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Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category

Papa Johns Deep Dish Pizza Review – Nationwide

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Papa Johns Deep Dish ReviewPapa John’s Pizza is an American restaurant company. It runs the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the world, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.

The Papa John’s restaurant franchise was founded in 1983 by “Papa” John Schnattertaking a small corner of space of his father’s tavern,  in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  He then sold car to by some used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to bar customers .

Its slogan is “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.”

So they rolled out a new “deep dish” pizza.  I’m not sure which chain was first in using “deep dish” to describe a pie that isn’t.  The big chains offer a pie with a thick, bready crust and call it deep dish, but the original model, Chicago deep dish, doesn’t have a thick crust, and the emphasis is on the toppings.

For a limited time, Papa Johns is offering the new pie, in a 12″ version, with up to 3 toppings, for $10.  That’s fairly good deal for the “value priced” end of the chain spectrum.

I ordered mine with sausage and olives, and a plain cheese with “classic crust,” for my friend.

We each had some that first night, bagged up the rest and threw it in the frig.  If you’re a regular reader, you know I think the true test of a great pizza (for me) is how it tastes the next AM.

Not thrilled at all with this hot out of the box, it was even more disappointing the next day.  Both pies were undercooked, to begin with. The “spicy sausage” isn’t, and the toppings are skimpy in quantity (including the sauce and cheese). The sauce tastes like it comes right from a can, and the cheese?  Just not satisfactory.

Taste and texture aside, the ‘classic crust’ failed on all the same levels, and as well for pure aesthetics.  If you owned a pizzeria would you be proud of a pie that looked like the one below?

If I’m to consume faux deep dish pies, my preferences would be to put this at third, behind Jet and Little Caesar’s bacon wrapped, but ahead of Dominos and Pizza Hut.  Ultimately, my choice would be to pass on all five in favor of any local mom and pop shop.

Papa John, I don’t like your pizza, tho I could guzzle the garlic dipping sauce, even tho it’s probably not real food!  2 pies, 2 liter soda, deliver, tip, $27.

Papa Johns Deep Dish Review

Deep Dish Sausage and Olive

 

Papa Johns Deep Dish Review

Regular Crust Sausage

 

 

 

 

Papa Johns Deep Dish Pizza Review

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White Castle Frozen Fries Review – Nationwide Grocery Product

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White Castle Frozen Fries ReviewSome years ago, an “expert” told me in the future, half the products in a grocery store will be branded restaurant foods.  I scoffed.

Shouldn’t have, he was right.  No matter your favorite fast food or casual dining choice, it’s very likely you’ll find products with their names on them in the frozen food section of your grocery.  Who knew?  (Except that expert).

I’ve written about White Castle often, America’s oldest burger chain, they’ve had frozen burgers in the store for a long while, maybe one of the first chains to embark down this road.

Today I tried out their frozen crinkle cut fries, which is a new offering (at least to me).  I’ve taken to crinkle cuts lately, and it seems so have many fast food chains, someone somewhere thinks they are “retro” and since we all hunger for the past, they’ve popped up on a lot of menues.  Fine with me. I’ve had them at Zaxby’s, Shake Shack,  Culvers, as well as that granddaddy of iconic Chicago hot dog stands, Superdawg.  All excellent.

I had pretty low expectations for the White Castle variety, most of the frozen fast food sides I have tried have been somewhat of a disappointment, hardly resembling the restaurant product.

Delightfully, my expectations were exceeded, and these crinkles are crisp and tasty out of the oven. Instructions are to bake them at a higher temp than most frozen fries, and I suspect that’s one key to their success;  I caution you to keep an eye on them in the oven, because they can go from hot and crispy to rock like in a hurry.

I think they are a fair representation of the restaurant product, perhaps a wee bit smaller, not sure.  I’ll remember to check next time I’m in a Castle. And yes, I’d buy these regularly.

White Castle Frozen Fries Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Castle Frozen Fries Review

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Bombas Grill Review, East Dundee, IL

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Bombas Grill ReviewDamn, I love it when a place far exceeds my expectations.  I was on the prowl for a new burger in the NW burbs of Chicago and stumbled upon this micro-sized diner offering burgers, sandwiches, and some Greek specialties.

