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Archive for the ‘Hot Dogs’ Category

StoneRidge Meat Snack Sticks Review


StoneRidge Bratwurst ReviewAn affinity for all things butchered and old world sausage making brought together the principals that started StoneRidge Meat and Country Market, now known as StoneRidge Piggly Wiggly.

Located in mid-Wisconsin, thirty minutes west of the Fox River Valley, the market serves grocery shoppers and sausage aficionados from a wide radius. Why sausage lovers? StoneRidge has built a superb in-house meat department, specializing in a wide variety of cured, uncured, and flavored meats, and are particularly known for their dozens of bratwurst flavors.

StoneRidge produces a widely-enjoyed meat snack sticks, also made in flavors, including original, pepperjack, habanero, honey BBQ, teriyaki and more. I tried out their .Bacon and Cheddar variety.

I think that a Philadelphia entrepreneur, Adolph Levis, who had built a business selling specialty foods to bars and delis, is credited with ‘inventing’ the beef snack stick in the 1940s, though I believe it was probably inspired by the German snack “Landjager.” Levis thought America was in need of a portable, ready-to-eat version of sausage.

There are certainly companies much larger than StoneRidge that make beef sticks, but probably none that produce a product of this quality. The “big guys” tend to have “mechanically separated poultry” as a prime ingredient, but in the StoneRidge variety, you’ll find beef, pork, and flavor seasonings. Period.

What I liked about the StoneRidge product is the distinct flavoring, a coarser grind than most competitors, meaning there’s no doubt in your mind this is a real meat product.

There are a lot of other reasons to enjoy StoneRidge snack sticks:

  • They are extremely portable – take hiking, camping, tailgating,   have in your office drawer, or the kid’s school lunches.
  • They are a high protein, low carb snack.
  • They are gluten-free.
  • Ounce for ounce, they are one-third the price of beef jerky.

Great taste. Good value. Get yours at your local grocer, or browse the online catalog and order direct from StoneRidge.  While you’re waiting for your package of deliciousness to arrive, follow StoneRidge on Twitter and Facebook.

StoneRidge Bratwurst Review

        Bacon & Cheddar Meat Snack Sticks






StoneRidge Meat Snack Sticks Review


Daisy Hot Dogs Review


Daisy Hot Dogs ReviewHad a hankering to make coney island style hot dogs, with my ho-made delicious sauce (recipe), so I needed some natural casing hot dogs.  Gotta have that “snap” when you’re dripping coney sauce down your shirt. (BTW, in the industry, that “snap” is referred to as “knack” – from the German word for “crack.”)

Alas, one grocery had no natural casing dogs, across the street, where they usually have three or four options, today they had only one, “Daisy Brand,” a Chicago product, “since 1925.”  Made by the Crawford Sausage Company, a few miles southwest of the Loops.

It’s a pork/beef product, very mild, with a minimum of additives. Tasty. All natural casing dogs run very close to the same price, unless they are on sale. They’ll cost you about a buck a dog. Well worth it.  What I like about them over some competitors is they are “pure savory,” you can’t taste any added sweetener which seems to be so common these days.  Full ingredient list: PORK, BEEF, WATER, NONFAT DRY MILK, SODIUM LACTATE, SEASONING (DEXTROSE, SPICES, SALT, PAPRIKA, HYDROLYZED PROTEIN FROM SOY, FLAVORINGS, CARAMEL COLOR), SALT, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, PAPRIKA, SODIUM NITRITE.  (No corn syrup solids, yay!)

These pups are made in the Crawford factory on South Pulaski, pictured below. Looks like they are working on setting up online ordering.

And oh yes, the coneys turned out JUST fine….

Daisy Hot Dog Review

Daisy Hot Dog Review






Daisy Hot Dogs Review


Shake Shack Chicago Review


Shake Shack Chicago ReviewI am generally prepared to not be so wild about places that receive a huge amount of hype; as an example, I found Umami Burger to be……..something worth laughing about.

And when citiy’s make their “best of the best” list, those are always awful, like Stanich’s in Portland, or Port of Call in New Orleans.

