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Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review –

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Rics Dog Gone Good Food ReviewI’m on a roll, lately I’ve hit quite a number of places that have exceeded my expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, at all!

Yesterday was no exception, when I was out in the NW Chicago burbs surveying changes that have occurred since we first moved to the idyllic town of Barrington in 1987. And the answer is LOTS. Like most everywhere in America these days, urban sprawl and strip malls have replaced farm fields.

But hey, that’s ok, one of those strip malls has given birth to “Ric’s Dog Gone Good Food.”

“Ric’s” is run by Howard, an outgoing, affable gent who greets customers the second they pull on the door handle. He’s as engaging as the lengthy menu. He did not explain who “Ric” is, but then I didn’t ask.

Menu selection ranges from Chicago style hot dogs via local legendary  quality supplier Vienna Beef, to chopped steak burgers, deli sandwiches, wraps, salads, and plated entrees.  Greek foods comes from another quality local supplier, Kronos.

Burgers start out with 1/3 pound hand-formed patty (diminutive size also available), and I went with one of Ric’s ‘specialty burgers’ – the Greek, where the beef patty is topped with feta and chopped Kalamata olives. Going all out into the Greek arena, I asked if I could please have some tzatziki on the side. Tzatziki is a Greek inspired sauce (or dip) made from yogurt, cucumbers, dill and garlic.

I had a mind to smear it on the burger, which I did, but discovered it’s an excellent alternative to Ranch as a fry dipping sauce.

On the subject of fries? Ric’s gives you five choices. Fresh cut, crinkles, seasoned curlys, cottage, and cheddar. Rings, battered ‘shrooms and cauliflower round the the fried sides menu. He also offers ‘skins and bakers.

I went with the fresh cut, which were an absolute joy, seriously, but I’ll have to go back to try the rings and cottage fries. Based on my first visit, well worth the trip. The fresh cut fries were piping hot, fried perfectly, lightly salted.

I have a habit of disassembling my burgers at the start, checking them out. It’s also important to me to taste the patty, unadulterated, as quality, flavorful beef has to be at the heart of every great burger.

I have to pause here, and say, in all seriousness, I’ve had burgers in probably 50 countries, for which I have spent anywhere from fifty cents to fifty dollars, and this is one of the finest patties I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Great beefy flavor. A great grind providing great texture in the bite experience. Lightly seasoned to complement the true beef taste.

(Don’t you hate biting into a fast food burger and realizing it could just as easily be called “fried protein puck”). Meats should taste like the animal they come from, and Ric’s fits the bill.

Toppings were top quality, both the creamy feta and the Greek olives. The bun was bakery soft, yet sturdy enough to hold any toppings you are to pile on your burger.

The restaurant and washrooms were sparkling. Beverage choices include fountain, cans, bottles, brewed ice tea and shakes.

The Google tells me the restaurant is 14.8 miles from my door, 27 minutes by car, an hour and a half by bike, or 5 hours walking.

I don’t have a bike. But I’d walk. You should to…or drive. Anyway, go there. Eat. Enjoy the food. Enjoy Howard.

In a city where there are a reported more than 1500 places selling hot dogs and Chicago fare, you sure have to admire the mom and pop outfits that slug it out every day in a crazy, competitive business segment.

They deserve our support.  Here’s the whole menu.

Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review

Greek Burger w/ Fresh Cut fries

 

Rics Dog Gone Good Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review

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Tommys Red Hots Review – Suburban Chicago

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Tommys Red Hots ReviewTommys started in 1980 and has expanded to six stores in the Northern and Northwestern Suburbs of Chicago.  They offer a very lengthy, typical “Chicago menu,” with hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef, fried food and pizza.

I’ve driven by a couple of Tommy’s many times, have never stopped by, because frankly, the exteriors look a little dated, and I was afraid that would be matched inside, both in the decor and kitchen.  And near one of the ones that is close to me, there is a shiny new Chicago type hot dog place, replete with neon, gleaming chrome and so on. Here’s my lesson.  I’ve been in that place, and it was shiny inside, as well, but the food was awful. I mean dreadful.

So I thought I would swing into a Tommys last week, and I was the first customer of the day. Not in the mood for dogs or burgers, I decided to get their “Humungous” Italian Sub, with vinaigrette, salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and all the trimmings.  Also opted for a side of fries (one size only).

And you know what? It was great. They were great. Both the sandwich and the fries. The sandwich is far and away multiple times better and fresher than any of the chains, great bread, quality meats.  Hot, fresh fries, lightly salted, in size between shoe strings and steak fries, I don’t know what that size is called, but I liked them. A lot. And BTW, the inside was immaculate.

