Archive for the ‘Hamburgers’ Category
In 1964, Sianas moved the bar to its current subterranean location, and it’s here, underneath Chicago’s Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue, that the modern part of the legend originated.
The bar was located midway between the Chicago Tribune Tower and the rival Chicago Sun Times building; it became a popular hangout of reporters trying to steal each others scoops (or brag about their own).
1978,the 3rd season of Saturday Night Live, and cast members John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray did a sketch about the fictional “Olympia Cafe” which paid homage to the proprietor and staff of the Billy Goat. At the Olympia there was no food choice other than cheeseburgers and chips, no drinks but Pepsi, and the refrains uttered comedically by Belushi (with a “Greek accent”) were actually heard frequently at the Billy Goat.
Fast forward today the Billy Goat has multiple locations, but the ambiance of the original remains intact. As you walk down the stairs from Michigan Avenue, you might think you’re walking into the river or some dark hell, but at the bottom the welcome neon of the Billy Goat beckons you in.
They have apparently made a licensing deal with Devanco, a Chicago foods company that started in 1993 and was purchased and amped up in 2004. Previously, they sold mostly supplies to Greek restaurants, like gyro meat, pitas, and sauces.
They’ve expanded to the retail arena, and in addition to Greek offerings like a home Gyro Kit, they manufacture and distribute foods for Mike Ditka’s brand. Their (his) version of Italian beef is superb.
This week (4/24/17) Devanco started selling 2 pound boxes of 100% ground beef patties with Billy Goat’s name on them; there are two versions, 5 patties to a pound, or 3 patties to a pound. The two pound boxes check out at over $12, and that’s a lot.
The patties are made in Devanco’s suburban Chicago plant (pictured below).
I’ve tried quite a few ‘heat and eat’ burgers, and not really been happy with them, and especially those that are restaurant branded like Trader Joe’s, Pasture Perfect Kobe, Fatburger or Steak N Shake.There are both raw products (like Billy Goat’s) and there are some fully cooked patties available as well, like Ball Park brand‘s version. I’ve also tried maybe dozens of microwave, c-store, vending machine burgers, you can find those on the site by searching for “gas station food” or “heat and eat.”
The cooking instructions for the Billy Goat are no different than most frozen patties, skillet, medium heat, 3-4 minutes one side (until the juices start to ooze through), flip, couple more minutes.
I was eager to taste these since they have zero additives. As in NONE. Some brands of frozen patties include beef broth, cow heart(!!) and liquid smoke. Here I’m getting cow only. So what’s the verdict?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. I am not going to, under any circumstances I can think of, pay $12 for frozen burger patties. No matter if they were the best burger you ever had, that’s a good 30-40% above their largest competitors.
Second bit of ‘bad news.’ The patties are packaged in 5 packs inside the box. Which means I have to separate, put in a different bag or container and refreeze any that I don’t use at the time. Luckily, the patties are separated by what the industry calls “patty paper,” which makes them easy to separate.
So I removed one and semi-followed the instructions. With a frozen patty at medium heat, I flipped after 3 minutes and went 2 more. I tasted the plain patty first before dressing it and putting it on a Martin’s Potato Roll (not what the Billy Goat uses, tho). Dressed with a half sour dill, raw onion and yellow mustard.
Flavor was very beefy, which is good, seems most frozen patties have some sort of strange “undercurrent” of taste, at least to me, and this one doesn’t. I’m also happy with the texture, which closely resembles the grind you’d find in grocery ground beef. Some competitors reduce their “beef” and other ingredients to a slurry before sending them to the patty forming machine.
In other words, I’m happy with the product, and it does justice to the burger served in the restaurant. I think they’d be great on a charcoal grill.
I’ll be interested to see how this product does. You have to be a certain age to get the whole SNL connection, and outside of Chicago, it’s not that the Billy Goat is a global iconic brand name.
I said this post was about one part of the Billy Goat legend. There’s a whole other story there. Think Chicago Cubs. Here’s the dope if you’re interested.
Billy Goat Frozen Burger Review
Fatsos Last Stand, in Chicago west of the Loop, is retro and haute cuisine at the same time. Conceived as a neighborhood hot dog stand, the original owner committed to delivering the best of class food possible.
And he achieved it, with damned tasty burgers, Chicago style hot dogs, and fried shrimp (another Chicago staple).
I went with the “single Fatso with cheese” and my friend had a Chicago style dog; both were cooked on a grill that imparted a nice char flavor and texture, which will improve any food.
