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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Sonic Breakfast Toaster Review

Sonic Breakfast Toaster ReviewWhen faced with having to resort to a fast food breakfast, I’ll take most anything over the big guys. The Egg McMuffin is assembled in house, but not “cooked,” the formerly toasted muffins are now just warmed, the “Canadian bacon” is flavorless and sliced so thin you can see through it.

I like Sonic, Hardees, and Bojangles for breakfast.   Bojangles has genuine ham real, not fake, not pressed, chopped and formed on their biscuits, Hardee’s biscuit sandwiches are made to order in house, and the Sonic breakfast sandwich, nested between two pieces of Texas toast, is almost always delightful.

I went for the bacon, egg, cheese toaster at Sonic this morning, got the meal, so it came with tots (I’m always all about tots) and a beverage.  There were some downsides.   The tots were cold in the middle, which is weird, since fast food fryers are on automatic times;  I can only think the oil in that fryer hadn’t reached optimum temperature when they made my order.   A plus for the toaster sandwich is it comes double wrapped, in paper first, with one side open, so you can eat on the run without much mess, and then in a foil envelope.

The downside of the foil is the toast that left the restaurant window toasted and crispy, is, if you’re waiting awhile to eat it, becomes somewhat sadly limp from the steam being released in the package.  Like when you order crisp fries to take out in a foam container.

Often, I’m smart enough to remember to poke a hole or two in the packaging to let the steam escape, but didn’t think of it this time.  Nevertheless, the sandwich and tots were mighty tasty.

Sonic Breakfast Toaster Review

 

 

 

 

 

Sonic Breakfast Toaster Review

Cafe Olympic Review – Crystal Lake, IL

Cafe Olympic ReviewAs in any major metropolitan area, one has a multitude of breakfast choices in Chicago and its environs. An awful lot of the eateries are owned, or were started by Greeks, so it’s not unusual to see a co-mingling of Greek and American cuisines, regardless of the time of day. To wit: “scrambled eggs with gyro meat.” I’ve been to my fare share.

In this part of the ‘burbs, I guess my favorite so far is Andy’s, also located in Crystal Lake. I like Round the Clock, as well.

I hadn’t tried the Olympic, and locals talk about it, so off I went, and it was Sunday morning, and it was either suffer in silence a lengthy wait for a table or booth, or be seated immediately at the counter, which I don’t mind, there are always interesting things to observe.

Chicken Fried Steak was on special, and I’ve reviewed the dish in a lot of different locations,  so I plunged in here, adding two over easy, rye toast, and crispy hash browns.   I don’t know why I bother getting potatoes, I never eat them.  But since they are included in most breakfast plates, they might as well put them in front of me for presentation sake.

At the Olympic, an ample amount of sausage gravy (quite peppery) covered the “steak,” which tasted like any mass production CFS anywhere.  Eggs and taters were done to order, toast could have used more butter.  Yes, I could have asked.

Service was quick and thorough.  Two breakfasts, two coffees, $21 plus gratuity.

Will I go back?  Probably.

 Cafe Olympic Review

Cafe Olympic on Urbanspoon

Cafe Olympic Review

Krystal Review – Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Krystal Bourbon Street Review

Sliders to the rescue!

I’ve written a bunch on the Krystal chain, the south’s version of White Castle.  It’s fascinating to me that these two chains, with nearly identical concepts, sprang up at the same time in different parts of the country;  it’s also fascinating that one hasn’t gobbled up the other.  White Castle is still family owned, Krystal was swallowed by a private equity group, so it’s the latter that has the cash these days.

I like both chains, and since they rarely overlap in the same market, I get to patronize both equally, depending on where I am in the country.  This location is strategically placed at the entrance / exit to Bourbon Street, is open 24/7 and their slider burgers are perfect to soak up excessive Hurricanes.

They have breakfast sandwiches in the morning, charge $3.00 to use their bathroom (or a purchase) and also have an ATM. It’s a relaxing place (most times) to sit and stare out the window at the Bourbon Street crowd.  I’m thinking four burger sliders is the right amount for breakfast.  And I’m always right.

It’s also right next door to Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, one of the Quarter’s great local restaurants.

