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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Crack Barrel Review, Nationwide Chain

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Cracker Barrel ReviewI was reading about this couple the other day, 80 years old, who have visited every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in the country, except one. Interesting goal.

According to Wikipedia, there are 640 outlets. The company started in 1969 with the first store located in Lebanon, TN.

The accent is on “country home cooking” and there is also a small attached general store, which sells retro home decor and food products.

They pride themselves on a number of their offerings being prepared in-house, all day long, like biscuits, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Here’s the bottom line. I probably haven’t been in one of these in ten years. I think the prices have come down, making it a better value, but I think the quality has declined, as well.  I had chicken fried steak and eggs, and the steak tasted like it could have been from any food service supplier. I know it’s hard to get consistency, but I do like a good CFS prepared in house.

So, “it is what it is,” and I’ll see you again in ten years.

Crack Barrel Review

Chicken fried steak and eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full menu. Locations.
Cracker Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crack Barrel Review
Crack Barrel Review

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Blue Gillys Review – Edgerton, WI

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Blue Gillys ReviewMy dad loved eating fish. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, couldn’t get enough. I brought him over to visit when I was working in Hong Kong and he was in seafood heaven. Geez, I craved a burger during that trip.

He wasn’t much of a sportsman himself, but his colleagues and employees made sure he was kept well supplied, dropping off quantities of trout, sunfish, crappies, pike and bluegills when they had good days.

Don’t think its genetic, but I’m a fish eater too, not anywhere compared to him. And here in the upper midwest, you’re likely to run into one restaurant or 200 that features a “fish fry” every Friday nite, offering you a choice of cod, walleye, perch, or shrimp, often on an AYCE basis.

I was surprised and delighted to run into a place called “Blue Gilly’s” in rural Wisconsin yesterday, a breakfast/lunch restaurant that prominently features bluegills on the menu.

I can’t imagine where they source them, I’d been under the impression for several years that “panfish” – the group of freshwater swimmers that bluegills fall into, were incapable of being farmed. So if they’re wild, they are most likely coming from pristine lakes in Northern Canada or Alaska.

So I had bluegills and eggs for breakfast. The fish is fried with a very, very light breading, and I’m no expert, but I’m gonna guess that they use rice flour for the breading. It has its own unique texture and taste, and of course, is gluten free.

The fish was delightful, and the standard serving (1/2 pound) was more than I could finish at a serving.

The restaurant is open seven days from 6:30 – 2:00PM, and features a full breakfast and lunch menu. Lotsa pancakes on hand, as well.

It’s much bigger inside than it appears outside, so even if the  parking lot would make you think its really crowded, there are probably
tables available.

If you’re traveling I-90 thru Wisconsin, the restaurant is just off exit 163, about an hour north of the Illinois border. Worth a stop.

 

Blue Gillys Review

Bluegills and eggs breakfast

Blue Gillys Review

A nice side dish in the Midwest –  LOL

Blue Gilly's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Blue Gillys Review

Blue Gillys Review

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All Grass Farms Review – Supplier of Sustainable Proteins

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All Grass Farms ReviewIf you’re even an occasional reader, you know how much I like great ham. Fresh from the farm type ham. Ham that tastes like a hog.

I’ve driven around the country in search of great suppliers, so I was delighted to be driving down a back road just outside of Chicago the other day, and spotting a hand painted sign with the inquiry “Got Pork?”

“Why no, I don’t,”  sez I to myself, so I turned in the driveway.

All Grass Farms is a small producer in Dundee, Illinois, who can take care of your beef, pork, poultry, eggs and raw milk needs 7 days a week, from a little shop they have on site.

These are grass fed animals, hormone free, and you’ll note the difference in taste and texture.  I picked up a slab ‘o ham, and it was spendy, but worth it. The carmelization you see is causing not by burning it (tho I like charred ham) but by the fact brown sugar is used in the cure. It’s also nicely smoked.

