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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

The Varsity Reviews – Atlanta, GA

The Varsity AtlantaAlthough I had heard about it for years, in all the times I have been to , I had never made time to visit the Varsity. I was there last week, and oh, so many years wasted.

For the unwashed, the Varsity is the world’s largest hot dog stand. Covering two acres in downtown , with parking for 600 cars, and seating for 800, the Varsity has been dishing up dogs, burgers, fries, rings, and their famous “Frosted Orange” beverage since 1928 under the watchful eye of Frank Gordy and his descendants.

Initially operating under the name “The Yellow Jacket” Gordy served hot dogs and bottled Coca-Cola (what else in ?) to Georgia Tech students. Not wishing to limit his clientele to one particular school, the name change came shortly thereafter, along with the move to the present location.

When you sidle up to the counter, and hear the famous cry from the clerks: “What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have?” it helps to know the proper retort. There’s much more, but this will get you past the basics of ordering:

  • Hot Dog: Hot dog with chili and mustard
  • Heavy weight: Same as hot dog but with extra chili
  • Naked Dog: Plain hot dog in a bun
  • MK Dog: Hot dog with mustard and ketchup
  • Regular C Dog: Hot dog with chili, mustard and ketchup
  • Red Dog: Ketchup only
  • Yellow Dog: Mustard only
  • Yankee Dog: Same as a yellow dog
  • Walk a Dog (or Steak): Hot dog to go
  • Steak: Hamburger with mustard, ketchup, and pickle
  • Chili Steak: Hamburger with Varsity chili
  • Glorified Steak: Hamburger with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato

There are 5 locations these days . But the original is the place for the complete Varsity experience. Bring the kids, but not much money. A meal at the Varsity is well under five bucks. Unless you order like I do.

The Varsity on Urbanspoon

 

varsity atlanta reviews

Huntley, IL – Papa G’s Diner

(Originally published July 2013)  Second visit in a few months. You’re unlikely to just wander by here, Huntley is kind of out of the way from everything.

I love “country breakfasts” in the Upper Midwest.  My definition of that phrase is – from a rural mom and pop type establishment that serves ample quantities of good food, for low prices.  Especially those places with ‘farm-fresh’ eggs, bright yellow yolks, instead of the pale yolks one experiences from the giant egg farms.  There’s a place in Illinois that is so proud of its eggs, they give you a dozen on the way out the door, free with every meal.

Huntley used to be a very rural town in Northern Illinois, rolling horse pastures, bucolic countryside, small businesses. It’s on its way to becoming a suburb of Chicago, even tho it would be at least a 90 minute drive into the city under the best of conditions.

Illinois 47 is a major north-south artery that runs through the heart of Huntley, and on the way out of town towards the north sits Papa G’s, a typical country diner.

Many diners in the Chicago area seemed to be owned by Greeks, and Papa G’s, though I don’t know for sure, would seem to fit that description as well, as they have numerous Greek specialties on the menu.

While the restaurant does a brisk business for weekend breakfast, with every table full, if there’s a wait, it’s only a matter of minutes usually.  Compare this to Portland, Oregon, where going to brunch is a “thing” and at some places you can expect a two hour wait. And people do it.

This morning, at Papa G’s, I went with the egg breakfast with ham.  Three eggs on a plate are standard here, and the massive ham steak was touted as “off the bone.”  Hashbrowns and in-house baked breads for toast were included. They bake a variety of breads, and cut it thick for toast.  It’s great.  I love ham in any form or fashion, and this is a nice piece. It’s slightly sweet, just FYI.

I suspect it won’t be my last visit. Maybe next time I can meet Papa.

Papa G Huntley

 



Papa G's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Papa G review

Portland, OR – Wagsys Hot Beef Sandwiches

Wagsy's Hot Beef Sandwiches

( 5th and Oak St., downtown Portland, OR)

I’ve been blessed to have lived in some of the great food cities of the world; and there’s always at least one local favorite I miss when I have moved away from those burgs – Italian beef from Chicago, po-boys from New Orleans to mention two.

