Featured Stories of the Week

Lake Aire Review, Lake Geneva, WI

Lake Aire Review

Lake Aire Review

For over 50 years, the Lake Aire has occupied, arguably, the most valuable real estate corner in this vacation paradise. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 82 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois, has long been a four-season playground for area elite as well as the hoi polloi.  Watersports and beaches in the summer, skiing, snowmobiles in the winter.

While the restaurant shows its age, it wears it well, and is the perfect destination for people who appreciate standard American food with a sprinkle of nostalgia.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their sign posts “breakfast served all day” which is always a plus for me.  I’ve posted their menus below, and they are also online here.

My fellow diner ordered the traditional eggs benedict (Florentine option also available), eggs were poached perfectly, hollandaise creamy, English muffins toasted correctly. (I know a restaurant in New Orleans that sells them for $35 and they are served on Melba toast.  Can you imagine?)

I went with the pork tenderloin (they call it “Country Fried Pork” on the menu) and eggs, rye toast. As far as I could see, breakfasts potatoes are always ala carte, I passed on them. I’ve had some amazing tenderloins in my life, most recently in Walcott, Iowa, but there were giant ones in a small town bar in Lenore, Illinois, and at an old-timey drive-in at Kokomo, Indiana (no connection with Beach Boys song).

The Lake Aire’s version was good, crispy crust, the meat remained tender, flavorful, and juicy. Sausage gravy at ample chucks of pork sausage in it, so it was a pork on pork meal. Homer Simpson would have appreciated it.

 

The rye toast was of the marble variety, no complaints but I would have preferred more butter.  Sure, I could have asked for it, but I didn’t.  One out of thousand times, “healthy lifestyle” prevails in my thinking.  OK, one of of five thousand times.

The server was affable and professional.  I have a sneaking suspicion he’s somehow involved in ownership.

Final aside, their coffee is great.  Complete with real half/half on the side.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the experience had nothing to do with the restaurant or meal. And this issue burns me every single time I go to Lake Geneva.  I hate the downtown parking meter system. Probably some company sold the city a contract that they’d install for free in return for a large portion of the revenue.  It’s the ticket on the dashboard variety, except you have to enter your license plate, and it’s only available in two-hour increments.  The screen is hard to read.  The system is basically a nightmare for seniors and the disabled. Oh well.

Lake Aire Review

Country Fried Pork and Eggs Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As promised, the menus.  Click to enlarge.

Lake Aire Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Aire Review

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma’s Kitchen Review – Walcott Iowa

Gramma's Kitchen Review

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

If you’ve ever driven across Iowa on Interstate 80 (Mainstreet USA), you’ve either stopped at this exit or at least noticed the signage for “The World’s Largest Truck Stop.”  Yep, it’s at this exit.  But that’s not where I stopped this trip, I stopped across the road at Gramma’s Kitchen because two years it ago, it made the list of the best tenderloins in the state, according to the Iowa Pork Producers.

So what exactly is a tenderloin?  It’s a boneless pork chop, smashed with a hammer or other blunt instrument until it’s enlarged and very thin, the drenched in a coating or batter, deep-fried, plopped onto a bun entirely too small for the piece of meat, and dressed up with pickles, onions, and occasionally mayo.

I opted for tots on the side, pickle was included, a damn fine one, too, crispy half-sour.

The sandwich was perfect, crispy coating, but the meat was still juicy inside. Bakery style bun, soft yet substantial enough to hold the ample cut of meat.

The tots were piping hot, right from the fryer, and lightly seasoned.  I hated “baked” tots, not crispy enough.  If your tot hasn’t got crunch, why get them?

The restaurant has an attached bar with an abbreviated menu, and throughout the building are Iowa souvenirs as well as some preserves and the like.

As is my habit, I grabbed a colorful souvenir magnet, even tho I have no place to put them anymore, my frig is stainless steel.

Take a gander at Gramma’s menus and start planning your next road trip.  Oh, almost forgot, you don’t have to get the tenderloin battered and fried, most places will happily grill one for you instead.

