Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category
Hit another ethno-centric market this weekend; Malincho promises a full selection of Bulgarian meats, cheese, canned and boxed groceries.
They didn’t disappoint, although the store was considerably smaller than I imagined it would be, having based my impression via their online presence.
They have a good selection, but if you don’t speak or read Bulgarian, be sure to take along the Google translate app. While most imported groceries I see have a ‘stick on label’ with English ingredients and nutrition, most items here didn’t.
The freezers are full of specialty meat products, primarily made by Tandem, a Bulgarian company that purchased a small processor in Schaumburg, IL (pictured below) to make and distribute Bulgarian specialty meats. There are a lot of great dried salamis and related products that I was happy to pick up. Also grabbed some imported cheeses, fruit juice, and olive pate.
I’d hit it again. It’s got a small sign in a strip mall off Mannheim, so keep your eyes peeled to the right if traveling north!
Open daily at 1475 Lee St, Des Plaines, IL 60018, and some items are available to purchase online. Prices in the store seem very reasonable.
Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review
Some weeks ago, I wrote about an Italian deli I stumbled on in suburban Chicago. Nottoli’s has a great selection of house-made sausages, pastas and an ample selection of imported Italian canned and box goods.
This week I hit Felicia’s, an Italian-centric meat market and deli in Schaumburg.
Felicia’s is smaller in size than Nottoli’s, but there’s no shortage of quality goodies.
The store has two narrow aisles as you walk in, on the right are freezer cases of pre-made frozen meals for two, as well as home-made soups. Lining the other side of the right hand aisle are canned tomatoes, sauces, and pasta.
As you round the bend at the back of the store, you’ll come to the deli case, well-staffed and able to take care of a crush of customers simultaneously. In addition to house-made meats, like Italian sausage, franks, and meatballs, they also carry Boar’s Head brand deli meats, a wide assortment of cheese and house-made salads, like buffalo/tomato and cold pastas.
I scored some hot Italian rope sausage and meatballs. The sausage is very flavorful and has a little heat. The meatballs are dense (the way I like them, not all crumbly) and only lightly seasoned. When I make them at home, I’ve been accused of using too much fennel. But hey, I’m at the stove, not you!
Felicia’s will make you sandwiches to go, on demand, and also do catering. Both menus are shown below.
Nice people, knowledgeable, helpful, quality goods. I like. Most everything I purchased I thought was a good value.
Felicia’s opens daily at 8AM, til 6PM Monday – Friday, 5 PM Satuday, and 2 PM Sunday. Map follows at the bottom of the post.
Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review
I have so much admiration for people who start a restaurant with just a concept in mind and build a business from the ground up. It’s a really tough, competitive segment – the best statistics available recently show 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years. Any start-up is tough, I know, because I’ve been involved in dozens.
I have ten times the admiration for people who start a restaurant as an independent operation in a segment that is rapidly growing and has some tough competitors already in place.
Undaunted by that notion, the brothers Kwok created “Olive Theory Pizzeria” in the Chicago western suburb of Downers Grove. They had done their research, dined at a number of the established concept outlets and contemplated and investigated acquiring one of the franchise operations instead of going it alone.
In the end, they believed the restrictions of the franchisors would inhibit the Kwoks creating their vision of the restaurant – one where they could offer the highest quality ingredients, as well as menu items that wouldn’t be permitted under any of the franchise operating guidelines.
All that is fortunate for Chicago area diners in search of high quality “made on demand” wood fired pizza.
They call it “Olive Theory” as a reference to a tale from Greek mythology, wherein the olive tree, a most bountiful gift, was created in a contest to please the King. It’s the Kwok’s goal to offer bounty to the community, while maintaining an operation based on sustainability.
It’s quick and easy to order – grab a menu card (pictured below) at the counter and describe the pie you want or order one of the house specials. For a (low) flat price, you can have as many toppings as you like atop a cracker thin crust, cooked to order in minutes. One thing that differentiates Olive Theory from similar operations is the restaurants commitment to “fresh- prepared in store,” and the highest quality ingredients they can source locally. Outlets of chain operations aren’t allowed the flexibility to chase either of those ideals.
