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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

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

Sunday Brunch Recipe

Before Mrs Burgerdogboy passed, we lived in Portland, Oregon, for a number of years, which celebrates the complete and utter silliness of Sunday brunch on so many levels;  in short, you’ll wait in line a really long time to overpay for pretty normal fare.

The television show “Portlandia” did a pretty funny bit on it, which is closer to reality than satire, IMHO.

 

There were a few places I liked, but they most certainly weren’t on the brunch “a-list”; greasy spoons like the Tik Tok,  but mostly Sunday breakfast was an en suite deal for us, which was always enjoyable.

Mostly, I’d rather have people over for brunch and I’m always interested if someone has a new brunch recipe or approach beyond quiche or eggs benedict. One of my “off-beat” ones is a “reuben strata,” which is usually fairly popular.

Today I had some folks over, and one of them produced this baked egg concoction, which I really enjoyed.  It was simple and fast to prepare, and could be easily customized for each diner’s choice.

To wit:

Greased ramekins with chopped tomato, fresh spinach, cumin, black pepper, brie, sweated diced onion, crack an egg on top, bake for 15 minutes at 350.   Great taste, beautiful presentation. Add breakfast meats or bread on the side if desired. You might want to garnish with some greenery, too.

Burgerdogboy Recipe

 

Read more about what’s going on at the BurgerDogBoy condiment ranch.

Portland, OR – Overlook Family Restaurant Review

Overlook Restaurant Portland OregonI like “greasy spoons”, and more especially, those American diner type restaurants that have some kind of connection to the Greek culture. Such is the case with the Overlook, which I would pop in every day if I lived in the neighborhood.  Instead, it’s only my second time in four years.

It’s your standard diner fare, with daily specials, and a full bar to boot.

They don’t call me “Burgerdogboy” for nothing, so breakfast for me, when it’s offered, is a hamburger patty with eggs, hash browns, and toast.  If I am in a “devil-may-care” attitude, I’ll order an additional side of some other meat, and yes please, extra butter on the side.

I wasn’t ordering extra today, but the ample weight of the burger patty made extra meat not required.

The breakfast, in its entirety, was served precisely as ordered:  meat medium, potatoes extra crispy, eggs over easy.

I lingered……and enjoyed the meal, two crosswords, and lotsa joe.  A welcome respite from  hotel dining, for sure.

Overlook Restaurant Portland Oregon

Overlook Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

Overlook Family Restaurant Review

Fear/Loathing/Loving the Letter “T” / And Texas Toast

When I was living in China, it didn’t take long for me to figure out the Chinese have a deathly fear of the letter “T”.   I learned this watching their television news, every time Taiwan, Tibet, or Tiananmen would come on the news, the story would be bleeped out.  See what i mean?

Last week, I figured out that I LOVE foods with a “double T”.  This will greatly simplify my life going forward, as I can focus on eating the things I love,  Tater Tots, Tongue Tacos, Texas Toast, Tuna Tartare, Truffle Toast,  and there must be more.    Fast food chicken outfit Zaxby’s includes texas toast with every order, worth a stop on its own!

Cool.  No longer will Mrs. Burgerdogboy and I  have to order an entire side of a menu (and we have!) , we can just skip straight to the T’s!

Elgin, IL – Kendalls Kountry Kitchen Review

Kendalls Country Kitchen

Google Maps Street View

Damn.  Old timey diner, affable chatty waitresses (including the owner),  great food, great value.  So unassuming from the outside (left) you’d be likely to pass by if you weren’t looking for it, or one of the locals that has made a daily habit of stopping in for the last couple decades.  I know I would if I lived around there.

Perused the menu, ordered the “Country Fried Steak” to which the response was “I’m sorry, we’re out, you should try the chicken fried chicken, it’s really good.”  But of course, I HEARD her say “chicken fried steak” cause that’s what I was thinking about, but was too confused at that point to ask “what’s the difference between Country Fried Steak and Chicken Fried Steak?”   If I would have asked, I would have understood at Kendalls, the latter is chicken.

Some think eating chicken with eggs is kind of weird.  Cycle of life kind of thing.  My neighbor down the street, Al, who raises chickens in his back yard, gets so many eggs he ends up feeding lots of them back to the chickens.  Ok, that is weird.  Cannibal chickens.

The ‘steak’ was ample,a nicely crisped crust, and a handsome piece of breast meat inside.  Big bonus, it’s served with sausage gravy, a smooth and creamy concoction with nice chunks of breakfast sausage.   Add a couple eggs, hashbrowns, and toast, and you’re gonna get outta there for less than seven bucks.

It’s a very long breakfast and lunch menu,and on a Saturday morning, there were empty tables.   If you’re tired of waiting for a table for an hour at some place on Randall Road on the weekend, head down to Elgin.  You’ll be happy and richer at the end of your meal.  CASH ONLY.  ATM in the bar across the  street.

 

Kendalls Country Kitchen

Two over easy with hash browns

 

Kendalls Country Kitchen

Chicken Fried Chicken

 

 

 

Kendalls Kountry Kitchen Review

Tennessee Pride Sausage Reviews

Today part of ConAgra, Odom’s Tennessee Pride was started in the mid 40s by two brothers whom combined their knowledge of the meat business and home delivery (from earlier jobs). Headquartered in Madison, TN, with plants in Tennessee and Arkansas, Tennessee Pride makes sausage in rolls, links, pre-cooked, and packaged sausage gravy. They have recently expanded into the heat and eat breakfast sandwich segment, with sausage biscuits, turkey sausage biscuits, and chicken biscuits.

Today I’m cooking up their 1 pound hot sausage roll, sliced into patties, on a cast iron skillet. Their websites frequently features recipes and coupons. Ingredients are straight forward:  Fresh Pork (including fresh ham and tenderloins), seasonings, water, sugar, salt and MSG). Nutritional information is not on the site, but I found this elsewhere:

Country Sausage : Per 2 oz – Calories: 200 kcal | Fat: 17.00 g | Carbs: 0.00 g | Protein: 9.00 g.

I often buy fresh ground pork and season it myself when I’m in the mood for breakfast patties, but once and awhile, I prefer getting it from the pros, like Tennessee Pride.  It’s a lean, fine grind, nicely seasoned, with a little bit of kick in the ‘hot’ variety.  Need some Odom’s sausage or sausage gravy shipped to your house?

Tennessee Pride Sausage

Cookin’ Up

 

 

 

Tennessee Pride Sausage Reviews

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