The muscle texture is superb, it hasn’t been pulverized to death by tenderizers or “brine injections.” I loathe meat like that. I’ll but this again, and may even venture into a quantity of pork. I’m certainly going to get some raw milk in the future, which you can’t find in main line grocers, but if you do have some you can make great cheese and butter at home, lickety-split. Or lemony snicket.

You can order online, but they don’t ship, you’ll still have to pick up. They’re open daily from 10-6. If you’re looking for something specific, you might want to inquire prior (847-852-7081) to making the trek – they do run out of popular items on occasion.  They can also set you up with bulk packages – say if you wanted half a hog or cow.

The meat is processed about 60 miles west by Eickman’s Processing Company, Seward, IL.  They also have a small retail shop on site, which is open until 5:30 Mon – Fri, and noon on Saturday.

It’s nice to know where your food comes from, especially these days when Washington is proposing eliminating many of the safe regs and inspections we’ve relied on in the past.

All Grass Farms Review

All Grass Farms Review

Store at the farm

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co  – Storefront

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co – Aerial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

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Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage ReviewThese poor little sausages start off with a couple strikes against them – I pretty much don’t like brown and serve type breakfast sausages. Including fast food kinds.  But I thought I would give these two national brand names a shot when I saw them at the Dollar Tree.

Jimmy Dean is an established sausage maker, started by the late music/film personality of the same name. The company grew bigly and was acquired by Sara Lee (now Hillshire Farms, now Tyson).

The package (for a buck) comes with six links, you’ll find them in the frozen food coolers, if your Dollar Tree has them.

Ingredients are pork and mechanically separated turkey (another kiss of death for me, anything that has mechanically separated poultry as an ingredient).

I popped these into a skillet with my other test subjects, Banquet brand Original Breakfast Sausage Patties, and cooked them awhile. This type of Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Reviewproduct IS pre-cooked in the package, so there are microwave instructions as well, for a quick heat and eat.

Banquet is part of the multinational food conglomerate ConAgra.  The company dates back more than 60 years, having started by introducing frozen meat pot pies.

What did I think? Flavor is OK, but one of the things I don’t like about these types of products is the texture. Not enough resistance in a bite, like ‘real’ sausage.

Result, I wouldn’t be likely to buy it again, unless I had company that requested it.

The Jimmy Dean sausages were/are made by Peacock Foods, in Itasca, IL, a distant superb of Chicago. The Banquet ones are a product of Abbyland Foods in Wisconsin. Abbyland makes products for a number of brands and retailers. They are a popular source for the discount grocer Aldi.

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Banquet Patties, Jimmy Dean Links

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Abbyland Foods

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Peacock Foods

 

 

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

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Carys Family Restaurant Review – Cary, IL

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Carys Family Restaurant Review“No, we’re out,” said Adele firmly. I protested, and she replied “we had five servings left and I sold them all this morning. Won’t be more until the delivery truck comes.”

“I’ll wait.”

OK, I didn’t say that, and noticing the disappointment on my face that I wasn’t going to get to have Chicken Fried Steak for breakfast, she recommended the ham, without even knowing that’s my go-to 2nd choice.

“It’s off the bone.”

I drooled. “OK, ham and eggs, two over easy, hash browns real crispy, rye toast. Some char on the ham, please.”

“Done,” sez she.

I was at  Cary’s Family Restaurant on US Highway 14, 48.7 miles from Willis (nee Sears) Tower in downtown Chicago. Cary is one of dozens of burgs lining Highway 14, one of the original US highways. Depending on what direction you’re heading, it either starts in Chicago and ends at the eastern entrance to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, or the reverse.

There are a buckets of restaurants along that highway, and it’s on my bucket list to hit all of them. In this neck of the woods, I’ve hit the Sugar Bowl in Des Plaines, the Big Foot Inn (in Big Foot), Mr. Beefy and Kojak’s (both Fox River Grove), to name a few, with obviously, many, many more to go!