The dough for the crust is made in-house daily, allowed to rest and raise as proper dough requires. The classic tomato sauce is made from what many chefs consider the finest tomatoes in the world, San Marzanos from a particular region of Italy. If you’re in the mood for something other than red sauce, you have six other choices to contemplate. There are five cheeses available, a host of meat and vegetable toppings, as well as “finishing touches” like garlic or truffle oil.
Looking for something a little different, try Olive Theory’s version of a calzone, the “Pie-Sandwich,” your choice of pizza ingredients in a folded over version of their dough, and baked til golden brown. Salads and a daily soup are also on the menu.
The Kwok brothers had invited our party of four in for a tasting, and we had a diverse selection at the table, including the house special pies of “Buddha’s Karma,” “Titan’s Unleashed,” and “Goldbergs Big Five;” each of these pies have a special combination of ingredients that are nearly musical in the way they come together. Truly. I’m a fan of Italian sausage and pepperoni in nearly any form, but Olive Theory’s are spectacular to me.
In addition to being a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, dining there or taking it home, it occurred to me that it’s a wonderful destination for families – the pricing is such that it provides a wonderful family outing at a really great value, and the kids will love the “build your own” concept, knowing they aren’t going to have to eat around whatever ingredients dad usually insists on.
Families concerned about the quality of what they eat and where it comes from can also take comfort in the offerings. I feel the ambience/atmosphere is also conducive to families and groups, with large tables, good lighting, and soft background music.
Olive Theory has a selection of beer, soft drinks, and iced tea to go with your meal, as well as some really great dessert offerings, including fresh baked cookies, hot from the oven.
I asked when and where location # 2 will show up, and they just smiled. They did say “no” to locating it my garage, even tho I thought that would be an outstanding site. You need to go to Olive Theory!
They are located in Downers Grove in a small strip mall on the north side of Butterfield Road, at 1400A, just east of I-355, and are open from 11AM -10PM every day. If you’re nearby and want to pick up, you can even order online. Phone is 630-519-5152. Catering services available. Click on menus to enlarge!
Olive Theory Pizzeria Review
When I was growing up, it was etched in stone that the family had a big Saturday breakfast together; often my dad cooked the elaborate set-up, which might have been steak and eggs, pancakes or waffles, fruit turnovers, sausage or bacon.
It got so that friends of me and my siblings wanted to do sleepovers on Friday nites just for the morning repast. Kids were placed in charge of beating batter, folding and stuffing turnovers, and most certainly, setting, clearing and washing.
I carried this on, when I had families. It was flexible tho, depending on people’s schedules, and would be either Saturday or Sunday. It is reportedly a fond memory of my daughters.
Even now, on my own, I continue the practice, but again, it’s not locked into a day.
Today I went with trying to perfect my chicken fried steak recipe, along with eggs and a home version of poutine.
For the steak, I used the flour/eggdip/crumb method, fried until the edges start to look a bit crispy – doesn’t take long!
My crumb mixture today was a combo of panko and crushed pretzels. I’ve tried all sorts of other combos – potato chips, saltines, corn chips. Most are probably too salty for most people.
For today’s poutine, I went with tator tots, brown gravy and feta. It was over the top satisfactory.
A couple poached eggs, and an everthing bagel. Ok, the bagel was a goof-up, cause I baked bread yesterday which I intended to use, and forgot I had put it in the icebox.
It was a good breakfast, large enough for two diners. Tried to share with the cat, but he would have nothing to do with it.
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
Now I’m gonna stop right there for a sec and say personally, I don’t think Chicago pizzas should be called “deep dish,” as that term has been hijacked by pizza makers all over the country and almost always describes a pie with a very thick crust – lots of bread under the usual toppings.
“Chicago-style pizzas”(which you shall refer to them from this day forward) are DEEP, yes, but not because of a thick bready crust. They are DEEP because they are cooked in a deep pan, and have a HIGH but THIN crust. The depth hides all the deliciousness stuffed in, in the “Chicago order,” crust cheese, meat, tomato sauce. That’s right, sauce on TOP. Are we clear?