Fresh cut fries were the order of the day, only because I didn’t notice that they had cheese tots on the menu. DAMMIT. (Scroll down for menu).
A lot of people compare this burger to In N Out, but I personally feel Fatso’s is a much better burger. Shakes are also on offer.
Exceptional food all around, fun experience. Take the kids.
Fatso’s is in an area of town called “Ukrainian Village,” so there is a plethora of Russia restaurants, groceries and cathedrals. It makes for an interesting urban adventure, walking around, checking out the shops until your appetite (or the charcoal grill aroma) pulls you in to Fatsos. (Easily accessible by mass transit, Damen or Division stops on the CTA Blue Line).
And so many are bogus, anyway, aren’t they? I wonder what kind of person it takes to completely trash a restaurant based on some (usually imagined) slight, like “My water had ice cubes in it?” “We were VERY nice to the waitress but it didn’t help.” “I didn’t want onions on it, even tho the menu said that, and I didn’t tell you otherwise.”
I can imagine these people as children: “Wah, you didn’t cut the crusts of my sammich!” “What do you mean you washed my favorite shirt?” Whatever.
None of them have the slightest clue about how difficult it is to start and run an independent restaurant, and then add 4-5 more of the same concept over a few years. Somebody’s blood, sweat, tears, money, debt, and 100 hour weeks. Nor do the whiners have any concept of what it’s like to be a server, one of the least appreciated jobs around, where no matter how big of a jerk your customer is, you’re expected to be ultra sweet and polite to every one. I couldn’t do it. Either. For sure.
So as for me, I look for the redeeming things in every restaurant experience, because I take into account the points I listed above. I have ‘elastic boundaries.’ And I like to be surprised to the point where the reality of a meal experience far exceeds my expectations.
And after that long line of B.S. above, we come to the heart of the matter, my experience at Milwaukee Burger Company (MBC), at their Kenosha location.
This indy has five locations in SE Wisconsin. And during my visit, they exceeded every one of my expectations.
MBC has taken local ingredients to create American cuisine that just rocks. While there are some creative takes on the menu, the chef didn’t feel the urge to go crazy by reinventing American classics.
This is a burger shop. And craft beer. And they excel at both.
So here’s the deal: server – John. Knowledgeable. Friendly. Interested in our experience. Conscientious checking back.
Hamburger. I had the Cheese Curd cheeseburger, which had two giant curds atop the patty (see pic below). If you’re not from or been thru Wisconsin, cheese curds are a pretty standard offering but most of them are pretty awful, reminiscent of those fried cheese sticks in bars.
Curds are not supposed to be like that, and these certainly aren’t. MBC starts with a sizable cube of (choice of) fresh cheese, and douses it with their own unique breading formula before frying it just to the point of the breading being crisp and the cheese starting to melt. Perfect. These should be the standard by which all other curds are judged. I’m not joking, pal.
Onion rings for an appetizer. I’ve had the pleasure (privilege?) of dining in 65 countries, and o-rings are one of my go-to foods to try every where. Spoiler alert? Without a doubt, no questions asked, no contest, MBC makes the best rings I have had anywhere on the planet.
They start with large slices of sweet onion, again into their special batter which somehow ends up being crispy and fluffy at the same time without being overbearing. I like a lighter breading on my rings, not those kind that are more like a string of onion inside a donut. Two of us couldn’t finish an order. A very generous serving, and a good value.
Finally, the burger. I dissemble them, that’s my thing. I want to see how I like each part of a burger before seeing how I like the entire experience. And of course, the beef patty has to be the star of the show, and at MBC it surely it. Great beef flavor, a light seasoning, nice texture. A very pleasurable experience.
The menu offers a variety of ‘pre-designed’ choices for burgers, or the build your own option, with lots of choices for cheese, toppings, and condiments.
The burger comes nestled on a bakery soft, brushed with butter bun, which is sturdy enough to hold whatever you choose to top your burger with. And as I am sure you are aware, flimsy buns can be a problem at many places.
I upgraded my side to get the poutine, which, if you’re not familiar, is the national snack dish of Canada, available everywhere you go up North. It’s fries (here, superb fresh cut), brown gravy, and cheese curds (not fried), and MBC’s “interpretation” is great. Too many chefs today think this is one of those things they can ‘gussy up’ with weird ingredients. Loved this one.
All in all? I’m enthused enough that I will drive the hour that it takes me to get to one of their locations to try many more things on the menu. To me, it is that good. Congrats, people!!! Oh, and I’m not a craft beer drinker, but if you are, you’ll be more than happy with the selections available.