Adele returned to the table bearing my plates, and it looked perfect, the kitchen had even cooked the ham the way I asked for it (I like a little char on ham, adds to the texture), and the rye toast was oversized. Eggs over easy, and I was ready to go. Lots of Chicago area restaurants have a bowl of butter pats on the table, and Cary’s Family is no exception, so I set about the task of buttering the rye toast before cutting the pieces in half and slamming a half into the egg yolk.

Growing up in my house, the act was called “mopping” and was strictly forbidden. No naturally, as an ‘adult’ the activity amplified to tease my mother while she did a slow burn on the other side of the kitchen.

Back to the task at ham (sic). The meat was delicious. Geez I love real ham. Not that chopped, pressed and formed stuff, but real muscle meat, the longer it has been cured, the better. I’ve driven the back roads of Virginia and Kentucky looking for exceptional ham. I’ve been to the Ham Museum in Madrid (seriously) (Spain, not Missouri).

Anyway, breakfast was good, Adele was a delight, I won’t bear a grudge that they were out of Chicken Fried Steak, and will give them another chance or six.

It’s a pleasure to run into servers who seem genuinely happy to be doing their job well. Remember to appreciate them.

Cary's Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Carys Family Restaurant Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs ReviewI’ve never tried “liquid eggs” (industry term: breaker eggs), but I see them used quite a bit at charity breakfasts I attend. I do recall having powdered (dehydrated) eggs, which have been around for more than a hundred years.

My experience was on Scout trips – the eggs were pretty awful.  So I set out to do my home experience, and picked up a pint carton of Food Club (TopCo) brand “Great Egg0-Spectations.” The carton promises “contains 99% real egg product. (See full ingredient list at the end of this post).

I can see why they use these at the mass breakfasts, or in commercial bakeries and restaurants. Speed, little waste, consistent product. (As you know, “fresh” eggs can vary in taste and size).

So these were a buck. The carton contains the equivalent of eight eggs. 3 T equal 1 egg.  A reason for buying them would not be value, certainly at any store in any given week, you can find at least one brand at around 50 cents a dozen. Of course, you can pay up to $6 a dozen from the same display case, and obviously, people must buy them or they wouldn’t be there, but I sure don’t get the idea of $6 eggs.

I assumed I could use the product as I would fresh eggs, so I set out to make scrambled eggs, adding a dollop of milk to my mix, cooking them in a non-stick skilled at medium heat. They turned out just fine. Tasted like…………….spoiler alert……………scrambled eggs!

Food Club brand is part of Topco, which is based in suburban Chicago, and started as a co-op of producers in the 1940s. They sell thousands of different products (frozen, refrigerated and dry)  under their own brand names, to a wide variety of retailers. They also produce their products in three different value segments, from a economy type product to an added value kind.

My conclusion is that liquid eggs are tasty and convenient. Would I buy them again? Nah, like I said above, I really don’t “get it” for home use. Plus the carton instructs you to use in a week, and most people keep fresh eggs around for weeks without a care. If you’re really concerned with product longevity, powdered eggs can last 5-10 years, depending on the brand and storage method.

Do you use liquid eggs at home? How do you use them? Do you have a preferred brand?

INGREDIENTS

EGG WHITES (99%), LESS THAN 1%: NATURAL FLAVOR, COLOR (INCLUDES BETA CAROTENE), SPICES, SALT, ONION POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, VITAMINS AND MINERALS: CALCIUM SULFATE, IRON (FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE), VITAMIN E (ALPHA TOCOPHEROL ACETATE), ZINC SULFATE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN), VITAMIN B1 (THIAMINE MONONITRATE), VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE), FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN, VITAMIN D3.

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

 

 

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review, Suburban Chicago

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review

I went to try a new place today, the 5th outlet of a local chain called “Southern Belle’s” a breakfast and lunch place with a “Southern” twist.

