s (because they cook them to order). I found a bologna breakfast biscuit in a c-store in Tennessee last week. That was different.
I enjoy Sonic’s “Toaster” breakfast sandwiches (review), but I wish the toast was crisp instead of limp. Could be if they toasted it on the spot. Starbucks has a pretty good offering, which I will write about later this week. But it’s spendy.
Finally, something else I will cover this week, spoiler alert, Dunkin Donuts toasted breakfast sandwich. Just plain dreadful. If you go to the search bar above, and use gas station or c-store as a search term, you can discover other stops I’ve made along the breakfast highway!
Hardees Breakfast Biscuit Review
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.
Olympic Restaurant Review
Olympic Restaurant Review
When I was growing up, it was etched in stone that the family had a big Saturday breakfast together; often my dad cooked the elaborate set-up, which might have been steak and eggs, pancakes or waffles, fruit turnovers, sausage or bacon.
It got so that friends of me and my siblings wanted to do sleepovers on Friday nites just for the morning repast. Kids were placed in charge of beating batter, folding and stuffing turnovers, and most certainly, setting, clearing and washing.
I carried this on, when I had families. It was flexible tho, depending on people’s schedules, and would be either Saturday or Sunday. It is reportedly a fond memory of my daughters.
Even now, on my own, I continue the practice, but again, it’s not locked into a day.
Today I went with trying to perfect my chicken fried steak recipe, along with eggs and a home version of poutine.
For the steak, I used the flour/eggdip/crumb method, fried until the edges start to look a bit crispy – doesn’t take long!
My crumb mixture today was a combo of panko and crushed pretzels. I’ve tried all sorts of other combos – potato chips, saltines, corn chips. Most are probably too salty for most people.
For today’s poutine, I went with tator tots, brown gravy and feta. It was over the top satisfactory.
A couple poached eggs, and an everthing bagel. Ok, the bagel was a goof-up, cause I baked bread yesterday which I intended to use, and forgot I had put it in the icebox.
It was a good breakfast, large enough for two diners. Tried to share with the cat, but he would have nothing to do with it.
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
I saw the billboard on I-64 which promised “Amish cooking” and “everything made from scratch.” I don’t know what the first term is supposed to refer to, but I do understand the second, and the Schwartz’s fell flat on that account. I stopped for breakfast, and it may well have been made from “scratch” in the kitchens of Sysco. The ads also touted “family style serving.”
I admire anybody in the restaurant biz – it’s tough going. And this seems to be the perfect watering hole for the local rural community – meaning I am doubtful they get many tourists, it’s five miles off the interstate on a road to nowhere.
In retrospect, as I got further down (west) on I-64, there were quite a few billboards for “Amish” restaurants.
Here’s what I got out of the experience. I had stopped for breakfast, which they serve on weekends only. Apparently the balance of meal service, every day, is “cafeteria style,” which to me is not the same as “family style,” which I take to mean platters of food brought to the table for all to share, like I had in Wisconsin Dells at the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty. (mmm, platters of breakfast pork meats!).
The breakfast menu was limited. Egg dishes, biscuits and gravy (which seemed to be a popular order), pancakes. I ordered the “breakfast casserole,” an unusual choice for me. Scrambled eggs, bread crumbs, bacon, sausage, cheese, with hash browns and toast.
There weren’t that many customers, and there was an abundance of server help, but the food was slow, and sorry, folks, but nothing special. Like I implied above, I really don’t think that much of it was “from scratch.” Servers (which may have been all family members) were not very knowledgeable about the dishes.
Anyway, it was OK. I can’t recommend it, really, but I can’t say “don’t go,” either.
They are customers of Sysco, that was evident from the condiments and other table products. And as I don’t care about healthy eating, I’d prefer butter on the table to “whipped topping.”
But maybe that’s what the Amish are known for. I strongly suspect the lunch and dinner offerings would be much better.
Schwartz Restaurant Menu
Schwartz Family Restaurant Review
The other day, I wrote about the new food offerings at Thorntons, a regional gas station chain, based out of Louisville. I reviewed their pizza here.
At many locations in the chain, they offer hot snacks in addition to the usual roller grill selections; snacks include breakfast biscuits and burritos, hamburgers, tenders, tater crowns and the like.
Almost immediately after the post was up, I heard from the company’s PR firm (contact), a small concern in Louisville, KY. They took a slight exception to my calling the food “heat and eat,” as the company markets the offerings as “Made Fresh.” Some of the marketing states “Made Fresh In House,” and the website states: “Made Fresh Daily In the Store.” There’s no mistaking what that last phrase says, but the first two could be open to some interpretation. Further dissecting the website phrase, “Made Fresh,” to be sure, is pretty ambiguous, and I take a wee bit of exception to what exactly that phrase means.
I’m not picking on Thorntons, particularly, the marketing arms of the entire food industry tend to play fast and loose with English these days, and consumers can suffer. A lot of words, and terms, are used loosely and freely, without have a specific, defined direct meaning. I hate it when that happens!