Gramma's Kitchen Review

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Tater Tots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

Jo Jo’s Pizza Review – Delavan, Wisconsin

Jo Jo's Pizza Review

Jo Jo’s Pizza Review

Jo Jo's Pizza ReviewI knew I had to be in this part of the state the other day, it’s the “lake country” of Southern Wisconsin.  I had scoped out a couple of potential pie places to visit, both old-timey, been around forever, small-town kind of pizza.  The only problem with my quest, is that the hours for both of them as shown on their website were WRONG, they didn’t open til later and I wasn’t about to hang around.

So I started down the road back to the place I was visiting in Walworth, Wisconsin, and finding nothing on the way there, except a lonely Little Caesars, and what would be the point of that, I was prepared to admit failure for the day’s pizza run.

A flash went on in what few brain cells I have left.  Did I pass a place out in the sticks that said pizza?  Or did it say BBQ? Or tacos?  I retraced my steps down the highway and came to this little place, really out in the middle of nowhere, Jo Jo’s.

I went in, perused the menu, glanced at the slices they had available to judge whether or not the pie was going to meet my usual guidelines (seemed so) and I ordered.  A 16″ thin crust sausage and green olive.

About fifteen minutes later, or less, out it came, piping hot in the box, as I juggled it carefully walking back to the car. (I have experienced in the past, doing this and the pizza ending up upside down on the parking lot). (No, that didn’t stop me from eating it).

Took a pic of the pie on the trunk, moved it to the front seat, opened my beverage, and set to work.  This pizza was made as if I have given very specific instructions as to my “likes.”

Cracker thin crust, hand-pulled flavorful sausage, tasty olives, mounds of cheese and a smattering of Italian herbs.  Perfect. I wouldn’t have objected if the sausage chunks were a little bigger, but not a complaint, really.

Wisconsin pizzas JUST TASTE BETTER.  I don’t know why.  Closer to the cheese source (humor).

Jo Jo appears to be an enterprising guy (or woman).  In addition to pizza, they have a very long menu, with sandwiches, pasta, entrees.  Out back there was parked a food truck for tacos.  Ambition.  The American dream.  Gotta love it.

Unofficial website.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jo Jo’s Pizza Review

Jo Jo’s Pizza Review

Boomer Baseball Hot Dogs Review

Boomer Baseball Hot Dogs Review

Boomer Baseball Hot Dogs Review

Boomer Baseball Hot Dogs Review

 

I love minor league ball.  In the Chicago area, we have six teams, crazy huh?  It’s mostly kids (at least to me) playing their hearts out for the love of the game, most realizing they have little change for the big leagues. The best park I’ve been to is in Louisville.  The Louisville Bats.  Triple A for the Cincinnati Reds.

But I support two teams around here, one being the Schaumburg Boomers.  They have a nice stadium, prices are reasonable, and plenty of free parking adjacent.

Every year I go to a Boomers game with the hope/expectation that there’s been an upgrade on the hot dogs.  Nope. If you’ve ever purchased a “gray water dog” on a street corner in New York City, these pups will look very familiar to you. They’ve been too long in the soup, so to speak, maybe even left from the day before.  They’re a bit mushy, even for skinless dogs.

And this year, there’s an absence of “loose” condiments (chopped onions, etc) because of the ‘vid.  I get that.

But the peanuts?  Exceptional.  Baseball, a loss.  But weekly fireworks? A bonus.

I’ll keep going.  Gonna have to move on from the dogs, tho.

You can buy your Boomers tickets online.  A fun night out for the entire family.

I love minor league ball.  In the Chicago area, we have six teams, crazy huh?  It’s mostly kids (at least to me) playing their hearts out for the love of the game, most realizing they have little change for the big leagues. The best park I’ve been to is in Louisville.  The Louisville Bats.  Triple A for the Cincinnati Reds.

But I support two teams around here, one being the Schaumburg Boomers.  They have a nice stadium, prices are reasonable, and plenty of free parking adjacent.

