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Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category

Krave Jerky Review

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Krave Jerky ReviewI like jerky. I’m always in the hunt for new brands to find the ideal one for my personal taste. I like them beefy, smokey, slightly salty, and chewable. My favorite is one of the national snacks of South Africa, which I reviewed, and you can order online.  I like that product as it is actual strips of beef muscle, instead of a processed product.

A few years ago, I made a trek to the factory outlet store for Jack Link‘s, in a small Wisconsin town near where I was brought up.And some top chefs in Chicago came up with their own brand which is very tasty.

Well, “West Coast” friends of mine have been crowing about Krave brand jerky for some time. “The best ever,” “unbelievable.” Krave was started by Jon Sebastiani, of the wine dynasty, who rapidly ramped it up to a $35 million annual company before flipping it quite early in its life to Hershey for $220 mil.

Legend has it (and the website) that Sebastiani and some athletic type friends that there was a hole in the market for this type of snack, and targeted to the work out crowd. (Not me, exercise for me is jogging my memory).

Krave touts their gourmet and natural ingredients. I chose the original variety ($3.99 at WalMart, same price as competitors), and the ingredients include:  Beef, Cane Sugar, Gluten Free Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Alcohol), Honey, Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Sea Salt, Granulated Garlic, Onion Powder, Paprika, Spices.

Long and short. I didn’t care for it.  Although well within its expiration date, it was hard as a rock. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but it doesn’t appeal to me. Secondly, it contains cane sugar (why?) which really boosts the carb count, which I guess is good for marathoners, but not for diabetics and weight watchers. Low carb meat snacks are standard fare for the latter in many cases.

Krave has different flavors, and you can order online for about twice the price that I saw in stores.  This may be your dream jerky. As for me, it motivated me to have making jerky at home for this weekend. I used to get great home-made jerky from a dear friend, who eventually went crazy and quit making it.

I’ve got beef strips in marinade here at the burger house. In 24 hours, I’ll start drying it. I’m excited.

Krave Jerky is manufactured at a company in Kentucky called Louisville Processing & Cold Storage. Picture of that facility below.

Krave Jerky Review

Krave Jerky Review

Kentucky Manufacturing Facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krave Jerky Review

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Olympic Restaurant Review, Lake Geneva, WI

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Olympic Restaurant Review Lake Geneva(As Americans have become meaner, ruder, and armed) I no longer enjoy busy tourists areas, except in the off season, but I found myself in Lake Geneva, WI this week, as typical a tourist spot as any.

Feeling a might peckish, I was scoping out restaurants by how much I liked their exterior vintage neons, and opted for the Olympic, right downtown, a couple blocks from the lake.

It’s an old-timey coffee shop format, serving all three meals, with booths and tables. It’s also crowded, not with people, but with ‘stuff,’ and you’ll have to negotiate a path to the washrooms, for instance.

They have a HUGE menu, with enough variety to easily please any diner, and simultaneously overwhelm any kitchen. In other words, the menu is so long that most places are going to have to look for short cuts, and in the case of my selection, the “Meat Lovers Burger,”  it meant going with food service ingredients instead of fresh, prepared, in-house grub.

Yeah, I know, it’s a coffee shop. The burger came with fries (which were OK), and was around $10.50, adding cheese would slap on a buck.

Didn’t eat much of it, didn’t take it to go, either.  Service was “OK,”  there was one young woman for the entire dining room when I arrived, and she seemed a little harried.  Ambiance is a-ok.  Bathrooms are fairly clean.

Maybe I made a bad choice, maybe the kitchen was having an off day, but they weren’t very busy. There are sooooooooooooooo many options in Lake Geneva, for dining at all ends of the price spectrum. This is probably one you can skip.

I rarely read other reviews, but I checked a few as I was writing this, and some make reference to it’s an excellent place to eat when you’re drunk. I’ll keep that in mind.

Olympic Restaurant Review Lake Geneva

Meat Lovers Burger



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

Olympic Restaurant Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.

Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.

One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.

This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.

The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.

The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion.  The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.

It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.

