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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Waffle House Review

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waffleI 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

Waffle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Waffle House Review

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Country Hearth Motel Review

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Country Hearth ReviewHaving 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

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Art & Almas Century Inn – The $100 Breakfast, Burlington, IL

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Art * Alma's Century Inn

                      Exterior

The “$100 hamburger” is a concept, excuse, private pilots use for the equivalent of a leisurely Sunday drive; fuel up the private plane, fly someplace, eat a burger, dessert, or whatever. The $100 refers to the cost of operating the plane for that trip.

This weekend, I “discovered” a morning meal worthy of being called the “$100 Breakfast,” and whether you’re out for a Sunday drive or flight, Art & Alma’s Century Inn, in Burlington, IL, is worth your money, time and effort.

Burlington is roughly 50 miles west of Chicago’s loop, and 40 miles east of Rockford.  (There are actually a half dozen airports within five miles, if you’re actually contemplating a flight, map below).

The restaurant has been open in one form or another since 1908, and currently serves dinner six nights, and breakfast/brunch on Sundays.

This breakfast may well deserve the ‘subtitle’ of “the $35 breakfast,” as that’s about what you would pay for it at any fine hotel.  Start off your Sunday with one of the Inn’s 25 unique Bloody Mary recipes, before launching into perfectly cooked to order breakfasts, including a half dozen varieties of “Benedicts.”

I went with the “Country Boy,” which had diced sausage and bacon, a generous slab of ham, poached eggs with country gravy atop biscuits.  My pal opted for the “Mein Schatzi,” bacon, swiss, poached eggs, hollandaise and sour cream resting on potato pancakes.  There are ‘cakes, hash, french toast, and plenty of sides to choose from – later in the morning, they add sandwiches to the Sunday brunch menu.

The food was presently promptly, nice plating, cooked to perfection and the taste and flavors reflected quality ingredients. Two breakfasts, two coffees, less than $25.  Pleasant, historical ambiance, and great service, as well.

No question, hands down, my best meal of 2015, at any price.  Can’t wait to get back and try the dinner. Classic fish fry on Friday nights, and Prime Rib special, Wed, Fri, Saturday while it lasts.

Great job, Chef!

 

Art & Almas Century Inn

                        Country Boy Benedict

Art & Almas Century Inn

                               Hand Crafted Bar

Art & Almas Century Inn

                                Nearby Airstrips

Art & Alma's Century Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Art & Almas Century Inn

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Pub 72 Review, Gilberts, IL

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I’ve been on a mission to have weekend breakfasts at rural locations in Illinois, and today we hit the Pub 72 Bar & Grill in Gilberts, IL. The “72” is after the number of the highway, and if memory serves me, is a rather new name. Not sure if the change also represented a change in ownership.

The place has a menu with “something for everything” whether you’re in the mood for plate dinners, sandwiches, appetizers, pizza, or adult beverage drink specials.

They serve a VERY economical breakfast (beginning at $2.99) on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM.

This is one of those joints were seemingly every employee took a course in what being in the hospitality business truly means. You’re almost always greeted by the owner when you walk in, a guy who doesn’t think so much of himself that it would be beneath him to walk around, refill coffees, inquire to customers satisfaction, and be observant enough to notice patrons that need attention.  Superb. Rare qualities in most smaller places these days.

Serving help was equally affable, smiles all around, diligent order taking, great follow-up.  By 9:30, the place was pretty busy with Sunday morning diners.

I had ham steak and eggs, great piece of ham with a nice grill char on it, just the way I like it.  And a slice of Texas toast. As is the fashion at small diners in Illinois, a bowl of butter pats grazes each table.  Eggs cooked precisely as ordered.

Hash browns are above average too.

I’ll be back.  You should check them out if you live in the area, or are tooling down I-90 some day.

Directions

Pub 72 Bar & Grill review

              Ham, Eggs, Texas Toast

 

 

Pub 72 Review

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Farmer Johns Sausage Review

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Farmer John Sausage ReviewI’ve never been much for “brown and serve” type breakfast sausages; to me, they have always represented one of the main components of civic group and church pancake breakfasts, huge chafing trays of the little pork links.

But it’s hard to pass up any processed pork product that is selling for around $2 a pound these days, less than half what you would pay for other breakfast meats, whether your favorites are bacon, ham, or smoked or patty sausage.

Farmer Johns Original Breakfast sausage are always a buck for a 1/2 pound package at Dollar Tree and most club stores.  Fairly often, they are on sale for even less.  So that’s a deal.

They are “skinless,” and they are not pre-cooked, so prep will take you 10-15 minutes on the stove top or under the broiler.  No one recommends microwaving them.

Farmer Johns is an L.A. company, located in Vernon, just south of downtown LA. They’ve been around since 1931, and make the full range of processed pork products: bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meat, hams…….including the local favorite “Dodger Dog,”  sold at Dodger stadium and in retail outlets.  The factory (USDA est. 360) (pictured below) is “famous” for its extensive murals depicting rural life. They are now part of Hormel.

The ingredients for the breakfast sausage are straightforward: Pork, water, sodium lactate, less than 2 % salt, dextrose, surgar, flavorings, BH, propyl gallate, citric acid. I’m happy that list doesn’t include any configuration of corn syrup solids, or mechanically separated poutltry.