 

 

Krystal on Urbanspoon

 

krystal review

Taste This Review, Algonquin, IL

Taste This ReviewTake one part fancy pants coffee shop, one part ice creamery, one part creative combinations of paninis, and you’ll find yourself at “Taste This,” in downtown Algonquin, Illinois, a far western suburb of Chicago.  Algonquin has managed to save its downtown, and there are a number of eateries, shops, and spas on the main drag.

As I recall, Taste This opened in the fall of 2014, and may well be the only place in the area for “adult milkshakes.”  What’s that you say?   Take ice cream, add liquor and liqeurs in various flavorings and combinations, and voila!  Adult milkshake.  “Gone Bananas” is a typical one, with White rum, 99 bananas liquor, crème de banana, banana pudding & old fashioned vanilla ice cream.

The owner, is obviously a child of the 60s – 70s (and tasty, too), judging by the names she has labeled sandwiches and drinks (“Vinny Barbarino,”  “Fog Horn, Leg Horn,”  “Mork from Ork Pork,” and the “Big Ragu” to name a few.  The woman obviously idolizes Garry Marshall.  The full menu is here.

Although I have been meaning to hit this place since they opened, actually ended up there by accident today.  Had set out for another restaurant, arrived and the sign said “closed for a private party.”  Gee, thanks folks. Learn about Twitter.

The proprietor has designed some interesting sandwich combinations, that project a lot of depth in their flavoring.  She uses top quality ingredients, and it appears more everything is made meticulously by hand.  It’s not fast food.

Sandwiches (around $9) come with a choice of small side salad (cucumber or pasta) and all arrive with a ramikin of shoestring potato chips.  You know, that can of salty crunchy deliciousness you sneak when nobody is looking.  Can’t say I’ve ever seen a restaurant that served shoestrings.  But put them on a menu (or tater tots), and I’ll be there.

I opted for the “Vinny Barbarino,” piled high with thinly sliced mortadella, slicing pepperoni, mild capocolla (sic), provolone cheese with a generous drizzle of Italian vinaigrette on grilled Panini bread.”  Ample quality meat and cheese, nice job on the panini press.  Nice plating. $9.25.

The joint opens at 7 AM for fancy coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries.  Sign in window seemed to indicate they’d run it out to the car for you, if need be.

I wish them gobs of success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste This Review

Red Apple Pancake House Palatine Review

Red Apple Pancakes Palatine ReviewBack in the Chicago burbs to see a client, usually disagreeable in January (the weather, not the client), but it’s 45 today. I wanted breakfast and headed for one of my usual haunts, the Palatine Inn, but drove by Red Apple Pancakes and decided to give that a whirl. Glad I did.

Deceptively small from the outside, the parking lot was full to overflowing, but there were still tables available.  Paulo showed me to one and brought coffee.  The breakfast menu is extensive and there is a separate sheet of specials.  The restaurant also serves lunch and closes up shop for the day at 3 PM.

There are quite a few people in my universe who would insist you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but to prove them wrong, I DID NOT order chicken fried steak and eggs (which I have written a lot about), I ordered chicken fried chicken and eggs, so there, pffffffft!

Everything on the plate was done perfectly, and despite the crowd, I noticed food was coming out of the kitchen quickly.  The ‘steak’ was crispy, the gravy creamy, the taters extra crispy as I ordered, as were the eggs,  and the rye toast done perfectly.  Add to the plus column a bowl of butter on the table, quite a Chicago area thing it seems, and I am so happy it is!

There is another Red Apple Pancakes a couple of suburbs over, in Carol Stream, IL, no idea if there is a connection or not.

Red Apple Pancakes Palatine Review
Red Apple Pancake House on Urbanspoon
red apple pancake house palatine

Huntley, IL – Papa G’s Diner

(Originally published July 2013)  Second visit in a few months. You’re unlikely to just wander by here, Huntley is kind of out of the way from everything.

I love “country breakfasts” in the Upper Midwest.  My definition of that phrase is – from a rural mom and pop type establishment that serves ample quantities of good food, for low prices.  Especially those places with ‘farm-fresh’ eggs, bright yellow yolks, instead of the pale yolks one experiences from the giant egg farms.  There’s a place in Illinois that is so proud of its eggs, they give you a dozen on the way out the door, free with every meal.

Huntley used to be a very rural town in Northern Illinois, rolling horse pastures, bucolic countryside, small businesses. It’s on its way to becoming a suburb of Chicago, even tho it would be at least a 90 minute drive into the city under the best of conditions.

