Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category
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
I have been in this shitty motel before on some other lost weekend. I’ve made my way down here on some “public conveyance” from which I was ejected a couple hours ago, fifty miles down the road.
My crime? Drinking on the conveyance, which would amuse a lot of people , including the person responsible for me being on the road. I also made a fuss because someone stole my Nikon. So there will be relatively few fotos from this leg of the trip.
I’m farther east than I planned, as I am currently on a sabbatical/walkabout, and planned to enter Mexico somewhere in Cali. No matter, Arizona is just as good.
It’s ironic, on my last great bus hobo trip, I felt that an awful lot of the passengers had just gotten out of some hospital or institution and really had nowhere to go. Now people look at me like I’m that person.
I think I’m too old for these kind of changes. Yeah, yeah, you’re only as old as you feel, well, fuck, I feel 120 after the last couple weeks.
I don’t mind Kingman, it’s a shadow of its former self, (me, too) but is a stop on old Route 66, and there’s a lot of interesting retro architecture and some restaurants that date back to the day. I had hoped to visit one of those restaurants, but I ‘m in too pissy a mood, so I walked down the street, got some Popeye’s to eat in the room.
I saw a documentary recently about a guy who tried to “live” off Craigslist for 30 days. He’d get around by using ride share ads, meet people to crash on their couches and so on. That seems really cool, plus he got to meet a dominatrix! The last time I went hobo-ing around the country, I tried to live on $10 a day. The whole craig’s list angle might make it easier.
But the trip overall will be harder, as last time, I knew that whatever hardships I endured, there was a nice home and loving family waiting for me at the end.
Not this time.
The “American Turners” is a social club started by German immigrants to the US in the mid 1800s. Still with a nationwide presence day, they have about 50 locations around the country.
The movement started in Germany during the occupation by Napolean, as a way to preserve culture, and promote fitness of mind and body.
The group has a number of large meeting halls where they hold special events, celebrate German holidays, and provide space rentals for events in the community.
The hall in Elgin, Illinois has seen better days, but it hosts a very lively membership with weekly events, mostly for members, but some are open to the public, including a weekly Friday night fish fry.
Fish frys are common in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, offering either a set menu or AYCE options of some or all of the following: cod, haddock, shrimp, perch, or catfish, usually accompanied by (choice of) potato and slaw. I’ve been to a few, some are OK, and some are pretty bad and overpriced, but such is not the case at the Elgin Turners.
In fact I was delighted with the entire experience. I chose the combo plate, which included shrimp, haddock, and perch, fries, roll and slaw. Soup and salad bar were available for a buck extra, but I passed on that. The food was cooked to order, crispy, lightly seasoned. I like perch a lot and have eated it all over the world, and the Turners is terrific. Service was great as well.
There is an all you can eat option, or by the plate option. There are plenty of extras/sides to choose from as well.
Serving times are 5-8PM, and arriving right at 5, I was the only diner, save for a few bar patrons, but the room quickly filled. Service was great. Prices are extremely reasonable. I think it should be a regular stop for me, and I will try out some of their other events like “Beer & Sausage” night! Full beverage service available.
Entrance to the building event is thru a small door in the back of the building, off the parking lot. The address is 112 Villa Street, but the entrance to the lot is on the side street (Fulton). If you are coming from I-90, Villa Street is a continuation of Dundee Avenue, which you reach via the Illinois 25 exit. Sample menu below, most plates are around $10.
Elgin Turners Friday Nights Fish Fry
All dinners served with soup or salad, roll, cole slaw, mixed veggies, choice of France fries, sweet potato fries, loaded baked potato, baked sweet potato, onion rings, potato or American fried potatoes
All you can eat fish fry dinner. Fried haddock, perch or both
Fried Haddock Dinner
Fried Perch Dinner
10 Piece Shrimp Dinner
Combo Platter Includes? 1 piece haddock, 1 piece of perch, 2 shrimp and 2 scallops f
4 Piece Fried Chicken Dinner
3 Piece Chicken Tender Dinner
Sandwich and kid options as well.
American Turners Fish Fry
Working on this site, there are two things I can consistently depend on Trader Joes and sister company ALDI for – and that’s a lack of information. Whenever I drop them a query about a particular product, to keep you informed, all I get is <crickets>.
One time I heard from one of the PR firms who dutifully didn’t answer a single question I had but sent me a puff piece on the company that actually had less information than there is on the company’s website. Sigh.