Was there anything I didn’t like? Sure, but that’s just me. Most people will find the wall to wall TV’s with sports enjoyable. Whenever I’m in a joint like that, I always wish they could have one TV on
CNN or something. But you (I) don’t have to watch, either. Afterthought: MBC thoughtfully provides take home boxes constructed out of paper products, instead of plastic or foam. Appreciated on so many levels!
Milwaukee Burger Company Review
Often these are from one of the industry giants, Advance Pierre, (hereinafter AP) which also recently acquired a sizable competitor, Landshire. Past reviews on this site include Advance Pierre’s Sausage and Cheese Biscuit, Big Az Cheeseburger, and their Pretzel Cheeseburger.
Today I checked out their cheeseburger sliders, which were found at Dollar Tree, packaged two in a box. These can generally be thought to compete with frozen White Castle sliders.
The Advance Pierre sliders are microwave ready, about a minute, but using the “old method” of removing the sandwiches from their plastic wrapping and tucking them into a paper towel. This used to be White Castle’s instructions also, but now theirs are heating directly in their packaging.
In the case of either sandwich, it can be difficult to master the heating process. One can end up with a part that’s rock hard or ice cold. Today, heating worked out pretty universally successful.
The AP‘s buns are much softer than White Castle’s, tho substantial enough to deal with the burger and any toppings you care to add. The burger has less flavor than White Castle, probably due to the latter having the equivalent of the restaurant’s flavor/method of being cooked on a bed of onions.
The AP ingredient list lists “cooked onion” but the flavor isn’t evident. I was surprised, but happy about the fact, that AP’s patties aren’t bathed in liquid smoke, as a lot of heat and eat burgers are, a method to simulate outdoor grilling.
All in all, with condiments of my (or your choice), this is a pretty good product for a quick snack, or to pop something economical in your kid’s mouths. They aren’t terribly unhealthy in terms of fat, sodium, or carbs.
I’ll buy them again, and keep a few on hand. Why not?
Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre
Sporting an English pub decor, the Village Squire is a mini chain with four locations in the W / NW Suburbs of Chicago.
The menu includes quite a few small plates that you could share (but you don’t have to!), burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, steak, chicken, fish, and pastas.
We happened to land on Tuesday, which is half-price burger day, any burger on the menu, and there are a lot of combinations to choose from.
They start with a half pound, served with pickle, lettuce, tomato and any other toppings you choose, with side options including steak fries, house made chips, cottage cheese, cole slaw, rice, baked potato, sweet potato fries, rings, fruit, or soup. (the last four require a slight up charge, but less than you’re used to seeing!).
I zeroed in on the bacon/bleu burgers with rings. Superb. Tasty meat patty, good grind, substantial bun.
Full bar, occasional live music, sports tvs, video gaming, nooks and crannies for tables. And like most places, the thing that made the experience was the deft handling by server Jackie F. She was not only affable and menu knowledgeable, she asked questions above and beyond standard service expectations.
A simple example, we asked for glasses of water, and she asked if we’d like lemons with it. YES! So she brought a small dish. And like that.
So, two burgers, sides, drinks, $14. I’ll be back. Often. Thanks, Jackie!
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.
I have to say from the outset, me and frozen burger patties don’t get along. I’ve tried a boatload of different brands. To me, they have a taste and texture in common that I personally don’t find appealing.
I think probably many of them are marketed to be tossed on your charcoal or gas grill, which considerably changes the experience – but fried on the stovetop? Nope.
So I was skeptical when I spotted “Pasture Perfect American Style Kobe Beef Burgers.” First off, of course you know I object to meat being marketed as “Kobe,” cause 99.99999999999999999999 % of the time it’s not. “Kobe Beef” is a product which comes from a specific breed of cow (Wagyu) and is raised in a specified manner in the area of Kobe, Japan.
Wagyu cattle have been imported to the US, New Zealand, and Australia and it’s the flesh of these animals you frequently see marketed as “Kobe.” The giveaway? If the restaurant you’re at is offering a “Kobe” burger for $12 or $20, it’s not Kobe. You can purchase ‘real’ Kobe online – but get a second mortgage first, here’s one source: http://www.miyazakigyu.com/.
But on to Pasture Perfect. The package promises Wagyu cattle free range, open pasture, 100% grass fedno antibiotics or added hormones. The cattle is raised in New Zealand, and processed in Los Angeles at a re-processor, First Class Foods, in Hawthorne, which has been around since 1962. (Factory pix below).
First Class processes beef, pork and other proteins into retail and food service portions. They also manufacture some heat and eat meals for food service.