Free range, cage free, organic, all natural, additive free, farm fresh, and so on. For specific foods, phrases like “Angus Beef,” “Kobe Beef,” and “Champagne.” For me, I guess, its the senior moment equivalent of yelling “hey you kids, get off of my lawn.” (Yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense).
Because I suppose most of America doesn’t care. It’s not like you’re going to whiz past a 7-Eleven and race to Thorntons because 7-Eleven does not have a banner in its store window saying that their sandwiches and pizzas are “Made Fresh in House.” Are you? (In fact, many of 7-Elevens cooler sandwiches are made by a division of Lufthansa, the German airline).
No, we who partially exist on gas station food purchase primarily based on geographical convenience (“it’s here, I’m here, let’s eat), price, or selection variety). ‘Cause it comes down to personal taste, doesn’t it? Hell, some people love Domino’s pizza.
Apparently for some companies (and I’m not naming names), “Made Fresh in House” is acceptable usage for pre-assembled food products, thawed or heated up in the store.
Whereas to me “Made Fresh in House,” means raw ingredients are cooked, and assembled, in the store. You know like, a) take pizza dough, b) slather on sauce and cheese, add toppings c) bake.
Today I tried the Thornton’s breakfast biscuit with bacon, egg and cheese. It’s really no better or worse than any of the fast food biscuits. It’s cheaper, it was $2.59 at my store – the area competitor’s products ring up at:
- McDonalds – 3.64
- Burger King – 3.41
- Chic-Fil-A – 2.95
- Sonic – 3.29 (with Texas toast, they don’t have biscuits)
You can also get a side of taters at Thorntons, (tots, crowns, discs, whatever you call them) for 99 cents with a sandwich purchase. Not sure if that is for a limited time or not. They didn’t really seem done, to me. They weren’t crispy, anyway. (Although this will happen to any hot, crisp product placed in an enclosure – the steam that can’t escape kills the crispness). I do love my tots, tho.
The flavor of the biscuit was OK. The biscuit itself was gummy. As if you bought a biscuit sandwich out of a cooler and did it in the microwave. Food is time/date stamped for “best by.”
Admittedly, the texture of food figures highly in making a list of favorites.
And that is why, of all the breakfast biscuits available in the United States, my favorite is from a Southern chicken chain called “Bojangles,” and for one simple reason. They use REAL HAM. Hard to find in almost any restaurant these days, impossible to find (except at Bojangles) in fast food joints, who across the board, opt for that chopped, pressed, formed deli “meat” crap. Ick.
If biscuits are your thing, I have previously reviewed:
Advance Pierre (c-store cooler microwave product)
Larry the Cable Guys (frozen biscuits and gravy, dollar store)
Thorntons Food Review
These days, some universities have “Entrepreneurs in Residence”,whatever that means. This morning, like most mornings, the Hummingbird Grill has P.O.I.R. (police officers in residence).
Other denizens include a couple of street people, a girl just off the Greyhound, suitcase by her side, tattered romance paperback in her hand, trying to make herself as small as possible to avoid eye or any other contact with anybody or anything in the Hummingbird, and me, accompanied as usual, by the New York Times crossword puzzle, and two Uniball Deluxe Fine Tip pens.
I’ve become a regular, which I guess means only that the nite waitress,Rusty, has seen me often enough that she brings my coffee w/o asking, and knows enough to call me by my nickname, “Hon.” (How DID she know that?)
It was kinda dicey sliding in to the Hummingbird this morning. I had to dodge the city workers who were power washing the sidewalk in front of the cafe – and in their “spare time”, washing a car or two. They must not be well paid, for in addition to supplementing their income with car washing, they helped themselves to a bundle of newspapers when I slipped my 50 cents into the Times-Picayune machine. Maybe they sell the papers to co-workers. Maybe they just use them to dry the cars. Styx was playing on the Seeburg as Randy took my order. I usually go for the “Early Bird Special”, which is available 24 hours, so I’m not sure what the name means. It’s 3 eggs, choice of ham, bacon, sausage, and grits or potatoes, toast or biscuit. A bargain at 4.00. Coffee extra, no charge for water.
One of the regular “troublemakers” wandered in and sat at an unbussed table and started eating off the plates that had been left there. Randy has developed a sure-fire method (according to her) of dealing with these types of patrons, by proclaiming loudly “the person that was eating those pancakes has AIDS!” Seems to do the trick and helps clear the room without having to bother the P.O.I.R.
It appears to take five people to run the night shift at the Hummingbird. In addition to Rusty, there’s the cook, who does a marvelous job of juggling several cast iron pans on a 12”x12” gas grill. He never talks, you don’t talk to him. Even if you are sitting at the counter, Rusty takes your order and passes it on to him. Union rules, maybe lol? There’s a ‘mop boy’, a dishwasher in back, and a cashier. With your change, the cashier is fond of giving out financial advice. I think he’s going to be the subject of the next TV commercial for that E-stock broker that ran the ad about the two truck driver that owned an island. Heed the advice of the sign at the cashier: “No talking to invisible people.”
