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Archive for the ‘Hamburgers’ Category

The Cottage Review – Crystal Lake, IL

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The Cottage ReviewThe Cottage is one of those places most people would describe as a “neighborhood bar” and it fills that role nicely, perched on the edge of downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, within walking distance of a number of residential neighborhoods.

Although a “bar,” it serves as a full restaurant as well, with a very lengthy menu and nightly specials. The specials are value priced.

What brought me in is the fact that any night of the week in this area, you can find a hamburger special, and it’s Wednesdays at the Cottage. Burger and a side, $5.  You pay a little bit more for add-ons like bacon and fancy cheeses, but it’s still a deal.

The sandwich is advertised as a half-pound, hand-pattied, char-grilled burger, and it lives up to the promo.  It’s very flavorful meat, on a bakery roll that is soft enough to be enjoyable but substantial enough to hold any toppings you desire.  Unusual for me, I ate the burger absolutely plain, I enjoyed the beef and bun so much.

I upgraded to rings for the side, and they don’t do justice as a side equal to the entree. They are a beer battered ring, which I doubt are made in-house. With so many interesting food items on the menu, the Cottage could easily do better on the rings.

Complimentary peanuts in the shell (yes, toss ’em on the floor) and tasty popcorn for every table.  Don’t see peanuts much anymore, of course. I was personally delighted.

Large outdoor seating area can be covered during inclement weather.  The Cottage is also known for having some large music events on-site, generally with rather proficient tribute bans.  Check their site for dates.

Server Ravan was spectacular.

The Cottage Review

Burger and rings

The Cottage Review

You’ll love their free nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 Full menu online. Catering menu too.
The Cottage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Cottage Review

The Cottage Review

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Impossible Burger Review

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Impossible Burger ReviewSo there’s this Stanford professor, Patrick Brown, B.S., M.D., PHD, who decides in 2009 to take an 18-month sabbatical in 2009 to study “eliminating industrial animal agriculture” (fancy words that basically mean big time animal raising for food).

He is of the school that believes the industry is doing major damage to the planet. He hosts a few seminars on his findings, the world kind of doesn’t take notice, but convinced he’s onto something with the idea of replacing animal protein with that derived from plants, he starts “Impossible Foods” in 2011 at the age of 57, apparently aiming to be the Colonel Sanders of the industry segment.

Armed with $400 million in venture capital (seriously!) he sets out to create first of all, a “burger” that duplicates the appearance, texture, and taste of a ground beef hamburger, but using entirely plant-based components.

A restaurant or two pick it up and the product meets with moderate success, initially. Here’s what struck me about its “overnight success.”  These guys found the best PR/Marketing company in the world, apparently, cause try as you might, it’s pretty damned difficult to find a BAD review of the burger.  “Tastes just like hamburger.” “It even bleeds.” Blah blah blah.  They launched a campaign equal to the one some years back for the much ado about nothing “Umami Burger.”

Full-scale production, widespread distribution, buckets of venture money, it looks like the Impossible Burger is here to stay.  So far the pitch has been you’re gonna help save the planet, rather than get healthier.  Maybe that message is somewhere and I just haven’t seen it.

The company had a victory this week in having the product certified as Kosher.  Also this week at the National Restaurant Show, they debuted a line of breakfast sausages.

They chose White Castle as the outlet for one of their first mass production deals. Curious since it’s not a national chain, isn’t really known for launching new products, and already has their own vegetarian patty on the menu, which I tried a couple years ago.

The White Castle product is “slider size” and is marketed as being topped with smokey cheddar cheese, pickles and onions. For some reason, at my White Castle, they didn’t think I deserved the topping or were hell-bent on saving a nickel that day, so mine was plain. Actually, that’s alright, it gives one a better sense of the product on a stand-alone basis. (Adding junk on top of a burger can make just about any meat patty ‘better.’ just look at the success of In N Out).

My take?  I don’t think it’s a mass market product.  Not that many people are willing to change their habits (obviously) to save the planet.  It probably appeals to devout vegetarians who think they miss the taste of beef or just want some variety (a complaint I hear a lot from vegetarians), but I don’t think it is going to get that many beef-a-holics to change their eating habits.