 

 

 

Boomer Baseball Hot Dogs Review

 

 

Nanas New York Deli Review – Crystal Lake, IL

Nanas New York Deli
Nanas New York Deli Review

“Ga-Ba-Goo” Italian sub

Nanas New York Deli Review: Tiny take-out featuring “New York Style” overstuffed sandwiches. The “Waldorf” is corned beef, pastrami, swiss, Russian, and slaw on marble rye.  Exceptional deli meats.

The “Gabba-Goo”  is salami, mortadella, hot capicola, lettuce, tomato, onion, vinegar, and oil on an 8-inch roll.  Again, exceptional on the meats.

The slaw is creamy and the vegetables in it crisp. Pickle included with the sandwiches is you ask, kind of a half-sour, and half size, larger than a gherkin, smaller than a big kosher dill.

Build your own is an option, of course, choosing from a variety of breads, meats, cheese, vegetables.  Soup, salads, and hot dogs round out the menu.

Half dozen flavors of chips from Deep River chips in Connecticut and bottle drinks, Pepsi products.

Couple of tables inside and on the sidewalk if you can’t wait until you get home to gobble these beauties.  Menu below or online.  Click to enlarge.

Nanas New York Deli Review: Tiny take-out featuring “New York Style” overstuffed sandwiches. The “Waldorf” is corned beef, pastrami, swiss, Russian, and slaw on marble rye.  Exceptional deli meats.

The “Gabba-Goo”  is salami, mortadella, hot capicola, lettuce, tomato, onion, vinegar, and oil on an 8-inch roll.  Again, exceptional on the meats.

The slaw is creamy and the vegetables in it crisp. Pickle included with the sandwiches is you ask, kind of a half-sour, and half size, larger than a gherkin, smaller than a big kosher dill.

Build your own is an option, of course, choosing from a variety of breads, meats, cheese, vegetables.  Soup, salads, and hot dogs round out the menu.

Half dozen flavors of chips from Deep River chips in Connecticut and bottle drinks, Pepsi products.

Couple of tables inside and on the sidewalk if you can’t wait until you get home to gobble these beauties.  Menu below or online.  Click to enlarge.

Nanas New York Deli Review

Menu Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanas New York Deli Review

Menu Page 2

 

Nanas New York Deli Review

The Point Hotel Review – Minoqua, WI

The Point Hotel Review

The Point Hotel Review – Minocqua, WI

The Point Hotel ReviewThe Point Hotel Review. Took a drive in Wisconsin this week, ended up in Minocqua, a town so far North, one is in spitting distance of the UP of Michigan. This large complex sits waterside in this island town, which is known for sport angling, particularly for Walleye Pike and Muskellunge.  The large hotel complex is made up of privately owned condominiums, which are rented out and managed by the company as if they were hotel rooms.

The rooms are stylishly decorated and equipped with the usual add-ons, iron, microwave, mini-fridge, toaster, and a flat-screen TV.  They all ( I think) offer sweeping views of the 1400 acre Lake Minocqua, with 16 miles of shoreline.  There are picnic tables, bbq grills, firepits, landing docks, and kayaks and canoes for rent outside of the building.

Indoors you’ll find an exercise room, heated pool, hot tub, and sauna.

A complimentary breakfast is served from 7-9 AM, and during COVID times, the selection is limited to items that can be individually wrapped, as well as the ubiquitous hot waffles.

The hotel has done a good job with ‘Vid preparation, the rooms were spotless, the staff is masked, and distancing was encouraged.  The reception area has a plastic shield in place.

The staff was welcoming and helpful.  They changed our room to a better one upon arrival.  (There weren’t many guests that week, I saw no other people at breakfast or in the pool area).

There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance.  GrubHub and the like seem to not be present.  We had dinner across the lake at the “Boat Club,” which I will write up in the near future.

A nite stay was a C note.  I suspect higher “in season.”  Yep, just checked, a 3 night weekend stay end of June will set you back $236.   Add about another hundred if you want a two-bedroom suite.