I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life:  “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected.  If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post.  Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.

Tombstone varieties.

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Unbaked

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

400 degrees, 18 minutes

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Factory, Medford, WI

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Medford, WI Location

 

 

 

 



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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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Olive Oil Stores Review, Lake Geneva, WI

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Olive Oil Stores Review Lake GenevaIt was late in life before I “took to” mushrooms, probably because there really wasn’t that much exposure to them when I was growing up, though my mother was fond of using cream of mushroom soup for too many things.

Not the same with olives, however, even though they were another scarcity in my home – reserved for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. No idea why. I started to get excited about mushrooms after talking to ‘shroom people at farmer’s markets and experimenting with them.  Then I moved into truffles and it was like a gift from heaven.

I have avoided olive shortages by curing my own at home, buying raw (fresh) ones from Penna, a California grower. They are available to purchase every September or so, and the process is time consuming, but not terribly difficult.

While I generally try and avoid tourist destinations, I found myself in one, Lake Geneva (the Wisconsin one, not the good one) the other day and walked by an olive oil store.  You see these springing up in most cities, and while I wouldn’t have thought they had staying power, the Olive Oil Store in Lake Geneva proprietoress told me she opened in 2008.  That’s pretty good longevity for any specialty retailer.

Olive oil stores have (generally) dozens of flavored olive oils, in large urns, and you can purchase your selection by the pint, quarter or 55 gallon drum probably. You’re also able to have samples. Other items in the store include oil olive goods like soap and spreads, though curiously, few actual olives.

A truffle pate made by Stonewall Kitchen of Maine caught my eye.  No idea (or clue) where the truffles are from, the best ones in the world come from Italy and France, but they have started to grow some in the US, Oregon has got it going in that regard, as to the Carolinas and some other states.

If you’re interested in the truffle biz, there’s a lighthearted novel about it by Peter Mayle, Anything Goes. Mayle is a British expat that has written a series of novels about living in France.  Pretty funny stuff.

The truffle pate?  Excellent. Very earthy. Natural ingredients.  At less than $10, a bargain compared to pure imported stuff.  Think I’ve paid about $40 for a 2 oz tube of black truffle paste before!

Nice store, nice selection, nice people. Go. Buy.  (None of these photos are mine, credit to owners).

Olive Oil Stores Review Lake Geneva

Truffle Spread

 

Olive Oil Stores Review Lake Geneva

Partial Menu of Oils

 

 

 

 

 



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Olive Oil Stores Review

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Greek Islands Review, Lombard, IL

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Greek Islands Review LombardGreeks began arriving in Chicago around the 1840s, mostly off ocean freighters where they worked as crew and captains.

Many originally settled in an area of the West Loop, and took up jobs operating food carts, until they saved or pooled their dough to open small cafes in the area now known as “Greektown.”

Around about 1971, the “Greek Islands” opened their Greektown location, and many credit the restaurant with introducing Saganaki (which at the time, my toddler called “cheese on fire”) and gyros to American diners.

The immense popularity of the Greek Islands (they import many of their ingredients from Greece) led them to open a second location, in the Western Suburb of Lombard, IL.

We hit it up the other night, were very well fed, very well taken care of by the waitstaff, and it was a great value –  four dinners with many appetizers and drinks for less than two C notes.

The restaurant has a lengthy appetizers menu, so I went all tapas for my dinner, and ordered a number of small plates (NOT TO SHARE, JUST FOR ME! LOL).

They were all great.  House made hummus, saganaki, the Greek pork sausage Loukaniko (which is made with a hint of citrus peel) and a plate of feta and olives. Accompanied by house baked fresh bread and/or pita.  Swell.  Other entrees at the table included the whole sea bass imported from Greece (server filets at the table), and the Mahi Mahi kabob.  Both were superb. Sides that come with the entrees could be improved a bit. The menu also gives you the option of “building your own combo” with two or more mains, which is nice.

Menu.  Greektown (Chicago) businesses and event calendar.