I was intrigued by the “Zeus” burger, which promised a quality beef patty topped with Saganaki (a Greek-style cheese that has been flambed), tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, dill), and other toppings of your choice.

It was fantastic!  Hearty bun, nice flavor in the lean beef patty, cooked to order.  Looking at the menu, I also noticed they had kalamata olives for some items, and they would have been a good add-on for this style burger. I’ll remember to ask next time.

Bombas also offers “Greek fries,” which are oven baked, doused with lemon juice and sprinkled with feta. Delish.

If you’re not looking for this place, you might miss it, in a small strip mall next to a large pawn shop. And it seems Google maps has its location a little off the actual place.  Or it seemed so to me.

I hope these guys have lots of success.  They use quality ingredients with attention to preparation and presentation – at a fair price.  Oh yeah, I’ll be back. Oh yeah, outrageously good dill spears, too!

A portion of the menu is below.

Hours, address on their website or Facebook.

Bombas Grill Review

Bombas Grill Review

 

 
https://www.facebook.com/bombagrill/

http://www.bombagrill.com/

http://www.bombagrill.com/menu

Bomba Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Bombas Grill Review

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Marcos Pizza Review – Nationwide Chain

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Marcos Pizza ReviewA new franchised location of Marco’s Pizza opened down the block from me this week; Marco’s, out of Ohio, is the 12th largest pizza chain in the US, and will hit 1000 stores this year. It was started by an Italian immigrant, Pat Giammarco, in 1978.

The advertising claims “Authentic Italian Pizza” and I don’t know about that, but for my palate, Marco’s is a better product than
the “big 3.”

They offer a thin, “classic” and thick crust option, I went for the middle, which has a puffy chewy exterior. The usual variety of toppings are available as is online ordering in delivery in many locations. One difference with their online payment system from other chains is there is no option to add a tip to your order, so you’ll have to have some cash available for the driver.

Several years ago, Marco’s hooked up with Family Video, one of few remaining national video rental chains (750) stores, to put pizzas in about half the stores. The stand alone pizza shops also offer videos, one free rental with an order of over $15. You can pass on this option, of course.

In addition to pizza, satisfy your cravings with other menu items including salads, subs and wings. Mandatory delivery charge is $2.50.

I ordered a 14″ sausage pie, I did like the sausage, tho it isn’t very spicy, it appears to be sizable hand pulled chunks, which is always my preference.

Topping wise, they seem a little light on quantity, same with cheese. You’ll compare both to a Domino’s pie.

Marco’s is big on local flyers for marketing, with any number of special deal coupons on each flyer.

Find your nearest Marcos here.  Will I order again?  Sure, with the right coupon.  I wish these guys a lot of luck, like most Chicago neighborhoods mine is glutted with pizza places, both national and local.  The location these guys chose has been home to several operators in the past few years.

Marcos Pizza Review

Classic crust sausage and olive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcos Pizza Review

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Italian Village Review, Chicago, IL

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Italian Village Restaurant Review ChicagoI generally eschew “legends” in the restaurant business (exception, New Orleans), as I have found over and over again, so many of them are resting on their laurels of decades ago.

Such is not the case with The Italian Village, really three restaurants under one roof in downtown Chicago, is the city’s oldest Italian restaurant, serving the ‘old-school classics.’

Opened in 1927, on the top floor, you’ll find “The Village,” serving all of America’s favorite Italian appetizers and entrees.   On the ground floor, Vivere takes a contemporary approach to an Italian menu, and own a flight of stairs, “La Cantina,” serves some of the age-old favorites of the restaurant and adds a selection of steaks and chops to the offering, in a more casual atmosphere; those meat selections run from $29 – $40.

I was last in the Italian Village about 35 years ago, and had fond memories of it.  Had my memories been jaded by time?  Would it not live up to my memory?  I’m delighted to say it exceeded my expectations on every level.

Service, quality of ingredients, size of servings, and value.  At the table were spaghetti and sausage, clams in pasta (available but not on the menu), appetizers of a caprese salad, beef carpacio, an extra side of meatballs, and a mostacoli in a spicy arribiata sauce. (red sauce with chili peppers and garlic).  And bread. And butter. And olive oil.  In seemingly endless quantities.