Around the year 2000, New York acclaimed chef Danny Meyer, owner of restaurants including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard, The Modern, Cafe 2 and Terrace 5 at MoMA and others, started fooling around with burgers from a trailer in a NY park, using high quality ingredients, and cooked to order burgers and fries.  Today there are about 50 Shake Shacks in the US, and another dozen overseas, with the promise of “up to 450” coming.

In physical appearance, the burger looks like an offering from In N Out (another place I think is high-overrated, and I don’t get it), but the similarity ends there.

Meyer sourced his ground beef from the best burger meat company in the world, Pat LaFrieda,  and the fresh, soft (but supportive) potato buns are from Martin’s. Fresh chopped condiments are good and crisp.

The burger patty is thin, smashed, and crispy around the edges which is perfect for my personal tastes, and the meat has flavor all on it’s own, and to me, that’s how I judge a great burger.

The Shackburger (see complete menu) is a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Shack Sauce.  When questioned about the latter, the countr person said “it’s our own, house-made, spicy mayo.”  What a great answer, huh?   And it was tasty.

Crinkle cut fries are the side, and there were apparently complaints early in the chain’s life about their quality, so they went to a fresh cut, cooked to order fry. They’re fine, not spectacular, but adequate as an accompaniment to the star of the show.

You can check out Shake Shack’s full menu here.  Track one down near you.

The group is off to a hot start, did a monster IPO this year, and clearly shows how they stand out from segment leader McDonalds;  the average per store annual sales for a Shake Shack location is nearly $4,000,000 – which is about twice what the average McDonald’s takes in.

BTW, this downtown Chicago location was totally jammed, but the wait to order and get your food goes fairly fast.  Single burger around $6.00.

Shake Shack Chicago Review


Shake Shack Chicago Review
Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Shake Shack Chicago Review


Kojaks Review – Cary, IL


One of hundreds (thousands) of independent “hot dog” (for lack of a better description) stands, Kojaks, in the Chicago NW suburb of Cary, serves satisfying Chicago staples, cooked to order, at value pricing.  Dogs, sausage, burgers, gyros with the proper side dishes, and an expanded menu that includes items beyond what most of its competitors offer.

Located right across the street from the Cary Metra station, Kojaks is apparently a big supported of local youth sports, too, which is a good thing.   Kojaks is similar to Mr. Beefy’s, just down the street, but I think Kojak’s has a leg up (or two) on them.

Open Monday through Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM, closed on Sundays.

Restaurant menu.  Catering menu.

Kojaks Review Cary

Cheeseburger and Fries


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Kojaks Review


National Hot Dog Day at Meatheads


July 23 each year is designated as “National Hot Dog Day,” (July is National Hot Dog Month!)  and why not? Each summer, during the “hot dog season” Americans consume 7 billion (yes, with a “B”) hot dogs between Memorial and Labor Day.

Meatheads, a fast growing burger chain in the Chicago area, serves their hot dogs “New England Style” which means the bun is more like a piece of toast in the shape of a bun, but not as crunchy, of course.

While many places had special hot dog deals for the “holiday,” I chose Meatheads because they serve the top quality dogs from Chicago’s Vienna Beef company.

I had mine with mustard and kraut, and a side of Meathead’s most excellent fries.

Check this company out. Locations. Menu.

National Hot Dog Deal Meatheads

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National Hot Dog Day


Kookers Review – Barrington, IL


Kookers Review BarringtonI am one of the world’s biggest fans of mom and pop businesses of any ilk, and that goes double for the restaurant biz, a segment so terribly difficult even under the best of circumstances.

Kookers has served the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington for at least thirty years, that I am aware of, perched on US Highway 14.  It was previously in a smaller facility on the north side of the road, and within the past few years, moved to a larger facility across the street.  It was for sale for awhile before the move, not sure if it changed hands or not, but based on visits years ago, I would guess it has different owners.

They serve a typical “Chicago” menu of fast food, burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, gyros, fried sides, plus some extended offerings in different day parts.  Menu.

I so wanted to come away from my latest visit bubbling over with enthusiasm, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I popped in mid afternoon and was the only customer, except for a man engaged in conversation with the counter person, apparently a conversation so engaging that it was more important than waiting on me.  Strike one.