They have a HUGE menu (below). I’ll be back to try a lot more of their offerings.  Locations.

vinaigrette, salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and all the trimmings

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

 

Tommys Red Hots Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tommys Red Hots Review

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Tenutas Deli Review, Kenosha, WI

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Tenutas Deli ReviewI’ve been in a lot of great Italian “delis” all over the world. Two of my favorites (until this week) are Martinotti’s in Portland, OR, and Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, CA.

Both superb in their own right. I’ve hit a couple smaller ones in Chicago that are also enjoyable.

This weekend I ran across the best of the best, in my opinion, in Kenosha, WI of all places.

Tenuta’s has been operating since 1950, and have aisle after aisle of imported grocery goods, as well as locally packaged ‘fixins’ like many different kinds of pastas, herbs, spices and such.

In their deli counters, they have prepared Italian dishes you can purchase by the pound, as well as in-house made sandwiches and delicious items like meatballs. Fresh take n bake pizzas, too!

Not incidentally, they have one of the largest selections of craft beers I have ever seen anywhere. Rows of shelves and coolers that run the whole length of the store.

It was hard not to spend my kid’s inheritance there in one day, but I did manage to score some goodies.

Having lived in New Orleans, and always eager to eat the local NOLA sandwich the “muffaletta,” I was pleased to see Tenuta’s had their own version, and at about half the price you’d pay in New Orleans.

Their “small” will feed 2-3 people and comes in at a very reasonable $6.99. It IS their own version tho, if you’re used to have the New Orleans ones, which have a layer of “olive salad,” you won’t find that here. Instead they have opted for adding pickled green pepper pieces, and lettuce, neither of which you’ll find in the NOLA versions.

I also bought a container of meatballs, the ingredients listed include: beef, pork, breadcrumbs, textured vegetable protein, ricotta, romano, soy, flour, salt, garlic, spices, parsley, brown sugar and flavoring.I have to say, they are quite flavorful and the texture is to my liking. (I hate “mushy” meatballs). They come in different quantity packs, I got the ‘small’ which is 15 balls for around $7.

I don’t know what they include in their ingredients under “spices,” my personal preference, and how I make them at home, is to include a bunch of dried fennel seeds. It’s a strong flavor, and many people don’t care for it. Tenuta’s meatballs are perfect for the average consumer tho, nothing at all objectionable!

The store is open 7 days, and also does catering. It’s truly a wonderland.  I shall return. You should visit too.

Tenutas Deli Review

House made meatballs

Tenutas Deli Review

Meatball cross section

Tenutas Deli Review

“Muffaletta” Sandwich

Tenuta's Delicatessen & Liquor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tenutas Deli Review

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Fast Bites Sliders Review – Advance Pierre

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Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance PierreI’ve reviewed a lot of products that I commonly call “gas station foods,” or ready to eat and heat and eat sandwiches.

Often these are from one of the industry giants, Advance Pierre, (hereinafter AP) which also recently acquired a sizable competitor, Landshire. Past reviews on this site include Advance Pierre’s Sausage and Cheese Biscuit, Big Az Cheeseburger, and their Pretzel Cheeseburger.

Today I checked out their cheeseburger sliders, which were found at Dollar Tree, packaged two in a box. These can generally be thought to compete with frozen White Castle sliders.

The Advance Pierre sliders are microwave ready, about a minute, but using the “old method” of removing the sandwiches from their plastic wrapping and tucking them into a paper towel.  This used to be White Castle’s instructions also, but now theirs are heating directly in their packaging.

In the case of either sandwich, it can be difficult to master the heating process.  One can end up with a part that’s rock hard or ice cold. Today, heating worked out pretty universally successful.

The AP‘s buns are much softer than White Castle’s, tho substantial enough to deal with the burger and any toppings you care to add. The burger has less flavor than White Castle, probably due to the latter having the equivalent of the restaurant’s flavor/method of being cooked on a bed of onions.

The AP ingredient list lists “cooked onion” but the flavor isn’t evident.  I was surprised, but happy about the fact, that AP’s patties aren’t bathed in liquid smoke, as a lot of heat and eat burgers are, a method to simulate outdoor grilling.

All in all, with condiments of my (or your choice), this is a pretty good product for a quick snack, or to pop something economical in your kid’s mouths. They aren’t terribly unhealthy in terms of fat, sodium, or carbs.

I’ll buy them again, and keep a few on hand. Why not?

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

Frozen out of package

 

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

After 60 seconds in microwave

 

 

 

 

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

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Sollys Grille Review, Milwaukee, WI

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Sollys Grille ReviewIf you tool around the Upper Midwest, you’ll undoubtedly run into a regional burger and custard chain named “Culvers.” Their motto is roughly “home of the butter burger.”