There’s more than a couple guys who say they invented this concept. I go with the Ike Sewell version, who cooked up the first one at Pizzeria Uno in
downtown Chicago in the early 1940s. Let’s leave it at that. Ike’s pies were so popular that soon he created a sister restaurant (Pizzeria Due, natch) and started franchising, with the license for the first four going to a group of businessmen in Boston.
When Sewell died, the Boston group bought out the original restaurants, name and recipes, and set off a go-go growing a chain of restaurants that bore a limited resemblance to the originals; the chain is called Uno Pizzeria and Grill.
They stuck with the original pizza offering, but have a very extensive menu in addition, like nearly any fast casual restaurant these days. They are in about 20 states, find one here.
Although a bit spendy, the Uno frozen pizza is about as good as it gets in this segment. It bakes up well (about 40 minutes), has a nice crisp outer crust, fresh chopped tomatoes in the thick sauce, ample cheese and flavorful sausage. (I had the sausage variety, there are others).
I have one beef…er pork…about the pie. The sausage bits in pretty small, and other “Chicago style” pies feature a slab of sausage covering the entire pie, crust to crust. As a sausage lover, I like that.
So the sausage bits on an Uno aren’t a deal killer for me.
The Uno frozen division also makes a more traditional round thinner crust. Their USDA inspected factory in Brockton MA is pictured below.
UNO Deep Dish Pizza Review
What can be better than finding a mom and pop place out in the middle of nowhere? Not much, in my opinion, and apparently lots of people agree, because when I stopped at this seasonal drive-in, it was jammed.
They specialize in “broasted chicken,” burgers, and frozen dairy treats. “Broasting” is a combination of deep-frying and pressure cooking that was invented in Wisconsin in the 1950s.
They license their cooking method and sell marinaded chicken and other items for “broasting” to over 5000 restaurants in over fifty countries. Not a traditional franchise, but the company offers the method and equipment for a licensing fee without the payment of ongoing royalties. I first became acquainted with “Broaster Chicken” at my hometown pizza joint, decades ago.
You can dine outside or in a small attached dining room.
I went with the chicken strips and fries, which was five strips and a good amount of fries (which you can also order by the pound!). The food was VERY HOT, cooked to order, and tasted ‘fresh’ meaning (to me) not a hint of stale oil. The chicken coating was crisp, seasoned, and the chicken moist and flavorful.
The order comes with a ramekin of BBQ sauce, and other dipping sauces are available. I’ve driven by this place lots of times and never stopped. My loss. It won’t happen again!
Chick N Dip is located just south of I-90, about 25 miles east of Rockford, IL and 45 minutes west of Chicago. (Map below).
Up in the front of WalMart, near the deli counter is a supply of ‘fresh’ (not frozen) take and bake pizzas. WalMart has been expanding the choices in these pies, and all of them are a great value compared to most frozen pies and nearly any pizzeria. They now have a “flatbread” with pepperoni slices and chunks, as well as mini-balls of real mozzarella. As it’s not frozen, it doesn’t take long in the oven, 10-12 minutes.
Instructions call for putting it on a baking sheet, which works to the detriment of creating a crisp crust, but it’s an awkward size and shape, so I understand why they suggest this method.
I liked it, except for a not crisp crust which could be rectified. The “fresh” mozzarella is great and I think the manufacturer (Chicago area “Great Kitchens“) (subsidiary of a Swiss company) uses a different grade and type of pepperoni, it’s extremely flavorful.
It’s less than $4.
Also, up near the take and bakes, you’ll find these packs of pizza dough (below) for a buck, if you want to make one at home. Or you can throw the ball into a bread pan, let it rise a couple hours, bake 35 minutes at 350 and voila, fresh loaf. Easy. Nice. If you want to have a fun kids party, get several of the balls, divide into thirds each, let the kids pound out their own crusts and have bowls of healthy toppings for them to slap on their own pies!
WalMart Flatbread Review
I saw the billboard on I-64 which promised “Amish cooking” and “everything made from scratch.” I don’t know what the first term is supposed to refer to, but I do understand the second, and the Schwartz’s fell flat on that account. I stopped for breakfast, and it may well have been made from “scratch” in the kitchens of Sysco. The ads also touted “family style serving.”