I place my order, for a cheeseburger (they have many cheeses to choose from, I went with blue) and walked into the bathroom.  Wasn’t antiseptically clean and parts of it seemed to be held together with scotch tape and wire.  The entrance to the men’s room is through a hallway which was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of various restaurant supplies.  Strike 2.  I don’t want to see that.  I fear that standards of (lack of) organization or ‘cleanliness’ extends throughout an establishment.

It didn’t take long for the burger to be ready, but it really wasn’t anything special, a machine-formed patty and put together with a not very aesthetically pleasing appearance.  Strike 2.5?

I gathered up some sections of newspaper that were laying around, perused them while eating my burger, which I finished in short order.  Got up to leave (still the only customer) without any acknowledgement from the employee (“thanks!”  “come back soon”).

My recollection of the previous long-time owner was people supported him for a couple reasons;  one, he made a point to ‘know’ every customer and be hospitable, and two, he prided himself on quality ingredients.

Neither appears to be the case at the “new” Kookers, sadly.

Kookers Barrington Review
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Kookers Review


Boars Head Hot Dogs Review


Boars Head Franks ReviewIt’s “hot dog week” for me, here in the middle of “National Hot Dog Month,” and in advance of “National Hot Dog Day.”

Well, I don’t need an official designation to celebrate hot dogs, I love them and they are a part of my regular “diet.”

I’m especially fond of natural casing dogs, unfortunately, most of America isn’t, NC’s make up less than five percent of the hot dogs sold in the country.

Especially an all beef dog, with minimal additives and preservatives, that’s the ticket.

Today I’m having Boar’s Head weenies, a company that started in the early 1900s in Brooklyn, and is now a national manufacturer and distributor of real size, sell sausages, deli meat, cheese, and condiments.

The Boar’s Head dog ingredient list is short: beef, water, paprika, salts, flavorings in a sheep casing. Perfect.

Around here, they are about $7.50 a pound, or a buck a dog, and that seems to be the price point for most quality NC dogs.

Boar’s Head I can depend on and purchase almost anywhere in the country. When I’m in the Midwest, I like one from a brand called “Old Wisconsin,” and of course, the legendary Chicago manufacturer, Vienna Beef.

Have a dog or ten to celebrate the month and grillin’ season!  Boar’s Head are manufactured in their plant at Jarratt, VA, USDA establishment number M12612, pictured below.  Jarratt is on I-95, about 40 miles south of Richmond.

Boars Head Franks Review

Boar’s Head Virginia Plant






Boars Head Hot Dogs Review


National Hot Dog Month


July is National Hot Dog Month, and we’re knee deep into the middle of the “hot dog season” in America.  The 4th holiday is one of our peak dog days. So here’s the poop on America’s favorite (and most portable) food!

Top Hot Dog Consuming Cities 2014

  • Los Angeles Hot Dog Consumption Statistics
  • New York
  • Atlanta
  • Philadelphia
  • Chicago
  • Birmingham
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Francisco

Los Angeles residents consume more hot dogs than any other city (more than 39 million), beating out New York and Atlanta.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport consumes SIX times more hot dogs, 725,000 more than Los Angeles International Airport and LaGuardia Airport combined.

On Independence Day, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.

During peak hot dog season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. That’s 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period.

Los Angeles Dodger fans are expected to consume a record 3,077,537 in 2014. Across the major leagues, fans are expected to eat 21.4 million hot dogs in 2014.

At the Grocery Store

According to data for the year 2014, nearly 1 billion packages of hot dogs were sold at retail stores. That number represents more than $2.5 billion in retail sales.

Baseball Games

According to the National Hot Dog Council’s (yes, there is one)  2014 survey of hot dog and sausage consumption at major league ballparks in the United States, ballparks are expected to sell 21,357,361 hot dogs this season.

The Season

Hot dog producers estimate that an average of 38 percent or $614 million of the total number of hot dogs are sold during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Ten percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July,


Duluth Huskies Baseball, Hot Dogs, and an Arco Coffee Can (1 pound)


Duluth Huskies(Pay attention here, cause I am going to veer wildly off topic!)

My brother went to a baseball game last night (along with 700 other hearty souls), the Duluth Huskies, a team in the summer collegiate league; the game was held at Wade Stadium in West Duluth, which seats 4200, and was built as a WPA project with over 300,000 bricks that another WPA project had produced by stripping brick paved streets in Duluth.  Relevant to nothing, it was 45 degrees during the game.