Heating roast beef correctly in au jus is an art form, if the temp is just a 1/10th of a degree too hot (it seems to me) it’s easy for your beef to end up curled and chewy.   Many in Portland have tried to master the art of the basic dip sandwich, purportedly invented in Los Angeles at either Cole’s or Philippes, both of whom claim bragging rights.

In both Chicago and New Orleans, who has the best beef dip (respectively, “Italian Beef” or “Roast Beef Po-Boy”) can lead to heated arguments, if not downright brawls.

In Portland, there can seem to be no question, the title goes to  “Wagsy’s Hot Beef Sandwiches”, a cart at SW Fifth and Oak.  I’ve tried the rest, and now I’ve found the best.

These guys have created a menu based around different variations of beef dip, and after the first bite of the “Chi-Town”, I was hooked.   An ample quantity of quality, thin-sliced roast beef, on very fresh bread, served “wet”, and in beef dip terms, that means the loaf is dipped in the au jus slightly for a taste and texture sensation.

The home town version in Chicago is highly flavored with garlic and herbs, but Wagsy’s have toned this down, I suspect, for a wider audience, and for my palate, it’s just perfect.

For five bucks, it’s a very filling sandwich, and it comes with a small ramekin of a vegetable medley (giardiniera) which you may dress the sandwich with if that’s your preference.

A nice finishing touch is provided with a wet nap and toothpick taped to the sandwich box.

Wagsy’s offers some other interpretations of the dip, a Philly style, and a BBQ one, as well as a veggie choice.

Good job guys.  You’ve a winning combination.  I can easily see a leap to multiple city brick and mortars in your future.  Find Wagsy’s on Facebook, too.

Wagsy's Hot Beef Sandwiches

Wagsys Hot Beef

Utterly Confused about Andersen’s Pea Soup

It’s as “thick as pea soup”, an old adage goes. Well, just how thick IS pea soup supposed to be? And what WAS as “thick as pea soup?”

To the latter, it was a reference to the fogs that use to settle in on the United Kingdom, back in the days when factories and homes burned coal for fuel. If one used yellow peas, instead of green, it was referred to as “London Particular”, after that yellow hued smog of coal-burning days. To the former? As thick as your personal taste requires!

In literature, pea soup is often referred to as food for the poor. Cheap and easy to fix. The recipe doesn’t vary much around the world, but the significance it plays in cuisines varies. It’s an “important “dish in Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. In the US, it is simply one of a variety of the hundreds of soups we have available to us in restaurants or supermarkets.

So what’s the hubbub?

Somewhere recently, I came across a couple of cans of “Andersen’s Creamy Split Pea” soup. Now in the US, usually “split pea” would refer to there being bits of peas in the soap, whereas “regular pea soup”. would be a puree.  Such is the case with Andersen’s, manufactured by Advanced Food Products of Visalia, CA.

But where does the “Andersens” come from? One would assume it to be a relatively easy question for residents or tourists to the West Coast of America. They are used to seeing outdoor posters along the highways for “Pea Soup Andersen’s” – with the cartoon characters of “Hap-pea“ and “Pea-Wee” adorning the boards, and usually a visual of the trademark “windmill” that adorned the Buellton location.

In trying to research this….I became nothing but confused. The reason I started the quest was because of the canned soup, which was pretty good. And I assumed since it was called “Andersens”, it more than likely was a licensed product of the restaurant in Buellton. But there is no reference to that on the soup website.

Nor is there a reference to the soup on the restaurant website. Nor is there a reference to the restaurant on the website of Pea Soup Andersen’s Motel. Nor is there a reference anywhere to the San Diego restaurant of the same name.

What happened here? Family disagreement? Partnership dissolution? Intellectual property mayhem? I don’t know.

I do know I like the canned variety of Andersen’s Pea Soup, and the restaurant variety as well.  They are both adequate subsitutes when Mrs. Burgerdogboy hasn’t whipped up a pot of her home-made pea soup, which is da bomb!  That’s all.

 

Pea Soup Andersen's

Andersen’s Pea Soup

Pea Soup Andersens

Tarzana, CA – Morts Delicatessen

Bada bing! Mort’s has been around so long, I am sure they catered to Moses at some point.

Tucked in a strip mall, at the back of a grocery store parking lot, Mort’s is a full-service traditional delicatessen (restaurant and meat counter) with an attached bakery.