In addition to “regular” breakfast and lunch dishes, you’ll find their take on Southern foods like “Shrimp and Grits,” “Biscuits and Gravy,” and “Pork Belly and Eggs.”

For some reason, apparently, the proprietor’s definition of “Southern” extends out to Arizona, as there are also Tex Mex breakfast and lunch dishes.

Burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads round out the midday offerings.

I went for breakfast around 9AM, business was fairly brisk for the time of day and the place being new. There was a mix of demographics, young families, seniors, singles, and there was a large group standing in the lobby – – I thought they were waiting to be seated in one of the large private rooms, figuring them to be a company, church group, or extended family. Nope. Turns out they were local Chamber members participating in the traditional “giant scissors” photo op out front.

Southern Belle’s has done a clever thing, the front of the restaurant, where the cashier station is, the area doubles as a coffee/smoothie bar, I imagine, creating another revenue stream by roping in passers by (Not sure if this option is in all locations). Only problem I noted with this concept, is there no signage for this segment outside. Maybe it is still to be installed.

The restaurant is in a strip mall, across the street from a major mall, and has good street signage, so traffic should be fine. It’s on the large side for the casual segment, I think, immaculately clean, as were the restrooms.

My server, Genevieve, was friendly, and  attentive without being intrusive. She stopped by a couple times to make sure I was happy. A person that clearly understands what the words “hospitality industry” mean.

Ordering coffee, I was happy when she brought a large thermal pot to leave at the table. They also have an “amuse,” 3 mini corn muffins. I’m not a corn bread fan under any circumstances, I ate one, but I can’t really give you an opinion on whether they are good or not.

I opted for Country Fried Steak and Eggs, which comes with a split buttermilk biscuit, hash browns, and a substantial quantity of sausage gravy.

I’m also not a big biscuit eater, so I won’t opine on that, either, except to say it was buried under the gravy, so if you’re an egg mopper (my mother would slap you if you are), ask for the biscuits on the side.

Hash browns? Not made there. Shreds that most likely came frozen or dried from a supplier like Sysco. I apologize to the owners if they aren’t, but that’s what they seemed like.  I’m a big fan of really, really great breakfast potatoes.  I’ll drive a long way to try some that somebody has bragged about.

I’m split on the steak. Good flavor, nice texture to the batter, not particularly flavorful, and I was unable to tell whether this was also a heat and eat food service item or made from scratch in house.  I was quite happy with the sausage gravy. Flavorful, a little spice, and large chunks of pork sausage. To my liking.

All in all? It’s pretty OK. I lean more to favoring greasy spoon type diners, but this is a nice alternative for local families. They boast that a number of items are sourced locally and they are fans of “farm to table.”

There’s also Healthy, Vegan and Gluten Free portions to the menu, if you’re fussy about that kind of stuff.

Here’s the menu, and the locations. Breakfast and lunch seven days.

$20 for breakfast, coffee, tax and tip for me today.

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Complimentary Mini Corn Muffins

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Country Fried Steak and Eggs

Southern Belle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Southern Belles Restaurant Review

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Sollys Grille Review, Milwaukee, WI

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Sollys Grille ReviewIf you tool around the Upper Midwest, you’ll undoubtedly run into a regional burger and custard chain named “Culvers.” Their motto is roughly “home of the butter burger.”

Believing that depends on who you ask. Culver’s version is to fry the burgers on a flattop and nestle it on a toasted, buttered, bun.

But on the East Coast of the state, in Milwaukee, one will come across Solly’s Grille, which opened in 1936 and purports to be the inventor of the actual “Butter Burger.” Or “Butterburger.”

What the term means at Solly’s is completely different than Culvers. At Solly’s, their patty also starts out on a flattop, and the buns are also toasted, but…wait for it……when the burger gets placed on bun, atop it comes an ice cream scoop size dollop of pure Wisconsin butter, which quickly melts, flavoring the patty, soaking the bun and pooling on the plate.

They say they use 150 pounds + of butter weekly, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.