It looks like ground beef. It has an aroma and taste that will REMIND you of ground beef. (To me it tastes like inexpensive ground beef blend, a fatty 77/23 or so).  The texture they are going to have to work on, as well as a binder. Fat holds ground beef together, and the Impossible Burger crumbles, at least in the White Castle version.

I wish them success.  Great to see an old geezer (as I am) like Brown do a big-time start-up, and get that kind of financing, especially since it’s an industry he doesn’t have experience in.

I don’t know whether they are selling the product in bulk yet, like at groceries. Someone told me it’s at Whole Foods, but I haven’t verified it.  It is in a lot of restaurants tho, and the company provides a locator so you can track down an Impossible Burger near you.  I’m sure chefs are being creative with ingredients and presentation.

Impossible Burger Review

Two Impossible Burger Sliders Dissected.

 

 

 

 

 

Impossible Burger Review
Impossible Burger Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider ReviewHardees, actually it’s predecessor, Sandys, was the first fast food in my hometown, years before McDonalds or BK landed.

Second was probably Henry’s, another defunct chain.  So, anyway, I’ve always had an affinity for Hardees, and while it has ebbed and flowed over the years parallel to their own ups and downs, the last few years I’m good with them.

I think they have the best breakfast sandwiches in the industry, and they have actual, real, bonafide ham in the breakfast hours, as well. Some years ago, they decided their target customer was going to be young men, who aren’t shy about eating hardy, and then went after that market, and while I don’t know the numbers, I’ll bet they made a solid dent in it.

They focus on larger burger patties, 1/3 pound minimum, heavily loaded  — like the Monster Thickburger, two 1/3 pound patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, mayo on a bakery bun.

In order to tell their target customer about their new focus – they employed a number of attractive female celebrities, portrayed as seductively eating the new burgers.  This went on for a few years, then somebody moaned about it and they stopped.

I thought it was brilliant.  PC aside, the company had a demographic specific product and designed marketing to capture that audience. It worked.

Here’s one of the commercials.

Feeling a might pecking a few weeks ago, somewhere unidentifiable in the Carolinas, I pulled off to grab a snack and happened into Hardees for the only reason is it was the easiest to get in and out of off the street.

They were advertising a double cheeseburger slider for a buck, which would be all I’d need at the moment. (BUT….the only TRUE sliders, IMHO, come from White Castle and Krystal).

I was the only customer inside. There were no drive-thru customers.  Yet for some reason, it took a full fifteen minutes to put this sandwich together, and apparently they couldn’t spare another 15 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese.

No matter. Tasted OK.  Mission accomplished.  Hey it was a buck!  Better meat and bun than lots of fast food burgers at $2-4.

I don’t see it on the menu on their website, must have been a limited time thing.

So here’s a pic of the slider.

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

 

 

 

 

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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Burger Burger Review – Biloxi, MS

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Burger Burger Review So the story goes, the original “Burger Burger” was developed in nearby New Orleans and made its way east to Biloxi sometime after 1947.

The sandwich was sold in a local restaurant for years until one day, the perfect home of its own became available and the Burger Burger restaurant opened up, selling their proprietary sandwich, along with daily specials – their version of traditional southern dishes. Also on the menu,  traditional gumbo, salads, seafood baskets and breakfast.

Here I’ve buried the lead, haven’t I? The “Burger Burger” is like a hamburger poboy – on toasted French bread with mustard, diced onion, and special sauce, which they also call “gravy.” Somebody described it like “Swiss steak” on a bun, and maybe that’s apt, it’s sure different than a hamburger poboy in New Orleans which can be incredibly plain and dull.

They have other “specialty” burgers as well, in a form you might be more used to seeing.

Being as this is primarily a hamburger website, and I write about burgers a lot, naturally I took one look at the menu and went right for the……….catfish.

That’s right. I couldn’t seem to get enough fried catfish this trip, so it pretty much showed up in front of me once a day.