Activities and attractions in Minocqua (if you aren’t there for fishing, snowmobiling, or ATV rides) are listed on the town’s website.

Photo credits:  Waterfront, author.  Hotel lobby, hotel website. Check availability and rates online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Point Hotel Review

The Point Hotel Review

Big Ange’s Eatery Review – Arlington Heights, IL

Big Ange's Eatery Review

Big Ange’s Eatery Review

Big Ange’s Eatery Review. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by Big Ange’s. Really wasn’t aware of what they offered, even tho it’s announced in big letters on a number of outdoor signs.

But it came up in a search for “burgers” in that part of the city, and boy, and I glad it did. Quality.Care.Quality.Care. That’s the deal.  I had the “Petite Burger” which is a single patty with thick pickle chips, a house-made mayo/mustard spread, and diced red onion. Many optional add-ons are available of course, bacon, cheese, fried egg and so on.

It’s a flavorful patty that stands up well on it’s own. Perched on a bakery soft, butter kissed roll, substantial enough to not give way to the toppings.  Fresh cut crispy fries are one available side, hot from the fryer and lightly salted.

Wash it down with shakes made from in-house made ice cream.  Wow.

Doing a respectable job of respecting the ‘Vid.  Sat outside on the small patio and the (owner/manager?) stopped by to see if everything was to our satisfaction and inquiring if there was anything else we needed.

Parking can be a challenge, but you should definitely hit this place.

P.S.  I have no clue how to pronounce the name and didn’t ask. An-gie?  Anggg? An-gee?

Menu below and online.  Click to enlarge.

Big Ange's Eatery Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Ange's Eatery Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Ange’s Eatery Review
Big Ange’s Eatery Review

Doing a respectable job of respecting the ‘Vid.  Sat outside on the small patio and the (owner/manager?) stopped by to see if everything was to our satisfaction and inquiring if there was anything else we needed.

Parking can be a challenge, but you should definitely hit this place.

P.S.  I have no clue how to pronounce the name and didn’t ask. An-gie?  Anggg? An-gee?

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

In the “before times,” people were just nicer. Regardless of race, religion, political bent, people in general were just more well behaved. Friendlier, cordial, helpful.

At least that’s what I think.

Last Saturday I ran into a little bit of the “before times” when I stopped in a small Illinois town to get some food to go from the local diner.

Here’s a little bit of what I found out about Kirkland. And it has nothing to do with Costco.

Originally the land of the the Pottawatomie Indians, a peaceful tribe, they grew rice and corn and refined maple sugar. They were removed in 1836 as part of one of the US gov’t “treaties” and not long after a Mr William Kirk built a log cabin and began acquiring land, which totaled 1500 acres by 1886.

He donated some land to the railroad on the condition they’d make the little burg a stop, they did, and it worked to the town’s advantage, as by law, sheep traveling to slaughter in Chicago could spend no more than 36 hours on the train without a break, and that was the exact distance from Omaha, where many herds would come from. They were unloaded at Kirkland, watered, fed and sheared before continuing on. Population peaked ten years ago at 1744, but that has affected the bustle of the village. One doesn’t see the empty storefronts like in most small Midwest towns. There are several bars and restaurants, grocer, building supply, gas station, a couple of churches, a bank, and then there is the Kirkland Family Restaurant.

They are open seven days for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have a very extensive menu (posted below) for a small operation. Daily specials, too.

But I was talking about the “before times” people, wasn’t I? And that’s what I found at this small town eatery, friendly greetings from other customers, and a single waitress/server that went aboveKirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL and beyond the call to serve.

We placed an order to go (I’m still not comfortable with public spaces yet, March 2021) and I had the fried fish and fries, with a side of creamy slaw. Our other selection was the fried shrimp, which also included fries, and the side choice was cottage cheese. Fresh, soft dinner rolls were included.

They had a lot of potato and side choices, again, interesting for a small operation.

Our food was prepared quickly and correctly, fried to perfection and very tasty.