From the early 1930s through the 90s, Wade Stadium was home to various versions of the “Duluth Dukes,” a single A team at time affiliated with the Cardinals, Tigers, Cubs, or White Sox over the years.

Twelve players from the 1968 Detroit Tigers World Series championship team played for the Duluth-Superior Dukes of the 1960s, including Denny McLain, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, and John Hiller.

McLain was playing for the ’66 Dukes, when my grandfather took  a bunch of us grand kids to a game on the night of July 3. Some of my siblings and cousins were in attendance, but I don’t remember my brother being there, of course at that time, he was old enough to be far too cool to do family stuff.

My grandfather, an immigrant, whose motto was “live every day until you die,” did. A snuff user, he used to have a 1 pound empty Arco coffee can on the dash or floor of his Oldsmobile, which served as a handy spittoon.  I don’t remember much about the game, or the night, except the next morning, learning that my grandfather had passed in his sleep.

The Huskies have local owners these days, including a gentleman named Mike Rosenzweig, a guy who I have a shared history with:  in seventh grade, he, I and two other guys suffered the humiliation of being dressed in leiderhosen and appearing as a German “Oom-pah-pah” band at the junior hight “talent show” at the insistence of a sadistic band instructor.  An experience I am sure we would all like to put behind us.

I can’t say what it’s like to own a summer collegiate baseball team, but if you ever get a chance to invest in an A, AA, or AAA team affiliated with one of the majors, grab it – it’s a fabulous revenue model, unequaled in any industry I know of.

But back on the  topic of this site.  My brother and his group enjoyed a bevy of traditional baseball treats at the game, at minor league prices – a hot dog ($3.25), bratwurst ($4.75), pretzel ($3.00), popcorn,  peanuts, cracker jacks, and Swedish Fish ?! ($3.00) — and a good time was had by all.  (Except I have no idea who would put ketchup on a bratwurst!).

And by the way?  Last night, the Huskies came from behind, and topped Thunder Bay, 4-3.

Duluth Huskies

Duluth Huskies

Duluth Huskies


Prima Della Pastrami Review (Wal Mart’s House Brand)


Prima Della Pastrami ReviewI’ve looked at several pastrami (and corned beef) brands recently, including the grocery store version of NYC’s  Carnegie Deli, Vienna Beef, from Chicago, and Dietz & Watson.

Today I picked up a pound of “Prima Della,” ($9.99) which is the Wal Mart deli counter’s in-house brand.

According to the USDA plant number on the package, the pastrami is manufactured by Best Provision, LLC, out of Newark, New Jersey.  According to their website, Best is a family owned and operated concern, more than six decades old, and they focus on private label manufacturing of cooked beef products.  For most of their products, they offer a choice of three different grades, “Certified Angus,” “USDA choice,”  and “ungraded.”

No idea which ilk of meat Wal Mart chooses for their selections.

Wal Mart deli meats are priced at 15-25% less than the ‘national brands,” and for some deli counter products, this might be OK.

While the Prima Della pastrami looks and smells like a quality product,  it’s one of those prepared meat products which really falls down on texture or “chewability.”  So many deli meats (and roasts, chickens, and pork roasts) today have that same texture, and it’s really started to bug me.  I have no idea what happens in the manufacturing process to cause this malady, but I suspect it has to do with that phrase one often sees emblazoned on packages (“injected with a XX% solution of XXXX”), which I generally believe is used to soften (and/or flavor) meat muscle and is most like a salt-derivative product, but it’s also a way for manufacturers to add 10% or more weight to their product at little or no cost.

I don’t like it.  In an effort to please the masses, food manufacturers are making products as  ‘palatable’  (and tender) as possible.  Hence, these products no longer taste or chew like animal flesh.  Think of brine injected meats as the Fox News of the meat manufacturing world.

For my money, I’ll keep spending the extra 20% or so to get whole muscle, no additive, deli meats.  While they are still being made.

Best Provisions LLC is located on Avon Avenue, right behind Millie’s Restaurant, which offers Spanish cuisine from 6 AM seven days a week, and free delivery, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Prima Della Pastrami Review

Best Provision Factory

Prima Della Pastrami Review

Aerial, Best Provision Factory

Prima Della Pastrami Review

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