Believing that depends on who you ask. Culver’s version is to fry the burgers on a flattop and nestle it on a toasted, buttered, bun.

But on the East Coast of the state, in Milwaukee, one will come across Solly’s Grille, which opened in 1936 and purports to be the inventor of the actual “Butter Burger.” Or “Butterburger.”

What the term means at Solly’s is completely different than Culvers. At Solly’s, their patty also starts out on a flattop, and the buns are also toasted, but…wait for it……when the burger gets placed on bun, atop it comes an ice cream scoop size dollop of pure Wisconsin butter, which quickly melts, flavoring the patty, soaking the bun and pooling on the plate.

They say they use 150 pounds + of butter weekly, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.

There are different toppings on tap for burgers, various cheese, bacon, and such, but according to the server, there’s never been a pickle or mayo in house and there never will be.

The full menu includes breakfast.  (Yes, you can get a burger during breakfast hours).  Sides can be crinkle cut fries, rings, or potato pancakes. (After all, Wisconsin at its heart is very German).

The standard Butterburger is also topped with Solly’s own stewed onions.

There’s a guy in America named George Motz, who is considered by many, far and near, to be America’s Hamburger Expert.  Here’s a little video about Solly’s from one of his programs, and introducing the main man at Solly’s these days.  (George has a book and a documentary that share the title “Hamburger America.”

You’ll see a million “WOW” reviews of Solly’s online. And I always try to find something cool about every place, every experience, but you know what? This place was a lot better in my imagination that in reality. To me.

The factory produced, frozen patty is nothing special, and the onions were rather overpowering for me. Of course I loved the butter and how it flavored both the bun and meat, but the downside is as it pools on the plate, it soaks the bottom half of the bun and your sandwich can quickly become unmanageable.

Seating is limited to a long counter, and a very few tables, if that influences your decision. Service is hit and miss. And you can expect your multi-layered meal (burger, fries, shake) to not come out in any particular order or proximity to each other. You may have consumed your fries prior to even catching a glimpse of your burger.

The rings I liked. Crispy, a little beer in the batter I suspect, and the waitress “upsold me” on the dipping sauce, which was more than the usual restaurant fare. I’m gonna take a guess it is mayo and Tabasco. Not unpleasant. But I didn’t expect to be charged for it. Oh well.  Fries are top-notch as well.

This is a great place to hit for a nostalgic thing if you’re going to Milwaukee. Kind of like hitting the Billy Goat in Chicago. In either case, you’re not going because the food is gonna make you say “WOW OH MAN.”

But it’s fun nevertheless.  Two burgers, fries, rings, dipping sauce,  one soda, $21.

Sollys Grille Review

Butterburger with cheese

Sollys Grille Review

Perfect crinkle cut fries

Sollys Grille Review

Crispy flavorful rings

Solly's Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sollys Grille Review

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Magasin Review, New Orleans, LA

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Magasin Review New OrleansVietnamese cuisine is all the rage, isn’t it? Where else can you spend $25- $40 for a bowl of soup? Spoiler alert, if you want authentic Vietnamese in New Orleans, ask for directions out to the cluster of Vietnamese shops and restaurants in New Orleans east.

Vietnamese settled along the Gulf Coast and are busy in the shrimp industry, so there’s been a mini-explosion of Vietnamese “style” restaurants. I’ve had a couple of good experiences, at Mo Pho, which is Vietnamese/Creole fusion, interesting, tasty. And at Namese, in mid city. I’ve also driven down to the docks where the shrimp boats come in and purchased right off the boats. That’s fun and cheap!

Anyway, Magasin is on Magazine Street in New Orleans, a hub of shops and restaurants catering to the aspiring affluent. Just as sushi places come up with a unique “roll” of their own concoction, Vietnamese restaurants increasingly have added a special Bahn Mi (sub sandwich) and recipe Pho (soup) to their menus. These can be nit and miss.

At the Magasin Cafe, the special sandwich is called the “Deli Special.”  Usually these sandwiches, undoubtedly developed during the French occupation have one or two kinds of meat, cucumber, pickled vegetables,  cilantro, occasionally jalapenos, and occasionally some type of dressing.

I asked the waiter what was on the “Deli Special” and altho we were both speaking the same language, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was trying to say.  I think we settled it on being two kinds of pork, but then he said “chicken pork.”  Chicken and pork, I asked? No, you know, “chickenpork.”  Well, I do not know,  or did not, I ordered it, and it’s not to my taste. Whatever “chickenpork” is, it is surely the Americanized version of Vietnamese pressed, chopped, and form lunch meat.

Ick. Companion diners loved their pho, but to my observation, the plates were not adorned with as many things to add to the broth as I have seen at other restaurants.