This product may have changed my mind about having them in the regular breakfast rotation, especially at this price.  Plus, since they are not in casings, if they are thawed, you can smoosh them into patties, if you prefer your pork intake in that shape!

The flavor is good, not very seasoned, so great appeal for the mass market.  They also offer  a “maple flavor” variety.

Farmer John Sausage Review

In the box

Farmer John Sausage Review

In the skillet 10 minutes

Farmer John Sausage Review

Dodger Dogs Retail Packaging

Farmer John Sausage Review

Farmer John Factory

 

 

Farmer Johns Sausage Review

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Lunchable Waffle Stick Breakfast Review

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Lunchable Breakfast ReviewWell this is a curious thing, spotted at WalMart for about a buck. “Lunchables” are “complete” meals to go, to eat heated or at room temperature, and were introduced in 1988 by Oscar Mayer, now part of Kraft.

They were created by a team at  Oscar Mayer as a way to sell more bologna, and the first units were comprised of lunch meat, cheese slices and crackers.

Now there is a plethora of choices, including the original styles, pizza slices,  diminutive hot dogs, burgers, and subs, and even tacos.

I admit to not being a regular customer, but I impulse bought this one, through it in the microwave for seconds and consumed.  I admit it has good flavor, the bacon is great, as is the syrup.  The waffles get kinda limp in the microwave tho, I should have tried one at room temp.

Would I buy it again?  Probably not, but they’re great things for a family on the go, as long as you watch the nutrition labels.  According to the package code, this product is made at  South’s Finest Meats 3201 10th Avenue, Suite S,  Tuscaloosa, AL 35401.

Lunchable Breakfast Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchable Waffle Stick Breakfast Review

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Genoa Illinois VFW Breakfast

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This small VFW post does whatever it needs to in order to maintain their solvency and funds for projects; they have found a niche with breakfast, dinners, and events for the community and environs.

The third Sunday of each month, they have an AYCE breakfast, loaded up with French toast, biscuits, hash browns, SOS, sausage gravy, two styles of eggs, bacon, sausage, juice, milk, and coffee – all for $7.  You also get the congeniality of getting to talk to the volunteers – seemingly all vets of last century’s wars. Nice guys, we should all be thankful for their service, of course.

Every Saturday, the post holds a burger and bratwurst cookout, and on selected Friday nights, they follow the local tradition of an AYCE fish fry. There’s also bingo and pull tabs.

Let’s all do what we can to support our vets. God knows the government isn’t doing much to help them!  The post is located at 311 S. Washington St.
Genoa, IL 60135 United States. (815)784-5967. www.genoavetshome.us

Genoa Il VFW Breakfast

 

 

Genoa Illinois VFW

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Panera Breakfast Sandwich Review

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20150817_090218Panera was founded in St. Louis, MO, where it operated (and still does in that area) at St. Louis Bread Company. The 1800 store chain is now owned by Au Bon Pain, which no longer operates Au Bon Pain (I liked those, for sure).

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Panera before, thought I’ve had some of their sandwiches brought to me, and beyond the bread, they weren’t very impressive (not high quality ingredients or quantities of same).

Today I was looking for a new quick breakfast option, and did happen into Panera, where I ordered an Asiago Bacon Egg Cheese “pannini-ized” bagel sandwich, and a large coffee, which set me back the devilish amount of $6.66. No kidding.

The sandwich was prepared while I waited (except I don’t think the eggs were), it was hot, filling, and tasty.  Except for the cost, I might be a regular breakfast customer when I am out and about.

I found the store layout a mite confusing, there were four registers and two pick-up stations, I got sent from one to another, although there is no signage, some must be dedicated to one use or another;  they give you one of those vibrating hockey pucks to tell you when your order is ready.

Find one near you. Menu.

Panera Sandwich Review

 

 

Panera Sandwich Review

 

Panera Breakfast Sandwich Review

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Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef ReviewI’ve written a whole lot about  the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S.  Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.

You know how much I love chicken fried steak?  I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.

This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients.  Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”

Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.”  But I didn’t really “try” it.  I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Frozen, pre microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

After microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Advance Pierre Plant, Amherst, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Pepper Park Coffee Review – Barrington, IL

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Pepper Park Coffee Review BarringtonI admire anyone who starts a business from scratch; I’ve done it several times, and I know a whole lot about the pitfalls, anticipated and unanticipated, that can crop up.

I double dog admire anyone who starts a business in a crowded space like coffee, but the nice folks at Pepper Park Coffee were apparently undeterred, and opened up a great shop in one of Chicago’s fanciest suburbs, Barrington, about 55 minute NW of the Loop on the Metra commuter train.

Pepper Park has thought of it all.  Great coffee drinks, amazing pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, free wi fi, and ample space to spread out by yourself, as a couple or even as a group, as they have a community room that can seat 20.   Plenty o’ parking and a drive thru.  Nailed it.  May even be just the place for a secret rendezvous!

Online and in the store, they have a great infographic that shows you just how your coffee drink will be constructed.  You’ll be an expert instantly if you’re new to coffee, and it’s a good refresher for caffeine veterans.

Pepper Park is on Pepper Road, NW of town, just off Highway 14.  Convenient to the local medical complexes, hospital and many other businesses, but in any case, worth a trek just to avoid the big, boring chain coffee places.

 

 

 

 

 

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