The low end of the menu is an order of grits for 1.35, Well, actually a side of gravy (brown) is only 1.05, but I haven’t seen anybody order that.The high end is an open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner salad and roll for 7.50. It’s available Sundays only. In between the high and low price range, you’ll find the usual greasy spoon fare, everything from fried egg sandwiches to 1/2 Fried Chicken dinner. Is that half-fried, or half a chicken?
Chile-cheese fries weigh in at 2.60 and off the Richter scale in fat and cholesterol. I can never figure out the difference between “chile” and “chili”, beyond knowing that in this case, they really mean “chili.”
Most big-city greasy spoons have a certain element of “charm.” The Hummingbird seems to have been absent from school the day they passedcharm out. But I like it. It’s a good place to listen to people’s stories in the middle of the night, or imagine you’re playing a role in that Paul Simon song “laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces….we said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy…” The sun started to peak through the smoke-stained window at the cafe as Carl Palmer and Steve Howe’s voices wafted from the jukebox their terrific harmonies in the 1982 hit “Heat of the Moment” from the group Asia. Not as interesting as the material from their days in ‘Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’ or ‘Yes’, respectively, but a nice ditty for a piece someone my age would label as “new music.”
Most days I miss the past. At places like the Hummingbird, I get to relive it every night. Catch the crew of the Hummingbird nightly at 804 St. Charles, 24/7. Catch Asia on tour this winter if you find yourselves in cities like Lorsch, Germany.
If I were Don Henley, I’d find something romantic to write about the Hummingbird, the way he did about the “Sunset Grill” in LA. But even the Sunset Grill is not what it was, in LA they tear down anything that is more than 20 years old, and the Sunset Grill today is a gleaming new white stucco building, instead of the dilapidated old shack with stools on the sidewalk with all its old charm.
The Hummingbird is just old. Charm costs extra these days. Sometimes for me, just ‘old’ is charm enough.
Hummingbird Grill New Orleans
I wrote a piece years back, after hitting a Waffle House shortly after 9/11. I recently dropped in on one on the Gulf Coast. BTW, I counted on a map, and there are about 30 in a 40 mile stretch along the coasts of MS and LA. Wow.
I sat at the counter, sipping my Joe, and indulged in some bacon and eggs, cooked as ordered, with a smattering of cheese on the hash browns.
If you haven’t been to a Waffle House, they are a chain across the South, with diminutive facilities, and a menu focused on breakfast, a few sandwiches, and a couple of entrees. If you’re so inclined, you can even get a T-bone there for around $10. Breakfasts run in the $3-$4 range. The chain is particularly proud of their hash browns, which you can ordered “smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, or country.” The descriptions all refer to different add-on ingredients, and the taters are available in three different portion sizes. They have not come up with a word (unless there is a secret menu) which would refer to ordering the hash browns with all of those additions. They should.
My breakfast and coffee were just fine, they are big on consistency, and as such, a very dependable road stop. They have over 2000 locations in 25 states; they started in 1955 in Georgia.
The company hasn’t avoided controversy over the years, with a couple of religious and racial issues receiving some attention, but it seems behind them.
Find the one nearest you with their locator.
Waffle House Review
Having spent thousands of nights on the road in my career, I’d thought I had tried virtually every hotel/motel chain in existence, but apparently I missed one, “Country Hearth Inn & Suites.”
Not sure where it started, but their website boast sez: “Country Hearth Inn & Suites lodging system consists of over 100 properties and thousands of rooms in the United States, Canada, and India. The brand features a bed and breakfast feel with the convenience of modern, well-appointed rooms and suite accommodations, complimentary breakfast, and free local calls.”
Is “free local calls” even a draw anymore? For that matter, why do they have phones in motel rooms at all?
Rolling down I-55, I booked a room at the Sikeston outlet of Country Hearth, pre-booked only because it was holiday travel time, and I knew I wanted to spend the night there cause I planned on eating at Lambert’s Cafe. In any case, booking online, I actually paid MORE than the locally advertised rate. Doh!
Franchise motels are a risky business, both for the operator and franchisor. The upsides for the operator include brand name awareness, reservations system, and probably back-end technology. The downside for the franchisor is having a lack of quality control.
I would have been happier with the accommodations if I paid the locally advertised rate, instead of 25% more. At the rate I did pay, I know I could have found a cleaner, more comfortable room nearby.
And this is going to sound terribly politically incorrect, but it’s a simple fact for this motel – that the entire property smelled like curry. Not all that appealing. The complimentary breakfast was pretty skimpy as well.
With the value priced franchises – it’s always gonna be a crap shoot if it’s a miserable, ok, or great experience. Depends entirely on the operator.
Country Hearth Motel Review