Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam’s Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WIThere are a few times in my life when I’ve had a plate put in front of me at a restaurant and I’ve sighed and said “this is art.”

When/where this has happened, it’s never been dependent on the price or the number of stars, or some fancy name chef.

It’s about quality ingredients, meticulously prepared, properly plated, and probably a little love thrown in.

Such was the case at Sam’s Diner, a small eatery out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. It so exceeded my expectations on every level. It’d decorated with rustic Americana, about a dozen tables and booths.

I ordered the ham steak and eggs and was presented with a thick slab of quality ham prepared just the way I requested. I opted for “American fries” for the potato, thinly sliced crispy rounds, and marble rye toast.

Everything was superb including service and follow up, including getting chatted up by the manager and the chef.

It was about a 40 minute drive for me. Well worth it. I’ll hit it again and explore more of the menu.

You can find the full menu on Zomato. It’s pretty ambitious for a small joint.

Thirty miles Southwest of Milwaukee, eighty miles NNW of Chicago (map below). Opens early, seven days.

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Ham steak and eggs, American fries

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI
Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Coffee Pot Review – Kenosha, WI

Originally opened in the 1930s, the Coffee Pot has had different names, but remains at the original location serving the same delicious breakfast and lunch menu.

Although they can be very busy on the weekends, the table turnover seems to go quickly and within minutes you’ll be seated sipping fresh brewed coffee while pondering the lengthy and innovate menu.

We went with something new and something traditional. The “Reuben Omelet” is just what is sounds like, a fluffy three egg omelet wrapped around corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and even thousand island dressing if you want it. Or get it on the side for dipping.

I went with ham and eggs, a thick slice of ham “off the bone” ( a think in these parts), a nice little char from the grill on it, two perfectly cooked eggs over easy, crispy breakfast potatoes and house-baked toast.

The full menu offers some old favorites and new dishes at lunch time. Fresh made sandwiches, juicy burgers, crisp salads and even a veggie plate. They’re proud of their bloody marys and mimosas and have some craft beers and splits of wine on hand.

The Coffee Pot has recently added a couple of “hotel” rooms upstairs, if you’re inclined to explore the neighborhood for the weekend and have a couple great meals brought upstairs to you. Burgers in bed anyone? Yes please.


Coffee Pot Review Kenosha

Reuben Omelet

Coffee Pot Review Kenosha

Fried eggs and ham off the bone


Coffee Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coffee Port Review
Coffee Port Review

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review, Hebron, IL

Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewLong ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was convinced I had stumbled upon the best breakfast potatoes in the country.

OK, it wasn’t a galaxy, it was a breakfast horseshoe in Springfield, and after breakfast at Hazel’s Diner and Bakery, Springfield has been relegated to second place.

Located in the quiet ville of Hebron, IL, on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more committed to scratch cooking. All baked goods, breads jams, spreads, donuts, cakes, pastries come from the kitchen.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily, except Monday.  In addition to the home-made quality of the food, expect massive servings.  Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewThough technically it was lunchtime, I ordered breakfast – simple, ham and eggs, potatoes, rye toast.

Everything was prepared precisely as ordered and meticulously plated.

The thick-sliced house-baked rye is amazing.  Excellent quality ham off the bone, salty and smoky with a very firm bite.  I’m a ham snob and this is an excellent choice.  Breakfast potatoes, rough cut, roasted, lightly seasoned, are over the top. You may opt for a shredded version as well.

My companion ordered a variation of eggs benedict, poached eggs, strip bacon, artichokes and spinach atop a house-baked English muffin and bathed in silky, creamy Hollandaise in ample quantities. ( “Excuse me, could you bring a tumbler of that and then look away while I chug it?”).

The restaurant is pleasantly decorated with Americana, and service is very small-town friendly.  Unisex bathroom is immaculate.

Baked goods are available for purchase, including breads, donuts, muffins and other pastries.  There are a few tables outside and they beckon passersby to grab a donut and coffee and watch small town America go by on a lazy summer morning.