This used to be a regular haunt of mine when I lived in the ‘hood, and I don’t get back there often enough, tho this trip, I managed to squeeze out two visits, once for a sandwich, and another time to load up on hard salami and ham to tote home.

A plain, lean, over-stuffed corned beef sandwich is an item that is (surprisingly) difficult to find (prepared, that is) in my town, so I welcomed the chance to grab one to go at Mort’s.

It didn’t disappoint.

Mort’s menu is online.  When traveling the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, check out Mort’s sometime.  On the other coast, in New York, be sure grab a sammich from the Carnegie Deli -  they also distribute their beef rounds to selected groceries.

Mort's Delicatessen, Encino, CA

Mort's Delicatessen & on Urbanspoon

 

Morts Tarzana

Cincinnati, OH – Jean Robert

(From our travel archives) Every time I go to Cincinnati, I just want to hit the chili dog stands. There are hundreds of them, and I’ve written about them before in this space. This trip, we skipped the hot dogs in favor of the hottest new places in town – Jean Robert at Pigall’s.

This essay could be subtitled, “the case of the chef that skipped,” for Jean Robert Cavel was formerly the chef at the five star Maisonette, one of the most well known eateries in Cincy. Classy but unpretentious, Jean Robert has the city talking – and eating. The restaurant offers creative, but not outlandish preparations of classic French cuisine, and seafood choices dominate.

Diners have two choices of prix fixe menus – a three course selection at $75 each, which does not include beverages, or a five course experience at $140 per person, which includes wine with each course.

The restaurant is comfortably appointed with woods, chandeliers, and neutral tones. The room gives an airy, not crowded feeling. Service is attentive but not overbearing.

I opted for the three course plate, as our host had specific wines that he wanted us to try. I started with an interesting twist on my old favorite of escargot, which was served in a slightly sweet “savory” sauce, much akin to Emeril’s version of barbecued shrimp. From there, I moved to veal medallions, which the server suggested be served at medium rare, and it was some of the best veal I have ever tasted.

While my fellow diners opted for desserts on the sweet, but heavenly side, I opted for Jean Robert’s cheese plate, which presented six contrasting cheeses splayed out in order of sharpness.

Jean-Robert at Pigall’s was named one of the top 75 new restaurants in the world by Conde-Nast, just six months after opening. That was two years ago. I’m sure a repeat visit by the judges would find it the same. A wonderful experience.

Dinner, Tues-Sat. Jean Robert at Pigall’s is located at 127 W. Fourth St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-721-1345 . Proper attire required.

Jean-Robert's Table Cincinnati Review

Jean-Robert's Table on Urbanspoon

jean robert cincinnati

Portland, OR – Veritable Quandary

The name literally is a contradiction, “Veritable” means ‘something of certainty”, and “Quandary”  means ‘difficult to predict, or uncertainty,’  and the restaurant of the same name near Portland’s waterfront, is anything but.

VQ, as locals refer to it, was created in 1971 and for decades has consistently hammered out some of the most innovative takes on America’s regional fares while utilizing local ingredients.

The menu varies from time to time, and can be found online.

I was meeting some pals for a quick lunch, and VQ was geographically desirable to their office location(s).

One of my friends said in advance he had been jonesing for the seafood stew, a rich broth full of fish, mollusks, and shellfish.  From the smile on his face and the interruption in the conversation, I can only surmise it was delicious and I have made a note to try it next time.

And me?  Why, I went with the highly-acclaimed VQ burger, Cascade Range beef on a ciabatta that leaned towards the softer side, accompanied by some pickled vegetables, and house-cut fries.

It was cooked to my medium rare preference, and plated beautifully.

One of my companions said it was one of the best burgers in Portland, and opined he thought they put some sausage or sausage-like seasonings in the meat.   I wouldn’t disagree on his judgement, but I don’t believe the burger had any sausage (pork) in it, or the menu or waiter would have stated so.   Wait-service was great, by the way.

The beef was seasoned, and the flavor reminded me of burgers I have had in the  Caribbean, tho I cannot pinpoint the flavor for you.  It’s not strong or unplesanant at all;  I may guess that the seasoning is onion-related.