Illinois 47 is a major north-south artery that runs through the heart of Huntley, and on the way out of town towards the north sits Papa G’s, a typical country diner.

Many diners in the Chicago area seemed to be owned by Greeks, and Papa G’s, though I don’t know for sure, would seem to fit that description as well, as they have numerous Greek specialties on the menu.

While the restaurant does a brisk business for weekend breakfast, with every table full, if there’s a wait, it’s only a matter of minutes usually.  Compare this to Portland, Oregon, where going to brunch is a “thing” and at some places you can expect a two hour wait. And people do it.

This morning, at Papa G’s, I went with the egg breakfast with ham.  Three eggs on a plate are standard here, and the massive ham steak was touted as “off the bone.”  Hashbrowns and in-house baked breads for toast were included. They bake a variety of breads, and cut it thick for toast.  It’s great.  I love ham in any form or fashion, and this is a nice piece. It’s slightly sweet, just FYI.

I suspect it won’t be my last visit. Maybe next time I can meet Papa.

Papa G Huntley

 



Papa G's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Papa G review

Minneapolis Flameburger

Flameburger ReviewFunny that I haven’t been in one of Flameburgers two locations in the Twin Cities: 1) I’ve lived there a couple times, and 2) they are the kinda place I seek out, greasy spoon burgers and breakfasts, open 24 hours (except for 3 hours Sunday nite).

One of my nieces wanted me to check this place out, she thought I go for one of the two multi-pound burgers on the menu, the one pound mega, or the three pound ultimate mega.

Flameburger also has a few entrees, fried fish, a steak, soup and shrimp.

Some years ago, the night Mrs Burgerdogboy proposed to me at polka haven Nye’s Polonaise Room in Minneapolis (soon to be reduced to rubble, all apropos!), we headed up to this neighborhood for some drunk food, but all she could manage was to puke and pass out in a White Castle booth across the street from  Flameburger.  Maybe eggs would have settled her tummy.   Yes, I know, the behavior should have been a red flag, but I missed it, and instead we got married and she honored her “secret vows” to make me miserable and break my heart over and over again!

Your results may vary.

For a middle of the night burger or breakfast, hit the Flameburger, an iconic Twin Cities diner.  Nothing special, other than it’s there when you need it to be.

Flameburger Review

Bacon Cheeseburger

 

 

Flameburger on Urbanspoon

 

minneapolis flameburger

Kwik Trip Update

Kwik Trip ReviewIn my previous posts about Kwik Trip, I reminisced about their roots, when I used to do some business with them and they only had a couple stores in LaCrosse, WI.  Today, there are over 400 stores, and 12,000 employees.  If you live in the Upper Midwest, there’s a store near you.  What makes Kwik Trip unique and a master of its segment is that it has developed its own brand names over the years, and thus is able to assure quality and keep prices low.  It’s a business maneuver 7-Eleven has started to copy recently with their own in-house brands.

KwikTrip was also one of the first to include healthy options in their take away food choices (also now being copied by 7-Eleven), and their ‘morning bar’ for variety of coffee and pastries is unequaled in the industry.

One thing new I noticed on my recent trip was the installation of a counter dedicated to fresh, vacuum packed meats – there is a small selection of roasts, steaks, dinner sausages and hot dogs, some from some of Wisconsin’s leading brands, like Klement’s, and some with a Kwik Trip label.  For instance, they had a package of eight natural casing wieners for $2.99, and that’s about 40% less than other brands in grocery stores.  Kwik Trip (packaged) wieners are make by Bakalars Sausage in LaCrosse (plant picture below);  the reason I distinguished the description with “packaged” is because their hot sausage/dog roller grill feature products from Johnsonville, Ball Park, and others.

I understand the company treats employees well, too.   Great products, prices, and management.  Kwik Trip gets my c-store dollar when I’m in the area.

Kwik Trip Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat Display

 

Kwik Trip Review

Bakalars Sausage LaCrosse WI

Fairfield Inn Roseville MN

Fairfield Inn Roseville ReviewDesigned to compete in the category the hospitality industry calls “added value economy”, the Marriott Corporation created the Fairfield Inn brand in the late 1980s. This category of motel offers amenities, but limited “service,” at “value pricing.” Pricing, of course, varies depending on location.  “Limited service” generally means, no on-site restaurant, bell staff and the like.