The restaurant/town is a mere ten minutes south if you’re staying in the Lake Geneva resort area in Wisconsin.  Ask for Amy, server extraordinaire.








Hazels Diner and Bakery Review

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review

Harpers Country Ham Review

Harpers Country Ham ReviewMan I love good ham. OK, I love bad ham, too.  But “country cured” – a dry cure lengthy process with salt, hickory smoked,  that’ll get me everytime. I’ve driven back roads of Missouri, Virginia, the Carolinas and Kentucky in search of small processors.

I’d never heard of Harper’s, even tho they’ve been around since 1952, and I might not have ever heard of them as they suffered a devastating fire last year and had to look around for a frenemy to cure their pork for them.  Which they found in “Goodnight Brothers” of Boone, NC.

I ran into these hams at BOOMLAND!  a retail oddity on I-57 (and two other locations) in Missouri. Giant fireworks stores, knick-knacks, regional foods, ice cream parlor, and discount tobacconist.  I prefer the boneless biscuit size slice packages (which are only biscuit sized if your biscuits are the size of a small frisbee).  I bought all they had.  It was a BOGO thing.  It freezes fine.

Country cured ham can be very salty. Many people give it a simmer in water prior to frying, baking, whatever.  I’ve also known people who soak it in cold water overnight, or in the case of a whole ham, for several days.

I do or don’t, cause I love the flavor.  I eat it on its own as a snack, on sandwiches, but especially for breakfast.

Happy I found the product.  Sad I won’t run into it again for a few years.  Probably. Tho Goldbely has it for shipping from time to time it seems.

Harpers was the winner of the 2013 and 2014 National Champion Country Ham. 2013 Grand Champion Ham at Kentucky State Fair.

Harpers Country Ham Review






Harpers Country Ham Review

Harpers Country Ham Review


Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review – Gatlinburg, TN

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp ReviewI’m big about avoiding tourist traps or “voted best XXX 10 years in a row.”

Unless I specifically head out for one, of course, and Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp was just one such destination.

I was going to be passing near Gatlinburg, and I thought the least I could do to help boost their local economy after their devastating fires would be to stop and have breakfast.

It’s a tourism mecca, so there is no shortage of themed restaurants, but I liked the menu at Crocketts (it’s only open from 7A-1P BTW), and especially had my eye on their country fried ham, because as I am sure you know, I am a fiend for ham.

It’s a long menu, offering you a choice of egg breakfasts, omelets, skillets, “griddle cakes” and accompaniments.

For some reason, my eyes alit on the most expensive thing on the menu, the Black Bear Camp Skillet, which pretty much assured you one of everything else on the menu:  two eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, taters, biscuit, gravy, pone, cheese grits and a monster “griddle cake.”

I did a respectible job at polishing it off, breakfast potatoes are not my thing, they take up capacity needed for more pork products, and the giant pancake suffered the same fate. Oh, passed on pone, too.

All of it was great. One small ordering glitch (that I have run into a few times lately).  I like my eggs “basted.”  Pretty standard method of cooking.  No can do here. Know why? There isn’t a button for it on the computer.  Scrambled, Up, Over Easy, Over Hard.  That’s it.  Odd.

But otherwise.

Breakfast for two with beverages is going to run your near or north of $40.  Nice kids menu. Be prepared to wait for a table at peak hours. Lots of wall decor that will fascinate the kiddies; no separate menu that I saw, but ordering off the ala carte menu you’ll do ok.

Didn’t get your fill?  They’ll sell you giant cinnamon rolls to go, as well as other souvenirs.

Fun stop. Good grub. Onward.  Spoiler alert.  Nothing to do with “Davy Crockett” if that’s what you were thinking, as I was.

I think I was in Gatlinburg once before, but just a zip through. Reminds me of Wisconsin Dells, if you’ve ever traveled that way.  For that matter, the restaurant is somewhat reminiscent of the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Restaurant in the Dells, only difference being breakfast there is served family style and you’ll receive a complementary starter of freshly fried donuts!

Here’s the entire menu.

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Black Bear Camp Skillet


Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Griddle Cake – Yes, it is as big as it appears! 