Again, the server wanted to make sure we were prepared to eat our meal on the go, and kept asking/suggesting compliments to our order, like plastic cutlery, ample napkins, butter pats, other sauces.

It was a great experience, and I can wait to return for a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast. You can bet I’ll go for chicken fried steak and a mess o eggs and taters. BTW, everything on the menu is very, very, reasonably priced.

Full menu below, click on each page to enlarge.  And check out the restaurant at their own webpage here.

Kirkland Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

 

 

 

 

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

The Norwood neighborhood of Chicago, just off I-90 about 12 miles west of the Loop, has become a Little Italy of sorts; I’ve counted around two dozen Italian-centric restaurants, delis, bakeries, markets. Once every couple months I make a run down there and hit two or three of my favorite establishments.

Last Saturday was no exception,  I hit Sicilia Bakery for a New Orleans style muffuletta sandwich, some fresh bread and imported cheese,   over to Rex Italian Foods, for sausage, meatballs, more cheese, before ending up at Dino’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant.  Dino’s has a very extensive menu featuring all of your Italian favorites appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees.  I’ve only had the pizza and not been back since the “before times.”

So I was delighted to stop in and grab a 16″ thin crust sausage, green olives, and double cheese thin crust pizza, square cut, which we call “tavern style” in Chicago and it’s far more popular than deep dish.  About the latter?  Some people call that “tourist pizza.”  Maybe so.

For my money (and I’m the only vote that matters here) nobody makes a finer tavern style pie in Chicago than Dino’s. Crispy crust on the outside, chewy as you move inland.  Their hand-pulled sausage is just superb in taste, texture, and size.  Sauce is flavorful but not overpowering. Cheese is the perfect amount and melt-factor.

If I’m on my own, it’ll take me 2-3 days to work through a 16″ pie.  In my “salad days” (what?) I could have polished one-off in a single sitting.

The restaurant has a few large seating areas, offers party / event catering and delivery.  Six days a week there are specials, listed here, ncluding some AYCE deals.

I’d sure like to hit some of those, but they’d rue the day I sat down for any of them!

Dino’s is just five miles east of O’Hare if you’re stuck with a long layover or are on your way downtown.

In the meantime, here’s your “objet d’ drool.”

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dino's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Dinos Pizza and Italian Restaurant Chicago Review

Poke Bros Chain Review

Poke Bros Chain Review

Poke Brothers serves “poke”  (po-KAY) a dish that originated in the 70s in Hawaii. Traditionally consisting of diced seafood and rice or vegetables, some people describe it as “sushi in a bowl,” but to me, it’s more like ceviche. Created in 2016, the company has already grown to 37 stores across the Midwest and East Coast. With a set-up similar to Chipotle, if you “build your own” you move thru the line specifying what you would like for a “base” (salad or three different types of rice), choose your protein (chicken, shrimp, ahi, salmon, vegetarian, and then select from myriad toppings and sauces. They have a number of pre-set combinations if you feel like the first time you want to trust their judgment as to what’s a popular approach. We did one of each. The “High TIde” included chicken, shrimp, Edamame, pineapple, green onions, carrots, avocado, corn, cucumbers and sriracha aioli. Our “build your own version” stuck with ahi, shrimp, with a salad base, and included their signature OG sauce, cukes, green onions, crispy onions, and sesame seeds.

I only have one minor suggestion for them.  Using “salad” as a base, it’s 90% iceberg lettuce, which (I understand) quite a percent of the population find disagreeable.  The restaurant could probably offer an alternative or a mix. Spinach maybe?  Butter?  That’s all.

Two bowls, around $25. It’s all tasty and very fresh. The shop is immaculate, as are the restrooms. They utilize all the familiar delivery services if you choose to go that route.  See the “build your own menu” below.  Full menu at the link.

Menu   Locations

 

Poke Bros Chain Review

Click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

Menu   Locations

 

Poke Bros Chain Review

Poke Bros Chain Review

 

1 2 3 161