The ample meat patty was crowned with a slab of medium white cheddar, and the entire experience was on the high end of the scale.

Definitely now one of my top 5 burgers in Portland.  I shall return.   A nice hot lunch for another dreary, rainy December day in Portland.

It’s said the VQ has a great weekend brunch, and it’s within an easy hike of most downtown hotels, as well.  Brunch offerings vary,  and are surprising, like this month’s blackened catfish, or pumpkin and brie quiche!

Veritable Quandary

 

Veritable Quandary on Urbanspoon

Portland, OR – Overlook Family Restaurant Review

Overlook Restaurant Portland OregonI like “greasy spoons”, and more especially, those American diner type restaurants that have some kind of connection to the Greek culture. Such is the case with the Overlook, which I would pop in every day if I lived in the neighborhood.  Instead, it’s only my second time in four years.

It’s your standard diner fare, with daily specials, and a full bar to boot.

They don’t call me “Burgerdogboy” for nothing, so breakfast for me, when it’s offered, is a hamburger patty with eggs, hash browns, and toast.  If I am in a “devil-may-care” attitude, I’ll order an additional side of some other meat, and yes please, extra butter on the side.

I wasn’t ordering extra today, but the ample weight of the burger patty made extra meat not required.

The breakfast, in its entirety, was served precisely as ordered:  meat medium, potatoes extra crispy, eggs over easy.

I lingered……and enjoyed the meal, two crosswords, and lotsa joe.  A welcome respite from  hotel dining, for sure.

Overlook Restaurant Portland Oregon

Overlook Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

Overlook Family Restaurant Review

Portland, OR – Caro Amico Reprise

I’d always meant to get to Caro Amico with Mrs. Burgerdogboy for a romantic dinner;   we thought it might be great because we had enjoyed their food via Delivered Dish (www.d-dish.com)  and its position, on a hillside overlooking the river, might have made for some dreamy views.

We never got there as a couple, but I was spot on about my feelings with regards to all the rest, as evidenced by this report from a recent visit.

Cara Amico Portland“We loved the place, liked the big windows, the view and fantastic atmosphere; the service was great, the waiter friendly.

We started with the Caesar with prawns, which was romaine lightly dressed with olive oil, rather than a typical Caesar dressing, and the prawns were warm with a hint of garlic flavor.  The entire salad was generously dusted with Parmesan and finely chopped croutons.

For our mains, he went with Chicken Parmesan, one of his favorite meals, which was a large plump breast, very juicy, served with a colorful array of sautéed veggies, and penne with marinara.    The breading on the chicken was light, not overbearing, and the breast may have been brined ahead of time for extra flavor.

Cara Amico

Chicken Parmesan

She opted for the Canzano Calzone, stuffed with chicken, bacon, green peppers and pepperoncini.   The crust was thin and crisp, and the marinara was some of the finest she had ever consumed.  She would have liked a bowl of it all on its own, she said.

For dessert, we went with the dense and delicious cheesecake, topped with whipped crème and a raspberry sauce so yummy she wanted to lick the plate clean.

Often overlooked by locals, even though it was Portland’s first Italian restaurant, it continues to please on every level.”

Previous review.

 

Cara Amico

Caesar with Shrimp

Caro Amico Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Caro Amico Portland

Chicago Suburban Theater Chain – Classic Cinemas

What am I doing reviewing a chain of movie theaters?   Just letting you know how impressed I was  with this operation.  For first run movies, value pricing, clean facilities, enthusiastic employees, reasonable concessions, this family owned chain of theaters in suburban Chicago is just the ticket for your night out.  Classic Cinemas 13 theaters are strategically located across Chicagoland, and the company has been around since starting with one theater in 1978.

A first run movie will cost your $5 all day Tuesday,any day matinees, if you’re a kid or over 60.   Most other times it’s just a couple bucks more.  Here’s the rub.  Ready? Wait for it.  Free refills on popcorn and soda.  Wow.

I’ve been out to a movie in other cities and the evening has cost me over $50, each.  Today, first run movie, soda, corn,  less than $20.  The movie?  Bill Murray in St. Vincent.  Superb.

Classic Cinemas Review

Theater Locations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.classiccinemas.com/

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