Crockett's Breakfast Camp Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review


Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review – A WalMart Product

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat ReviewI write a lot about ham, it seems.  Because I love it.

I love premium hams and have driven background all over the country in search of small processors, and been very successful in Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Missouri. I have quite a few reviews of very expensive ham, as well as very cheap “ham.”

Today we’re talking about the latter, Great Value (WalMart brand) Smoked Ham lunchmeat.  I’ve always called this type of meat “pressed, chopped, and formed,” but that’s really the wrong order. Earlier advertisements for this segment label it “chopped pressed and cooked” and that’s more apt, isn’t it?

Bits of pork, seasonings, a saline solution and artificial smoke are combined to make a “loaf” which is thin sliced and packaged.

This product is made for WalMart by an old Chicago area meat processor, Carl Buddig. I have pix of their factory below, and also of their own packaging for similar product, which you will surely recognize. Incidentally, Buddig makes some of the best hot dogs on the planet, in natural casings, the brand is “Old Wisconsin,” which are a pork and beef blend.  Buddig is privately held, and still run by the founder’s family members.

Bottom line, this type of “ham” really has no taste or texture to me. I’ve always thought the only differences in the contents of the Buddig packages below was color. I had a lot of that stuff for school lunches a million years ago. Take a bite, no clue what is was. Lift the bread? Brown, roast beef, pink, ham, white, turkey.

Here’s the thing. The Great Value is $2.50 for 9 ounces. That’s anywhere from $2-$4 less than big brand names for the same amount, and basically the same product, unless you’re getting into the high-end, slice at the deli counter kinda thing. And there aren’t many of those that are worth the additional cost. IMHO.

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Smoked ham slices

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Brand Packaging

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Old Time Buddig Package

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Factory, 25 miles south of downtown Chicago



Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review – An Aldi Branded Product

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham ReviewI have reviewed quite a few products found at Aldi, a global grocery retailer that focuses on value-priced items.

They are able to achieve lower costs by largely staying away from big brand names, and instead, creating their own brands and contracting the manufacture and packaging of them to quality co-packers and producers.

This product is typically used for sandwiches and similar purposes and is thin-sliced in equally sized rectangles. It achieves this quality being sliced off a “loaf” of ham, which is created from mechanically separated pork parts, water and spices. An image of the ingredients appears below.

For this time, Aldi has turned to the ham manufacturing expertise of Plumrose, USA, a division of Europe’s largest pork processor, Denmark’s Danish Crown Company. In the U.S., both for it’s own label and other outlets, Plumrose produces bacon, ham, deli counter and canned meat items.

Last year, Plumrose USA was purchased by Brazilian food giant, JBS, the largest meat processor in the world, with 150 plants and 200,000 employees.  JBS owns several brands you are familiar with, including Swift & Company, which in turn has a couple dozen pork and beef brands,  and Pilgrim’s Pride Chickens. These hams are made at the Plumrose plant in Booneville, MS, 100 miles southeast of Memphis, TN.

Back to the subject.  This type of ham is created on a basis similar as to seen in this video:  trimmed pork is marinated, further chopped, pressed in to a shape for market, and then smoked.

The result is a flavorful ham product, and Aldi’s is as good as any lunch meat style ham, and of course, priced much less than big brands.  Structural integrity of texture is important to me, that it closely resembles the mastication experience of whole muscle meat, and this comes close enough.


Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review


Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review


Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

Plumrose Mississippi Plant

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Winstons Irish Bacon ReviewWhen you request bacon in the US, you know what you are going to get. Smoked/cured thin slices of pork belly, with streaks of fat parallel to streaks of delicious meat.

Unless you request “Canadian Bacon” which is neither Canadian nor bacon, but very lean sliced pork loin,  cured and smoked. Outside of the US, “American style” bacon is often referred to as “streaky bacon.”

Not so in other parts of the world, where you can be faced with a number of choices.  In the UK and other remnants of the Empire, where you will most often be served what is referred to in the US and Canada as “back bacon,” thin slices of smoked (or not) pork cut from both the loin and a small bit from the belly.  It is cut from the same part of the hog as pork chops.