The package is one pound, and contains two 8 ounce patties. No idea why they would market it like this instead of smaller portions. I thawed before frying in cast-iron, most directions I have seen call for you to prepare Kobe “low and slow,” but this isn’t ‘real’ Kobe, so I seared and then finished on medium.
I prepared it without and seasoning, and plated it without condiments or toppings. Took a bite. Wow. Tastes like a good steak. Steak texture too. No hint of “artificial smoke” flavoring, no painted on grill marks. It’s good. But expensive. About the most you’d ever pay for a pound of ground beef.
How much would I be willing to pay, to eat them on a regular basis? I think no more than $6 a pound. And even that’s a stretch.
Pasture Perfect Burger Review
Pasture Perfect Burger Review
Pasture Perfect Burger Review
Damn, I love it when a place far exceeds my expectations. I was on the prowl for a new burger in the NW burbs of Chicago and stumbled upon this micro-sized diner offering burgers, sandwiches, and some Greek specialties.
I was intrigued by the “Zeus” burger, which promised a quality beef patty topped with Saganaki (a Greek-style cheese that has been flambed), tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, dill), and other toppings of your choice.
It was fantastic! Hearty bun, nice flavor in the lean beef patty, cooked to order. Looking at the menu, I also noticed they had kalamata olives for some items, and they would have been a good add-on for this style burger. I’ll remember to ask next time.
Bombas also offers “Greek fries,” which are oven baked, doused with lemon juice and sprinkled with feta. Delish.
If you’re not looking for this place, you might miss it, in a small strip mall next to a large pawn shop. And it seems Google maps has its location a little off the actual place. Or it seemed so to me.
I hope these guys have lots of success. They use quality ingredients with attention to preparation and presentation – at a fair price. Oh yeah, I’ll be back. Oh yeah, outrageously good dill spears, too!
A portion of the menu is below.
A pub/grill, not the song. Tho the song is one of my favorites. Let’s pause, shall we?
The Penny Lane Pub is a modestly sized bar and grill with daily specials, live music on weekends, and open til 3 AM. They have a good bar menu with pizza, sandwiches, wings, tacos, and of course burgers.
I went with the “Olive Burger” which is kind of a thing in the Chicago area, a burger patty topped with sliced green or black olives. On some menus, it’s called a “Queen Burger,” and I’ve never been able to find out how it came into being. It was right up there in the mighty fine category, as were the fresh cut fries. Great beef taste, ample sized, bun substantial enough to hold all manner of toppings. Delish.
Penny Lane obviously buys quality ingredients, and fresh, attractive produce. The kitchen again, obviously, takes pride in their presentation.
Despite its location in Barrington, one of the poshest Chicago suburbs, I found the prices to be very modest. Sandwiches and drinks for two, $14.00.
Not far down the road, you can easily pay double that (or more) at other Barrington watering holes.
I’ll do it again, to check out the pizza and some of the nightly specials, you betcha. The location is on a not very well traveled road, but easy to find, head north of I-90 on highway 59 and hang a left on Penny Road, the joint is just ahead on your left.
Penny Lane Review
Grover’s Grill and Bar, at 412 Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, IL, sits across the highway from the FRG Metra station. It’s been Grover’s for maybe 3 years. I think it was a Mexican restaurant before that, I had never been in there.
They did some remodeling before opening, took out a couple walls, added a game room, video slots, and a raft of wall-mounted big screen TVs to catch your favorite game.
The menu includes all the Chicago-area favorites: thin crust pizza, cheese cruds, sliders, nachos, tacos, Italian beef and other sandwich favorites, soups, wraps and salads. An extensive selection of custom ‘burgers’ is available as well. Choose from a beef, turkey, chicken breast, tenders or veggie patty, and graze on one of their signature configurations like “The Norge” (bacon, blue cheese and frizzled onions), “The Grover” (Pepper jack cheese, roasted pablanos, red onion and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun).
Or build your own from a selection of a wide host of toppings.
Pizzas are available in 10, 12, 14, of 16 inch sizes, with an extensive list of ingredients you can choose for toppings, including many not available at most pizza places. Gluten free pies are available in one size, 11″.
I had the Norge burger and it was WAY above my expectations. The amply-sized angus beef patty had great flavor and texture, and the toppings were all fresh and plentiful. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries, also great. Affable, courteous service, too. I’d do it again. I will do it again.
Grover’s is open til midnight Sunday thru Thursday, and til 2AM Friday and Saturday. And they deliver in the area. www.groversgrillandbar.com