There’s some personal irony here, as once upon a time I was at a dinner party and seated next to one of the original founders for Trader Joes, and he was more than happy to answer any questions I posed.
Which brings us to today’s review:
Trader Joe’s Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza
I was motivated to try this because I have enjoyed a couple of other TJ’s pizzas in the past, which I wrote about here and here. Those I liked, because they were both imported, one from France, one from Italy, and I wondered aloud why US frozen pizzas couldn’t be as good? My second motivation was TJ’s ad for this pizza in its flyer, in which it states that they worked with their favorite Italian crust maker and had the crusts sent over to their favorite US toppings company for completion.
According to the USDA number on the package, the “toppings company” is Nation Pizza, a contract manufacturer in Schaumburg, IL, who also makes many of the frozen pies for ALDI. This only adds to my confusion as the actual product packaging doesn’t say anything about the crust being shipped over from Italy. Oh well.
It’s completely pre-baked, so it doesn’t take long in the oven, the 15 ouncer take about ten minutes at 450. The crust is thin, but not cracker thin, and “puffy” around the rim, with a nice flake for a period of time when consumed just after baking. Not so much on day 2. Good, ample cheese, and the sauce reflects a very pure tomato base.
I’ve never understood the appeal of “uncured” processed meats, except for people that think they are doing something healthy by skipping the usual preservatives. There is certainly no difference in the taste of TJs pepperoni and any other, you can trust me on this, I have probably consumed a couple of tons of pepperoni in my lifetime.
It’s a pretty good pie, but won’t be on my regular rotation list unless it is heavily discounted in the future.
Trader Joes Frozen Pizza Review
I keep searching for a frozen burger patty that meets with my personal tastes. They come in a few different forms, raw patties on their own, pre-cooked patties, or a complete pre-cooked hamburger sandwich.
I’ve previously tried Ball Park, Steak & Shake, Fatburger, White Castle, Advance Pierre, Trader Joe’s “Kobe Style,” some various store brands. None of them really moved me, except the TJ’s “Kobe,” was flavorful and lean. For a heat and eat, if you want to give your kids a burger in a minute, the Ball Park brand ones are pretty good. They have a bit of smoky flavor built in to emulate grilling.
The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus Burger is what I picked up today, four to a package, four to a pound, packaged in twos, $4.99 on sale. So they are “spendy” as are all the ones I have previously mentioned.
Trader Joe’s sets their own product standards and doles out production to contract manufacturers all over the world. Most of the products I’ve purchased from TJs have been ultra-satisfactory, but priced a bit higher than equivalents.
First off, with this product, or any beef, it should not be perceived that the word “Angus” denotes any premium; most of the beef cattle in the US are “Angus” You’ll also occasionally see a label and logo that says “Certified Angus,” and this is merely a marketing term for a collective of growers who raise or purchase cattle that meets their own set of standards.
Should quality be a true concern, you should only look for beef with the USDA grades on them, which are select, choice, or prime. Each of these grades have subgrades. Most grocery beef comes from the choice category. To add to the confusion, the USDA grades are applied to whole carcasses, not to individual cuts.
But we’re talking about burgers, and you won’t see graded ground beef (usually) at the grocery. If you’re feeling finicky, grab graded steaks and have the butcher grind them for you. You’ll be happiest with a blend of 2-3 different cuts. Many people prefer a blend of chuck, brisket and and round. If you want your blend to be a little fattier, substitute short rib or navel cuts. Have them run it through the grinder twice for the right burger texture.
The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus burgers are a product of New Zealand (country of origin of the beef) but processed by a small company in Brooklyn called Papa Pasquale’s (according to the USDA factory number) (pictured below). The patties are an 80/20 blend, and the content listing says “grass fed Angus beef.” Period.
I think you’ll have more favorable results if you thaw these patties. Most raw pre-formed frozen patties have the same instructions, cook on one side til blood comes thru the top side, flip and cook until there is no blood showing.
So I did. I also didn’t season the burger or add condiments. For my own personal taste, this is an excellent burger. Why? It tastes like BEEF. And when/why I say that about meat products, I’m talking about beef (or pork) you ate at somebody’s farm. Chefs call that quality “gaminess,” which has a somewhat undesirable meaning to most of the culture.
But it’s a good word. Beef (and pork) should taste like animals. Most product meat proteins don’t anymore.
But if that taste is your thing, too, you’ll like these burgers. Great flavor, great texture.
Trader Joes Angus Burger Review