Many of the entrees are cooked to order, and the menu cautions you on the wait time for those.

The food was delicious, service attentive but not intrusive, interesting decor to look at, and private booths tucked away in little alcoves if you’re desirous of a more discrete event.

The restaurants are open seven days for lunch and dinner, with private faclities available for small and medium size parties.

Dinner for four, ample glasses of wine, gratutity:  $240.  Valet parking at the door for $12.  You know, I didn’t ask, but you might when you call, if it’s a concern.  I don’t think there’s an elevator to the top floor restaurant, I made my way up a rather lengthy flight of stairs that lands at the front door.

(photos are from the internet)

Italian Village Restaurant Review Chicago
Italian Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Italian Village Review

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Penny Lane Review, Barrington, IL

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A pub/grill, not the song. Tho the song is one of my favorites. Let’s pause, shall we?

 

The Penny Lane Pub is a modestly sized bar and grill with daily specials, live music on weekends, and open til 3 AM.  They have a good bar menu with pizza, sandwiches, wings, tacos, and of course burgers.

I went with the “Olive Burger” which is kind of a thing in the Chicago area, a burger patty topped with sliced green or black olives.  On some menus, it’s called a “Queen Burger,”  and I’ve never been able to find out how it came into being.  It was right up there in the mighty fine category, as were the fresh cut fries.  Great beef taste, ample sized, bun substantial enough to hold all manner of toppings. Delish.

Penny Lane obviously buys quality ingredients, and fresh, attractive produce.  The kitchen again, obviously, takes pride in their presentation.

Despite its location in Barrington, one of the poshest Chicago suburbs, I found the prices to be very modest. Sandwiches and drinks for two, $14.00.

Not far down the road, you can easily pay double that (or more)  at other Barrington watering holes.

I’ll do it again, to check out the pizza and some of the nightly specials, you betcha.  The location is on a not very well traveled road, but easy to find, head north of I-90 on highway 59 and hang a left on Penny Road, the joint is just ahead on your left.

Penny Lane Pub Review

Olive Burger

 

 

Penny Road Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Penny Lane Review

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Hometown Bagels Review

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Hometown Bagels ReviewHaving been a bagel muncher for many decades, I was suprised to note in a store the other day a package of “Chicago style” bagels. Who knew? Whereas most consumers of bagels (and pizza for that matter) are familiar with “New York Style” bagels (and pizza), afficianados insists “it’s the water” that makes those products different.

Around the country, various enterprises have popped up claiming to be able to duplicate “the water” to provide an authentic New York bagel experience. There’s even a small chain,mostly in Florida, but with an outlet in Beverly Hills, as well.

So anyway, turns out there are “Montreal style,” “Toronto style,” “New York Style,” “Chicago style” and a gaggle of other “styles.” There are even “Los Angeles style,” and the big company outthere is Western Bagel, a wholesaler and retailer. I used to like going to their factory store in the valley in  the middle of the night, where you could buy ’em ‘fresh.’ They also sell online.

The primary difference between New York and Chicago? New York bagels are boiled, then baked. Chicago are ‘baked with steam.”

Now you know. As to I. These “Chicago Style” bagels are made by a company called “HometownBagel” in Alsip, IL (which really isn’t Chicago). Maybe they should change the name to “Chicago Area Style Bagels?”

So I ate one. Tasted like a bagel. BTW, my favorite flavors of all bagels made anywhere? Salt, followed by everything, followed by pumpernickel. That’s it.

Hometown Bagels Review

@Hometownbagel

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Grovers Grill and Bar Review, Fox River Grove, IL

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Grover’s Grill and Bar, at 412 Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, IL, sits across the highway from the FRG Metra station. It’s been Grover’s for maybe 3 years. I think it was a Mexican restaurant before that, I had never been in there.

They did some remodeling before opening, took out a couple walls, added a game room, video slots, and a raft of wall-mounted big screen TVs to catch your favorite game.

The menu includes all the Chicago-area favorites: thin crust pizza, cheese cruds, sliders, nachos, tacos, Italian beef and other sandwich favorites, soups, wraps and salads. An extensive selection of custom ‘burgers’ is available as well. Choose from a beef, turkey, chicken breast, tenders or veggie patty, and graze on one of their signature configurations like “The Norge” (bacon, blue cheese and frizzled onions), “The Grover” (Pepper jack cheese, roasted pablanos, red onion and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun).