And was I ever glad.  Burger Burger makes perfect fried catfish, accompanied by fries, slaw, lemon and tartar if you wish. It was a lighter, slightly seasoned batter, perfectly crispy, the fish resting inside done to perfection, moist, not a hint of grease.

Dandy.

Service is frenetic and friendly at the same time.  Like they took classes in “Southern hospitality.”  Quite sure they mentioned everything was made in-house.

The restaurant is located in an old residence and the walls are chock-a-block with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia.

I’d like to go back.

Website has the specials but not full menu.  Menu is on Zomato.

Burger Burger Review

Catfish basket with fries

Burger Burger Review

Interior

 

Burger Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Burger Burger Review
Burger Burger Review

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Applebees Review – Nationwide Chain

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Applebees ReviewStarting as a single restaurant called T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs in Decatur, GA, 1980, Applebees has grown to a franchised chain of over 2000 units in 15 countries.

Applebee’s is in the casual dining segment, with basic American dishes including salads, shrimp, chicken, pasta, burgers, and “riblets” an Applebee’s signature dish. Most of the units feature a bar area with numerous TVs for viewing sporting events and full alcohol service.

The company frequently runs cost promotions, like “two can eat for twenty” – one appetizer and two entrees from a short list, for $20. Is it a good value or does it get you to spend more than you intended. No idea.

It wouldn’t be a regular stop of mine, but I happened into one in Sikeston, MO, when passing through. Most interstate travelers exiting here might look for a heavily advertised joint, “Lamberts – Home of Throwed Rolls” – but if you’ve done that once, like I have, that’s probably enough.

I had rings for an appetizer and a cheeseburger and fries.  It was ok.  Living in an era of (pick one) (organic, wagyu, grass fed, free range, hand pattied, special blend, ground daily) burgers, it wasn’t a standout. Nice bun. Lots of fresh vegetables for toppings and OK fries.

So it’s a good value. The restaurant, ambiance? Too noisy. The bar and tvs dominate the room, but pretty sure that’s where most of the revenue comes from too.  Service was perfunctory.

It was a highway stop.  That’s all.  Haven’t been in one in decades. Unlikely I’d stop again unless the parking lot was empty.

Applebees Review

 

 

 

 Full menu is online.
Applebee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Applebees Review

Applebees Review

 

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DC Cobbs Review – Woodstock, IL

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DC Cobbs ReviewYou may not have heard of the town of Woodstock, Illinois, but you’d probably recognize if if you were plopped down in the town square.

Is the picture at the left a good enough clue?  Or how about this quote:  “Ned?  Ned Ryerson?”  If it hasn’t come to you, Woodstock is a quaint little town about an hours train ride from downtown Chicago. It’s where most of the outdoor scenes in the movie “Groundhog Day” were shot.

Well, just off the bustling square (full of cute little shops and eateries) is DC Cobbs, a bar and burger place that has won all of the local favorite awards for the past few years.  Usually that’s a red light to me, and I ain’t going. But I was intrigued by some of their menu combinations and the choices one has for assembling a custom burger, so off I went on a Saturday afternoon.

Got there around 2 ish and it wasn’t so busy, so I was able to snare a table next to the window and people watch while waiting for the grub.

Although they have some interesting appetizers, I skipped them to get right to the meat.  Choose your protein: corn or grass fed beef, chicken, bison, ground turkey, or veggie bean.  Chose your bread: brioche, pretzel roll, rye bread (a think in Chicago), grilled cheese or gluten free.  Then there are a whole raft of topping choices, more proteins as toppers, cheeses, vegetables, sauces.

They have about 20 combinations on the menu, if you’re lazy about picking your own, including the “Ned Ryerson.” (Like how all that came full circle?  Kind of like the writing in Pulp Fiction, right? LOL).

I went with the “Blue Streak” a half pound ground beef topped with fried chicken tenders, buffalo sauce and chunky blue cheese dressing. (The chunks were YUGE, I tell you!).  Added rings as a side.  (Fries are standard, but there are about a dozen other items you can choose from).