It was near 6 on a weekend.  It was pretty busy. There are shops to poke in after and some pretty fair coffee, across the street and to the west.

Magasin Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Magasin Review

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Beef-A-Roo Review, Rockford, IL

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Beef-A-Roo ReviewThere’s the undisputed champion of fast food “roast beef” places, Arbys, which has more than 3300 units. There have been some ‘also rans’along the way, the Roy Rogers chain (once over 300 units) tried to be a national contender. Hardees, with over 3000 units, has always featured a similar product on their menu systemwide after acquiring both the Roy Rogers and Rax Roast Beef chains.

And there have been local/regional chains as well, which have somehow managed to survive, despite being outspent in marketing and dwarfed in the number of locations.

I recall visiting a Lion’s Choice, in St. Louis, (25 outlets), and this gem I visited to day, “Beef-A- Roo” in Rockford, IL. “BAR” has 7 locations and has been around since 1967, and while their initial focus was on roast beef, they now have a full menu, offering burgers, dogs, salads, wraps, soups and other sandwiches.

Like Arby’s “roast beef,” the meat at Beef-A-Roo appears to come from an emulsification process, that is, beef, a solution, seasonings, perhaps other ingredients are made into a slurry, packed into a mold, and pre-cooked. The meat has the same texture and color as Arbys, and or course, neither resemble pure “muscle meat” as one would find at a quality deli or prepare at home.

Regardless, it remains popular, and even tho Arbys has a good presence in Rockford, locals love their Beef-A-Roo, and I have to say my perception
of the roast beef sandwich was despite the similarity, I prefered this. To me, it was more flavorful than the competitions, and as I am a nut for any kind of bread, I have to mention that hands-down, Beef-A-Roo may well have one of the best buns in the industry. It’s terrific, soft yet firm, a slight buttery taste, and toasted.

I also tried the olive burger, a popular item in the Chicago area (i have reviewed others), tho different variations can be found. BAR’s closely resembles that one you will find on

Beef-A-Roo Review

Regular Roast Beef

most menus, with sliced green olives and melted white cheese. They added a sauce, and I really couldn’t tell what it was, resembling a mayo, and it’s not named on their website menu. The burger patty has come from the type of automation that makes it appear as if it was hand-formed (meaning not a perfectly round, “hockey puck” type patty like most fast foods) and like the roast beef, it was more flavorful than most of its competitors.

Read a bunch of BAR’s reviews and you’ll see people crow about the fries, and they are good, as good, or better, as the golden arches, which many people hold as the fast food gold standard. They are thin and crispy shoestrings, nicely salted, piping hot.

Other people think BAR is spendy, but I disagreed, came away with two large sandwiches, fries and a drink for under $10.

I wish they’d expand, at least regionally. In the meantime, you’ll have to go to Rockford, IL and try their food at one of seven locations.

I have seen the same name on other restaurants in the Midwest, no idea whether they were once affiliated, are franchises or operated by other members of the founding family.

 

 

Beef-A-Roo Review

Olive Burger

Beef-A-Roo Review

Cheese Fries

 

Beef-A-Roo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef-A-Roo 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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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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Dutch Farms Frozen Cheeseburger Review

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box3I’ve tried a lot of these ‘heat and eat’ burgers, some full cooked, some raw that you have to cook. It’s a long list of these sandwiches that I have slogged through, 7-Eleven, Trader Joes, Fatburger, SteaknShake, Ball Park, Biz Az, of course White Castle, and so many others.

Today’s entry is from Dutch Farms, a frozen food manufacturer in Chicago, mostly focused on dairy and bakery goods, but they also make heat and eat meals.  Funny that I don’t ever recall seeing the brand before, but maybe they are huge in the private label business.

The frozen burger comes complete with cheese and bun, wrapped in cello, the instructions tell you to open one end of the cello, heat 90 seconds and then let rest a minute before consuming.

I did. Added mustard and pickle.  Flavor was ok, it has some ‘smoke’ flavor added to emulate a grill, texture was ok, my complaint about this (and nearly all of them) are that the buns and meat don’t require the same attention in the microwave, so invariably, one or the other is overcooked or undercooked.

In this case, the bread is just nuked to a pulp (not literally) but it is way too soft to hold a substantial amount of toppings, if that’s they way you choose to dress your burger.

On the plus side, this was a little more than a buck at WalMart.  A lot of carbs and fat, but if you’re ok with that, buy a bunch to keep in the freezer for after school.

Which ones do I like the best?  Uncooked, the Trader Joes.  Cooked?  Ball Park. (they aren’t complete, the bag only contains the beef patties).

Dutch Farms Frozen Burger Review

Out of package

Dutch Farms Frozen Burger Review

90 seconds in microwave

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Farms Frozen Cheeseburger Review

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