As with most hotel brands, Fairfields are franchises, and franchisees are bound by a set of rules and standards required by the brand to give the impression of standardization. In other words, guests at one Fairfield Inn should be able to expect the same type of accommodations, services, and amenities from one location to another.

Brands do a fairly good job of policing this policies, in order to protect the value of the brand.

Small business operators being what they are, however, guests should not be surprised to find some variance in quality of operations (plus or minus).

The Fairfield Inn in Roseville, MN, a suburb of St. Paul is operated by TMI Hospitality, a Fargo, North Dakota based operator of nearly 200 hotels/motels of different brands. The company was recently sold to Starwood Properties for over a billion dollars, media reports state.

TMI seems to one of the operators that gives more than required of a franchisee. There wasn’t a single aspect of a recent stay at the motel that didn’t exceed my expectations for the segment. Every member of the staff that I encountered was friendly and accommodating. The motel and rooms were antiseptically clean, as was the swimming pool and pool area.

The complimentary hot breakfast was well supplied and tasty. The first hotel I remember offering this option (in a chain) was the Hampton Inns, in the mid 1980s. It’s rather standard now, in the economy and economy plus segments, and as I mentioned above, because the motels are franchisees, service and quality can vary. I know the menu choices are dictated, as I own a social media company and this year we wrote home pages for more than 400 motels of a couple different brands and the paragraph on hot breakfasts was nearly the identical language.

What I don’t know, however, is whether or not franchisees are required to buy from a central commissary designated by the franchisor, or whether they have latitude on picking their own suppliers and/or offerings.

I didn’t inquire who the supplier was for this Fairfield, could have been a local company, Sysco, US Foods, or someone like that. The breakfast bar was open for four hours daily, and offered (this is similar to the language from the websites we did) “breakfast meats, breakfast breads, cereal, fresh fruit and juices, yogurt, eggs, and hot waffles.”

This particular bar stood out as the attendants had it fully stocked prior to the posted opening, and kept it refreshed and clean. An addition to the offerings was biscuits with sausage gravy.

All food was heat and eat (it comes prepared from the supplier and is just thawed, warmed at the hotel), and was really tasty. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy, and the gravy was flavorful and had nice chunks of sausage.

Some franchisees make a minimum effort in this area, and may put out the breakfast once, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, and there is no effort to maintain order or cleanliness during the serving hours.

The Fairfield in Roseville not only exceeded my expectations in this area, but they also get kudos for having a full array of condiments and a variety of toppings for the toasts and bagels available, something they surely wouldn’t have to do.

Fairfield’s have done away with vending, instead offering a “market” at the front desk, with a variety of snack food and beverages.  Prices are a bit spendy, but the concept does give you a wider choice and is available 24/7.

Another surprising service? There was a 4-5 inch snowfall overnight, and a hotel employee when out and brushed the snow off every car in the lot. I’ve never seen that, anywhere, and thanks!

Complaints? My nit picky stuff. Pool water was a little chilly, and I suspect the sausage was turkey based. LOL.

I travel an incredible amount, and I’m not loyal to any one brand or another, usually choosing my accommodation by convenient location.

While I can’t say you should start choosing Fairfield Inns to get this level of service, I can expect that any motel managed by TMI will probably have the same standards, and I will definitely  look for TMI properties in the future. Locator here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairfield Inn Roseville MN

Video – How “Gas Station” Sandwiches Are Made

My definition of a “gas station sandwich” is the sammies one finds in vending,  convenience stores, mini marts, (and gas stations) cello-packed, ready to eat.  I’ve written a lot about them in the past, and my favorites (for quality) are made by the catering arm of Lufthansa airlines, and distributed by 7-Elevens in the Pacific Northwest.  I also like the “Mega Italian” from Minnesota’s “Deli Express” company;  the sandwich used to be called a “muffaletta” as it resembled the iconic New Orleans sandwich.

Sometimes these sandwiches are made by small local suppliers, and sometimes by giant companies.

Looking for something else online (naturally), I bumped into this video on how this type of sandwich is made on a massive scale.  The video is at the Foo Go brand plant, the largest sandwich maker in the world.  They are located in the UK.  (Video from the Discovery Channel “How It’s Made” series).

 

 

 

 

Gas Stations Sandwiches Made Video

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