Tablemate ordered the “Woodstock” topped with fresh mozz, boursin spread and roasted red peppers.

It was all great, came out of the kitchen surprisingly quick, and were cooked precisely as ordered.  The beef itself had wonderful flavor and was a nice grind.

Personal opinion that with all those toppings, they could find a roll a little more substantial than a brioche. It’s not going to survive the meal if you have “wet” toppings.  Pretzel would be firmer, but I’ve been ignoring them for awhile.  It’s a personal thing.

They have different specials that last a whole month.  This month, it’s an Hawaiian theme. for burgers, apps, and hand-helds.

Also on the menu, sandwiches, salads, and assorted other goodies. They’ve just opened a second location in McHenry, IL, another town you probably haven’t heard of, also an hour from downtown Chicago, but more north, not west, like Woodstock.

Server Angelica was top-notch.  She “gets it.”

I will return.  Click for the full menu.

DC Cobbs Review

Mozz, Boursin, Peppers

 

DC Cobbs Review

Tenders, Buffalo Sauce, Blue Cheese

DC Cobb's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
DC Cobbs Review

DC Cobbs Review

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Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review – Nationwide Chain in 46 States

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Sonic Drive In "Slingers" ReviewCan’t say who thought of this concept, but naturally the “Mushroom Council” is excited about it.

The idea is to use finely diced mushrooms and seasonings as an extender for beef with a two-fold goal: to make hamburgers juicier and more flavorful, and also to do a bit for the environment – if we’re using less resources for beef, that’s supposed to be a good thing.

Seems like the suggested percentage is ‘shrooms in the 25-30% range.

Boldy going where no chain has gone before, the people at Sonic jumped on this, and are currently offering two different LTO blended burgers which they call “Slingers.”  Bigger than a slider, not as big as a “regular” burger (tho I have strongly suggested they get with that!).

The “Classic” is cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. An upgrade gives you bacon/cheese without the produce. $1.99 and $2.49, respectively.

An affinity for mushrooms came to me quite late in life. I could possibly be a little shy about some of them still.  But I was committed to diving into this for the sake of you, dear reader.

Glad I did. They ARE tastier. They ARE juicier. You can’t see or ‘taste’ anything mushroomy. At least I couldn’t.

I did enjoy them. I would prefer them over most fast food standard burgers. Nice brioche bun, as well. Soft but sturdy, how we like ’em!

So that’s that.  Sonic menu. All items available all day.  (I like their breakfast “toasters” too, and I’ll always go out of my way for tots over fries).

Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review

“Classic”

Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review

Bacon Cheese Edition

Sonic Drive-in Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review

Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review

 

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Teds Montana Grill Review – Naperville, IL Location

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Teds Montana Grill ReviewAsked to rate restaurants 1-5, 5 being best, usually the most I can muster is a 4.5. Not today, Ted’s Montana Grill gets a solid 5.0+.  The media mogul Ted Turner, creator of the first “superstations” like TBS, and CNN, later to merge with Time Warner, Turner is the 2nd largest landowner in the US, a devout conservation and proud papa of 50,000 bison on his Montana lands.

A relatively new chain, Turner partnered with restaurateur George McKerrow Jr to open the first location in Columbus, Ohio, in 2002.  The basis for the concept was to monetize the effort to save Bison in America.  The theme/attitude of the chain is to show the type of hospitality one can expect from a Montana establishment.

It succeeds on every level.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting, heavily reliant on dark woods. Tables and booths are both comfortable. An ornate bar runs nearly the length of one side of the eatery. A complimentary bowl of half-sours are placed on the table when you are seated. Honestly, I am a pickle nut and these rank among the best I have had anywhere in the world.  I required a refill.

While the menu is heavily Bison-centric, you’re afforded the choice of beef or bison on nearly every meat entree.  All of the other proteins make an appearance on the “Authentic American Dining” menu, as well as a good number of hearty salads and gluten-free options.