Or build your own from a selection of a wide host of toppings.

Pizzas are available in 10, 12, 14, of 16 inch sizes, with an extensive list of ingredients you can choose for toppings, including many not available at most pizza places. Gluten free pies are available in one size, 11″.

I had the Norge burger and it was WAY above my expectations. The amply-sized angus beef patty had great flavor and texture, and the toppings were all fresh and plentiful. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries, also great. Affable, courteous service, too. I’d do it again. I will do it again.

Grover’s is open til midnight Sunday thru Thursday, and til 2AM Friday and Saturday. And they deliver in the area. www.groversgrillandbar.com

Grovers Grill and Bar Review

Grover's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nikos Pointers Saloon Review, Marengo, IL

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Nikos Pointers Saloon Review MarengoIt is so seldom you run into any place, product or service these days that the end result is that the experience exceeds your expectations.  Spoiler alert. Niko’s exceeded my expectations on every level.

I was tooling around Northern Illinois and I’ve had some good grub in the town of Marengo before, so I decided to stop and try another joint. Pointers Saloon, on the main drag, called to me with the sign out from which simply said “burgers and beer.”

The decor is “outdoorsy” with a fair amount of dead animals adorning the wall.  I don’t mind.  The service was very pleasant and attentive, from the initial contact all the way through the meal and to my departure.  Very enthusiastic young woman.

The menu is lengthy.  Hard to choose, but I started with a Chicago favorite, Saganaki, a greek cheese set on fire at table side, that you can scrape up with pita. Love it.

Finally decided on a club sandwich, I love a good one, and this ended up in my top 3.  Quality ingredients.  Prepared with care.  Nice presentation. Good sides, with home cut fries and a tangy slaw.

Also at the table was a patty melt, on marble rye, which was also pronounced ‘most excellent.”

How can I get so excited about a club sandwich?  Two reasons:  1) There are a lot of crappy ones in the world, and 2) that Pointer’s cook would be conscientious and care enough to prepare this one very nicely.

Decor. Food. Good service.  Two sandwiches, appetizer and one beer,  $42 including tip.

Here’s their menu again. Nightly specials too, including the local tradition of AYCE fish fry on Friday nites.   If you’re out on a drive from Rockford or Chicago, this place is worth a stop.

Nikos Pointers Saloon Review Marengo

Club Sandwich

Nikos Pointers Saloon Review Marengo

Patty Melt

 

Nikos Pointers Saloon Review, Marengo, IL

Niko's Pointers Saloon Marengo, Il 60152 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Parkview Chorizo Smoked Sausage Review

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Parkview Chorizo ReviewChorizo is a type of pork and/or beef sausage which differs in different parts of the world. Spanish chorizo is a smoked, cured, sausage, often sliced and eaten like salami.

It’s seasoned with hot peppers and pimento. Chorizo found in Mexico and Mexican-American dishes in the US, tends to be ground meat and fattier. It generally doesn’t have the ‘heat’ that the Spanish variety does, as it uses a different kind of peppers.

In an effort to expand their market, traditional US sausage manufacturers like Johnsonville and Hillshire Farms, are adding different spice combinations to traditional smoked sausage (bun size), and giving them different varietal names, like Cajun Andouille, “New Orleans Style,” Polska Kielbasa, “Italian,” “Texas Hot Links” and so on. To me, there isn’t a whole helluva lot of difference in how they taste, and certainly they are all the same in the grind and texture of the non-natural casing.

“Parkview” is Aldi’s in-house brand of some of their sausage products, and I’ve written about quite a few of them before.

This week I noticed a new one “Chorizo Smoked Sausage,” and I picked it up to try. Like many of Aldi’s smoked sausage products, there are manufactured by Salm Partners in Denmark, WI.

As I referenced above, most of these types of smoked sausage are indistinguishable from each other, with the exception of a slight variation in taste. With the “Chorizo,” Parkview is heavy on the peppers, and this one is hot. Hotter than similar products.

Great on the grill or in a fry pan. I liked ’em.

Parkview Chorizo Review

 

 

 

 

Parkview Chorizo Smoked Sausage Review

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