There are different toppings on tap for burgers, various cheese, bacon, and such, but according to the server, there’s never been a pickle or mayo in house and there never will be.

The full menu includes breakfast.  (Yes, you can get a burger during breakfast hours).  Sides can be crinkle cut fries, rings, or potato pancakes. (After all, Wisconsin at its heart is very German).

The standard Butterburger is also topped with Solly’s own stewed onions.

There’s a guy in America named George Motz, who is considered by many, far and near, to be America’s Hamburger Expert.  Here’s a little video about Solly’s from one of his programs, and introducing the main man at Solly’s these days.  (George has a book and a documentary that share the title “Hamburger America.”

You’ll see a million “WOW” reviews of Solly’s online. And I always try to find something cool about every place, every experience, but you know what? This place was a lot better in my imagination that in reality. To me.

The factory produced, frozen patty is nothing special, and the onions were rather overpowering for me. Of course I loved the butter and how it flavored both the bun and meat, but the downside is as it pools on the plate, it soaks the bottom half of the bun and your sandwich can quickly become unmanageable.

Seating is limited to a long counter, and a very few tables, if that influences your decision. Service is hit and miss. And you can expect your multi-layered meal (burger, fries, shake) to not come out in any particular order or proximity to each other. You may have consumed your fries prior to even catching a glimpse of your burger.

The rings I liked. Crispy, a little beer in the batter I suspect, and the waitress “upsold me” on the dipping sauce, which was more than the usual restaurant fare. I’m gonna take a guess it is mayo and Tabasco. Not unpleasant. But I didn’t expect to be charged for it. Oh well.  Fries are top-notch as well.

This is a great place to hit for a nostalgic thing if you’re going to Milwaukee. Kind of like hitting the Billy Goat in Chicago. In either case, you’re not going because the food is gonna make you say “WOW OH MAN.”

But it’s fun nevertheless.  Two burgers, fries, rings, dipping sauce,  one soda, $21.

Sollys Grille Review

Butterburger with cheese

Sollys Grille Review

Perfect crinkle cut fries

Sollys Grille Review

Crispy flavorful rings

Solly's Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sollys Grille Review

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Sugar Bowl Review, Des Plaines, IL

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Sugar Bowl Review Des PlainesThe Sugar Bowl has been an integral part of downtown Des Plaines since 1921. It has, over the years, been a sweet shop, candy store, ice cream parlor and restaurant. Today it’s heavily into the restaurant biz.

Have seen this place many times when I’ve been zipping by on the train and had a hankering to try it, which I did early one Sunday morning.I went for ham and eggs, and I’ve been on a winning streak with breakfast ham in restaurants lately, like the Village Family Restaurant in Huntley, IL.

I have a penchant for “REAL HAM,” full muscle meat that’s been cut from a butt or loin, not that pressed, chopped, and formed stuff that so many restaurants serve. Please dear god, no.

The kind of ham I prefer, at least in Chicago area restaurants is called (some variation of) “Ham off the bone.” And it’s damned near porcine heaven to me. Especially heavily aged and smoked, and NOT cured or coated with any kind of sugar or substitute.

So, if you haven’t guessed, I’m sweet on the Sugar Bowl for breakfast. Great food, great service, good prices.  If you’re going to or thru Des Plaines, stop by. It’s also not far from the reconstructed first (Ray Kroc version) McDonalds, now a museum.

The Sugar Bowl serves breakfast and lunch menus, which you can peruse here.

Sugar Bowl Review Des Plaines

Eggs & Ham, Sam I Am!!

Sugar Bowl Sweet Shop & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

Sugar Bowl Review

Sugar Bowl Review

Sugar Bowl Review

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Lou Mitchells Review, on Route 66, Chicago

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Lou Mitchells Review

Exterior

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.

Lou Mitchells Review Route 66

Eggs Over with Bacon

Lou Mitchell's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lou Mitchells Review

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