I went for the “Montana Breakfast Burger” with a Bison patty, topped with grilled ham, a fried egg, and American cheese. The meat was cooked precisely to my request, the thick slice of ham was quality (I am a ham snob) and the egg was sunnyside.  All place between a bakery soft bun which was substantial to cradle any toppings you cared to add on your own.

One thing I really liked? Burgers come with a choice of one side, there are over a dozen choices, and at Ted’s, a side is a side. They are all of equal value, meaning no “up charge” if you opt for rings or a sweet potato.  More places should have that option.

If you’ve never had Bison (some call if Buffalo), it is leaner and more flavorful than beef, grass fed and pretty much free range. These huge mammals used to dominate all of the continental United States and were nearly wiped out by hunters and diseases from cows as herds of the latter grew in the US.

About 600,000 exist in the US today, including a portion that are wild and roam the West freely.

So I loved the burger, and opted for rings, which were also superb.

Our server, Rich, was affable, courteous, and informative. He checked back often enough to be a good server, but not so often as to be intrusive. Beverages were refilled without having to ask.

Finally, I wanted to comment tha both the restaurant, and washrooms, were antiseptically spotless. That’s somewhat important to me.

I wish I lived closer. I’d be a regular.  And now I’ll look for the chain when I’m out exploring America.  The menu is online, as are the locations.  Find one. Eat. Enjoy.

Good job, Mr. Turner.

Teds Montana Grill Review

Complimentary pickles

Teds Montana Grill Review

Montana Breakfast Burger w/ Rings

 

 

The menu is online, as are the locations.  Find one. Eat. Enjoy.
Ted's Montana Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Teds Montana Grill Review

Teds Montana Grill Review

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Jamesons Original Charhouse Review – Crystal Lake, IL

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Jamesons Original Charhouse ReviewJamesons Original Charhouse is a micro chain with eight locations, six in Illinois, along with a two in South Carolina. They operate some Greek restaurants under different names in South Carolina as well. I imagine Jamesons is what passes for “fine dining” in the ultra-casual world our culture has become (but not in price, for sure).

It’s a meat-centric menu, with (lunch prices) burgers around $11-$12, and steaks in the range of $15-$25. The menu also features sandwiches, pasta, chicken, a couple of seafood entrees and daily specials.

The decor is pleasant and subdued. The service is fine, actually, I was surprised at how many people they had working, seemed like a lot. I was there with a friend who felt like it was important to be there.  He was buying, so sure, I’m in.

I had the “Black and Blue” burger at $10.95, 10 ounces of black Angus beef (most American beef is black Angus), and included is a cup of soup, house-made chips/fries, slaw and a pickle. Bread for the table is offered. Soup included is pretty standard around here, and they are usually good. (But also a strong motivation not to order an appetizer – but we did).

The burger was topped with blue cheese crumbles and place under the broiler for a second, don’t see that often.  Or ever. Accompaniments were fine.

It was a weekday lunch and it was crowded. People that came in after us had to wait for tables.

This is a perfectly fine experience and meal for most people. Nothing, in particular, grabbed me enough that I would go back of my own initiative.

They are apparently well-liked enough to have many locations and they constantly win area “best of” awards.

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Blue Cheese Burger

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Jameson's Charhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

Jamesons Original Charhouse Review

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Paradise Pup Review, Des Plaines, IL

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A Chicago legend for decades, this suburban hot doggery shines when it comes to the basic Chicago fare of dogs, burgers, sausages, crinkle cut fries, shakes and the like. Cash only, order from the counterman (who’s extremely patient, even with newbies) and wait for your delish food to be cooked to order. There are a couple of tables outside, or you can grab yours to go.  Limited parking, too, so squeeze in tight.

It’s not far from O’Hare if you have time to kill, and also close to the massive Des Plaines casino.  Also nearby you’ll find (for a limiited time, they are tearing it down), a replica of the very first McDonalds built under the Kroc empire.  Pup’s menu.

The food is exceptional, hot, cooked to order, quality ingredients throughout.

 

Paradise Pup Reivew

Paradise Pup Review

Burger and Cheese fries

Paradise Pup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Paradise Pup Review

Paradise Pup Review

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