Order a “full breakfast” in England, and it will come with a couple slices of back bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, and toast. Maybe a grilled tomato. Depends on what part of the country you are in.

All this to say, in my recent visit to the mecca of foodie groceries, Jungle Jims, there are many choices of bacon to put in your cart, including a number of selections not made from pork. (My father was a habitual beef bacon consumer. It’s very lean, pretty chewy, but very tasty).

I picked up a pack of “Winston’s Irish Bacon,” which, to my surprise, is made here in Chicago. I’ve never seen it before, but apparently, Winston’s is a fairly old company specializing in Irish foods, they are wholesale processors, but also have a couple of markets and a restaurant.

Anyhow, Winstons bacon is delish.  I’m eager to track down some of their sausages and whatever else they got. Their factory/store is on the far south side of Chicago, but probably worth a drive. I’m a sucker for new sausage suppliers!

In the end, quality bacon at my house nearly always leads to a gooey fried egg sammich. Today was no exception!

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

In the pan, fried for 2 minutes a side


Winstons Irish Bacon Review

My fried egg sammich


Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Chicago factory and retail outlet


Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review, Lake Geneva Wisconsin

Lake Geneva Country Meats ReviewI have been known to take road trips in search of small producers of processed pork products, especially hams. Jumping off the interstates, traveling back roads, stopping in diners to inquire about local products. Never disappointed.

The other day, I had been to a “pick your own” tomato farm, had a bushel of the beautiful red fruit, stopped at a great bakery and scored a loaf of rustic bread, so I knew I needed one more thing, some bodacious bacon to make BLTs (I had lettuce in the garden at home).

And with great delight, I happened upon Lake Geneva Country Meats, on State Road 50, a few miles east of the beach in Lake Geneva, WI.

The establishment is a large store of meats butchered and processed on the spot (factory/store picture below), dozens of kinds of sausages, hams, chops, beef, as well as specialty grocery items. It’s a modern, spacious, sparkling store, with friendly and knowledgeable help.

I scored the bacon, as well as an outrageously good ham steak. Both products were nicely cured with seasoning and just the right amount ofLake Geneva Country Meats Review
smoke. The thick cut bacon had great flavor and was very meaty.

Products are a little bit on the spendy side, but I’m good with that, to get diligently prepared products that actually taste like the animal they come from. I’m a snob about that. So much of the mass produced pork product in groceries these days doesn’t resemble actual pork in either taste or texture.A real disappointment.

Lake Geneva Country Meats is open from 8 AM Monday through Saturday.

Most importantly, pay them a visit. If you can’t, follow them on FBTwitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+. They have regular specials with good discounts. They sell some house-made rubs and spices on their website as well and there are some good recipes.

Family owned since 1965. P.S. The char on the ham? No, I didn’t burn it. I like it that way!

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Prepared Bacon

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review


Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Reward! Ham & Eggs!!!

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Store Front

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

State of the art plant






Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Fricks Ham Review, Missouri Processor

Fricks Ham ReviewI love ham, and I’ve been fortunate to run into some great ones lately. Most recently the notable one was local, from All Grass Farms.

But I screwed up this week, didn’t do my research, and tho I was going to be close to a Missouri processor named Frick’s Meats, whose product I have enjoyed before, I completely spaced on it, missed an opportunity, other than to pick up a ham steak in a nearby grocer.

I had the ham once before, as a sliced half-ham product, and I liked that. I also had a Fricks product in Aldi’s braunschweiger.

Now I want more, and regularly.

The ham steak is a half inch thick, and charred up nicely in a cast iron skillet.  It’s smokey and salty with texture you’d expect from quality pork, and the flavors that remind you of a lengthy cure.

I’d buy it again, don’t usually see it in my local stores, but I’ll look again. If you can’t find Fricks in your store, they do sell a few products online.

Fricks Ham Review

Out of the package

Fricks Ham Review

5 mins each side

Fricks Ham Review

Washington, MO Factory






Fricks Ham Review

Fricks Ham Review

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