I admire anybody in the restaurant biz – it’s tough going. And this seems to be the perfect watering hole for the local rural community – meaning I am doubtful they get many tourists, it’s five miles off the interstate on a road to nowhere.
In retrospect, as I got further down (west) on I-64, there were quite a few billboards for “Amish” restaurants.
Here’s what I got out of the experience. I had stopped for breakfast, which they serve on weekends only. Apparently the balance of meal service, every day, is “cafeteria style,” which to me is not the same as “family style,” which I take to mean platters of food brought to the table for all to share, like I had in Wisconsin Dells at the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty. (mmm, platters of breakfast pork meats!).
The breakfast menu was limited. Egg dishes, biscuits and gravy (which seemed to be a popular order), pancakes. I ordered the “breakfast casserole,” an unusual choice for me. Scrambled eggs, bread crumbs, bacon, sausage, cheese, with hash browns and toast.
There weren’t that many customers, and there was an abundance of server help, but the food was slow, and sorry, folks, but nothing special. Like I implied above, I really don’t think that much of it was “from scratch.” Servers (which may have been all family members) were not very knowledgeable about the dishes.
Anyway, it was OK. I can’t recommend it, really, but I can’t say “don’t go,” either.
They are customers of Sysco, that was evident from the condiments and other table products. And as I don’t care about healthy eating, I’d prefer butter on the table to “whipped topping.”
But maybe that’s what the Amish are known for. I strongly suspect the lunch and dinner offerings would be much better.
Schwartz Restaurant Menu
Schwartz Family Restaurant Review
I quizzed Chowhound folks ahead of time to see where I might score some good Kentucky Country Ham in Louisville, and got lots of great suggestions where I could get it to nosh on or get a big ‘un to go.
I ended up at one of the top suggestions for sandwiches, Morris Liquor and Deli, a small liquor store in the center of the city with a deli counter. You walk up to the counter and select your bread, meat, cheese and condiments; sandwiches are sold by weight, and I can’t tell you what the price per pound is, but I can tell you I paid $13 for two sandwiches, two sodas and a bag of chips, which seemed quite reasonable to me.
I went with country ham on dark rye with provolone and yellow mustard. Also got a corned beef with Swiss on pumpernickel with German mustard. Both with superb. I would have bought sliced ham by the pound there ($16) but I knew I would be hitting a couple of groceries in search of a big chunk later, which I did.
This is a really excellent sandwich place, mostly take-out, a few tables inside and outside, great liquor selection as well as liquor mixers and such. Parking and entry/exit is a little dicey, but it’s worth taking your life in your hands for this country ham. Truly.
Morris Liquors and Deli Review
It operated pretty much continuously since that time, except for a few years hiatus, a move and renovation. In all its splendor today, it dishes up great home made grub for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as selling baked goods.
I went for their signature dish, a pork tenderloin sandwich. While I cannot tell you the origin of the sandwich, I do know they are unique (mostly) to Iowa and Indiana, and consist of a pounded out boneless piece of pork, usually breaded and fried. It is served on a bun, most often with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Maybe a pickle chip or speak.
I was a bit apprehensive about going out of my way to hit the Oasis, but after my meal, I realized I would drive hundreds of miles just to have the tenderloin again. It was absolutely perfect. The breading has a nice crunch, while the pork remains juicy and nicely seasoned. Hand cut fries were my side choice, and the house baked bun was fresh and substantial enough to hold the sandwich, even if one can’t get it in their mouth!
There are quite a few Mountain View diners still in operation around the US, including five in Indiana.
I’ve driven quite a few of the major US original highways, like Route 66, and US 61, back and forth, top to bottom, but haven’t spent much time on US 40, one of the original coast to coast roads, which is nicknamed “The National Road.”
Just by spending 20 miles on it the other day, I can tell I’ve missed a great trip that I will have to do in the future, lots of old time Americana and architecture on 40. As well as the Oasis Diner.
Oasis Diner Review