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Saganaki

Greek Islands Review Lombard

The Night’s Fresh Seafood Offerings

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Greek Pork Sausage

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Feta and Olive Plate

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Downtown Exterior

Greek Islands Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Greek Islands Review

 



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Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review

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Hillshire Small Plates Snack ReviewHillshire comes out with a version of “lunchables” for adult palates, and they are high quality and valued priced.  I found them at Target at 2 / $5. The one(s) I picked up included dry salami, smoked gouda, and toast rounds.  I was happy with all of it.

The “real” lunchables, the meat and cheese is such crap. Ick.

So I recommend these, and they are packed with protein, if you’re concerned about your daily intake.

These are packed for Hillshire by Sugar Creek Packing, in Washington Court House, Ohio.

Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review

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Opsahls Pizza Review, Rockford, IL

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Opsahls Pizza Review RockfordMy best bud in college was from Rockford, Illinois, and we’d go down there on occasion; I returned with him a little later in life for his first (of 4) wedding, and when he relocated from Rockford to San Jose. He invited several of us to help with that move, unfortunately, he bought several cases of beer PRIOR to us helping, so you know how that went. Then he and I headed across country in his 240-Z testing its upper limits of MPH, and that tale has a number of anecdotes that don’t belong on a G-Rated website.

Back then, Rockford was really a blue collar, manufacturing town, producing heavy machinery, furniture, and even bombs for awhile. These days the largest cmployers are hospitals and government, tho twenty miles east, in Belvidere, IL there has been a huge Chrysler plant for a number of decades. Currently they are puking out some Jeep models.

During our visits, we used to hit a favorite dive bar of his, and I went in search of it during a recent drive through town. It’s still there, but no longer qualifies as a ‘dive,’ the menu is all chi-chi now and they even take reservations.

So I zipped around in search of a new dive bar, and found one on the south side of the city, “Opsahl’s Tavern.”  It’s on the southern edge of the city, just a bit off US 20. I think it fits all the requisite definitions for a dive bar, no fancy interior, a crowd of regulars early in the morning, in a constant state of remodeling, bits and pieces to be installed sitting around.

But they have a very pretty menu (below) and are “famous for their burgers and pizza.”  So I ordered a pizza. My usual, sausage, green olives, double cheese, thin crust. Double cheese was a mistake as they are very generous with the cheese in the first place.  This is a pie with a lot of sauce, and it’s flavorful. Sausage chunks were  a nice size, and the sliced olives were the “Sicilian style” (marinated and herb-y) that pizzeria supply houses sell, and I like a lot.

My pic of the pie is not as pretty as it was in real life —  as I had a pizza catastrophe going out to the car – I dropped the box. Which tended to shift some of the toppings – drastically.  I didn’t actually cry, but I could have.  Anyway, it’s a great pizza. The local radio station apparently did a review, he wasn’t as enthused as I was, course I’m the expert, aren’t I?  Check out Opsahl’s if you get to Rockford. Two locations now.

Opsahls Pizza Review Rockford

Sausage and Olive Pie

Opsahls Pizza Review Rockford

Menu


Opsahl's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Opsahls Pizza Review

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Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

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Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

Home made sausage pizza

Don’t bother trying to find anything out about this product online, I spent a bunch of time doing that and came up pretty short.  I can’t even tell you exactly where I purchased it, other than a suburban Chicago grocery.  So a lot of this should be prefaced with “apparently.”

This product is made in Harvard, IL, it seems by Jones Packing Company, which started in 1952.  Harvard is the most distant NW suburb reached by commuter rail in the Chicago area.  A pic of (apparently) Jones is below.

According to the USDA establishment number of the package, the product is actually produced at Roma Packing, Inc., in Chicago. (pic below).

This is a pure pork sausage, described on the package as “hot.”  It comes in a clear vacuum pack, and contains the same types of herbs and spices one would find in traditional “hot” Italian sausage, i.e. fennel.

I split the package in two, and fried half of it until it was crumbles, and used it to top a home made pizza last night.  The balance was made into patties for breakfast this morning.

In both cases, the product pleased me very much.  It’s a very fine grind, so it is easily chewable. (Some pork sausages seem “tough”).  The flavor is outstanding, and there is a little bit of heat, as advertised.

I’ll buy it again if I can find it.  One story I read referred to Jones Packing having their own retail store, which I’ll go check out.

Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

Jones Packing, Harvard, IL

 

Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

Roma Packing, Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

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Sujuk Sausage Review

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Sujuk Sausage ReviewCouple weeks ago, I wrote about my visit to the Bulgarian grocery in Chicago.  One of the items I picked up was “Sujuk” sausage, which wikipedia defines as “a Sujuk is a dry, spicy sausage which is eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia.”

It has slightly different spellings by country. This is a pork, beef, seasoning link in a natural casing, sold raw. The label suggests it’s perfect for the grill or breakfast.

I really enjoyed it.  It’s full of flavor which resembles the source muscle, with a firm and chewy texture.  Much like the Spanish dry chorizo, but without the heat.  The density makes me think it might not be so manageable on a bun, but it was sure delicious pan-fried and sliced.

 

Sujuk Sausage Review

Pan fried and sliced

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sujuk Sausage Review

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Plymouth Rock Campground Restaurant Review, Plymouth, WI

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This isn’t the sort of place I’d usually stop or write about. First because I’m the last person you’d ever expect to find in a campground, and secondly because in advance of eating there, pretty sure I’d expect to be disappointed. Boy, was I wrong in thinking that here!

Plymouth Rock Campground is a sizable campground for RVs, trailers, and tent campers, with hundreds of spots for rent – you can get maximum facilities or minimum.

There are clean public bathrooms, showers, three swimming pools, a very well stocked store, and planned activities. It also happens to be across the highway from RoadAmerica, a professional race track that stages Indy, Nascar and other races. This is a monster facility that can accommodate up to 150,000 spectators.  I didn’t attend.

Near the swimming pool in the NE corner of the campground, is the restaurant, which serves from breakfast until 9PM, a typical “snack bar” menu, but very long on choices.  (Menu follows below).

You’ve probably been to a hundred to these types of places, whether at your local golf course, high school game, street fair, and they are all pretty much the same, pre-made, frozen items reheated on the spot.  Even the burgers on Amtrak are like that (and very expensive).

Not so with the Plymouth Rock folks. I could tell looking over the ordering window that they had a full kitchen and were actually cooking to order. A flattop grill next to a fryer for burgers, fries, rings, tenders, fish sandwiches and the like. A Baker’s Pride counter top pizza oven. Bakers Pride ovens are standard gear for most of the pizzerias in America.  Broaster Chicken oven. Equipment like that, you know these people are serious.

I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side of fries, expecting to receive what I described above. Wrong. The burger was hot, freshly made, topped with hand-cut veggies I requested, on a substantial bakery roll – stiff enough to hold a burger, but soft to bite into.  Likewise, the fries were hot, crisp, and lightly salted. REAL POTATOES.  It’s a pet peeve of mine these days to order fries and get those ones made by extruded presses, they basically take a mashed potato slurry and shove it through a fry shaped mold.  Yecchh. No flavor, wrong texture.  But not these.

I had to say something, so I finished eating (hey, priorities!) and went back to the counter and said “That was really great, it really exceeded my expectations.”

They thanked me.  Nice young couple. How many people thank a cook at a place like this. (I do, a lot, if I’m impressed). Running a restaurant is hard, thankless work.

I was also very surprised at the value pricing.  This kind of situation, only outlet for hundreds and hundreds of people, captive audience, usually prices the menu by the “flinch method.”

Not these nice folks. They could easily get another half buck to a buck for any item on the menu and I’m sure no one would bat an eye.

This is a seasonal operation as is the campground.  Not sure of precise dates, but sometime from April to October. They mentioned they owned another restaurant, but I didn’t think to get the details.

Click the menus for larger views.

Plymouth Rock Campground Review

Bacon Cheeseburger / Fries

 

Plymouth Rock Campground Review

Plymouth Rock Campground Review

 

 

 

 

Plymouth Rock Campground Restaurant Review

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