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Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

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Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin TrailThe “pork tenderloin” is a sandwich unique to Iowa……and also Indiana.  Go figure.  You take a boneless pork chop, hammer it thin-like with a mallet, dip it in batter, serve it on a hamburger bun one-tenth the size of the meat.

Restaurants vary the batter recipes and seasonings. The “trick” seems to be to get it thin enough to suit the gimmick, but still have it retain juicy pork goodness.

The Iowa Pork Council publishes a list annually of the 10 or so “best” in the state, and if you want to hit them all, they make a map of the “Tenderloin Trail.

I set out with the best of intentions, to hit at least half of the establishments, at least those in the Eastern half of Iowa, but I got distracted by other things and only hit two.

T.C.’s Point After, in historical DeWitt, IA (on the Lincoln Highway) is one of the legends, for flavor, not for girth. Walked in at noon on a weekend and there were only a couple other customers, even tho this is one of the few full-service bar/eateries in this burg. And the loin? It was delicious.

I was delighted that it was my first stop, but disappointed too, as the rest of the trip would be measured against this sandwich. Sadly, after 40 years of operation, I heard this week (2/1/18) that TC’s just closed. Hopefully someone will buy and reopen it. I would go back.

My second stop was the legendary Hamburg Inn 2, Iowa City, which is NOT on the tenderloin list. I went to please an old Iowa alum, as most students have passed thru this eatery since it opened in 1948. Sadly, the original location, near campus, was closed for remodeling, so I was forced to check out the new location on the east side of town, which is a small cafe attached to a gas station/c-store. Still a student hangout tho.

If you come for a “legendary” burger, be prepared to lay out some cash, as a plain burger will cost you over $10, and a hot dog over $6!  Kinda spendy for students, but then when I was in college a picture of beer was $2.50 and a pizza was $4. So there you go.  Even tho the Hamburg Inn is not on the tenderloin list, I went for one anyway, with eggs, as it was breakfast time.

It was a disappointment, cause I’d bet money it wasn’t made in-house, but came prepared from a supplier somewhere. I was able to ascertain that their regular pork chops come from Ruizicki’s Meats, a small processor up the road in Solon, IA.  Of course, I had to run up there and check out their stuff, and yes, I dropped some dough.

It was at this point I got distracted from the tenderloin trail, and a lightbulb went off (“hey, why not check out small town meat processors in search of excellent sausage)?”

So I did.  I hit Washington, Kalona, Wellman and Riverside. In a store in store in Kalona, which had general merch but also a lot of locally produced food stuffs, including a bit in a freezer, I inquired after the legendary “Kalona Whole Hog Sausage” which I had the pleasure of consuming some years early on an Iowa hog far. The proprietor’s eyes glazed over, he knew what I was talking about, and told me that every year the local fire department put on a sausage feed which featured this legendary tubular nutritional delivery vehicle, but no, he didn’t carry it, nor did he know where to get it

Like in most small towns in America, he did want to be helpful and suggested I talk to the fire chief, as he was in charge of the annual fete. I was told he would be in the hardware story kitty-corner. So I ambled across the street.

The fire chief was out doing what fire chiefs to, but the clerk steered me to the source, Bud’s Custom Meats, in the next town of Riverside, IA. Apparently Bud’s is known far and wide for their beef jerky, but they have freezers full of every kind of pork cut a hog eater like me would desire. If you don’t know, Riverside, IA is famous because in the future, it will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. No, not kidding. They celebrate it, too.

I loaded up on sausages, some ham, and “Iowa Chops,” two inch thick bone-in pork chops. If you’ve never had them…well….bucket list, really.

It was at that point I had to go north, I was due in New Glarus, WI, “The Switzerland of America,” one of my favorite places.

I’d like to complete the Tenderloin Trail, all in one shot. Maybe someday.  Resources, you know.

I goofed around with making tenderloins at home this week, admittedly using a couple of “cheats.”  You can read about that adventure by scrolling down or jump!.

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

TCs Tenderloin

 

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Hamburg Inn Tenderloin Breakfast

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Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Pork “tenderloins” are an Iowa thing.  And Indiana thing.  We’ll leave it at that.  It’s a boneless pork chop, hammered with a mallet to make it larger Pork Tenderloin Recipeand thinner, dipped in batter and deep-fried, served on a hamburger bun about 1/10th the size of the ‘loin. You might also call it wienerschnitzel, of a sort. Or how about “chicken fried pork?”

So I had been out driving around Iowa and Indiana in search of great tenderloin, and it’s so important to the state, that the Iowa Pork Council has come up with the “Tenderloin Trail” so you can hit a dozen of the best the state has to offer.

I have written up the Iowa one as of yet, they were all pretty good. Soon.  In Indiana, I stopped at (and have reviewed) the Oasis Diner, and Ray’s Drive In.  They were both superb.

What sets one ‘loin apart from another is getting it thin enough, but still retaining the juiciness of the pork.  The batter. The seasoning. Length of time in the hot oil bath. These are all important.

When I set out to try it at home, I had some cheats, some shortcuts.  First off, I didn’t purchase pork chops, I bought pork “cube steaks” which were half the price of chops this week and would work just as well.

I purchased two different dry fry mixes, both Louisiana products,  Zatarain’s Seasoned Fish Fry (which I use a lot) and Louisiana Fish Fry Products Chicken Fry.

The latter suggests you mix a bit of it with 1/2 cup of water, dip your meat, and then completely cover it with more mix before frying.  I also improvised a bit with the Zat’s, in that I dunked, then dipped in egg wash, and dunked again. This would give the breading a little more depth, thickness.

Then into oil.  How long? Til they’re done!  LOL  (Not long).

On the surface, they appeared about the same when done. I plated them with some sausage gravy and a piece of Texas toast.

I liked the Zatarain’s better, simply because I’m a long time consumer and I like the pre-seasoning in it. Not a fair comparison, but it also had a bulkier breading because of the egg dip.

But I’d buy both again. There must be dozens of these kind of mixes in the grocery. You can also order both brands (and others) online from Cajun Grocer, a Louisiana company I have purchased seafood and other goodies many times.

Zatarain’s was a family owned business for decades, now it’s owned by seasoning giant McCormick and Schmidt (New Orleans area plant (pictured below) . Louisiana Fish Fry is still family owned, based in Baton Rouge. (pictured below)

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Zatarain’s

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry Baton Rouge

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

New Orleans area Zatarains plant

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review, Chicago, IL

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Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Exterior

1870 was the year Herman Berghoff immigrated from German. He worked on plantations and at other jobs before opening his own brewery in Indiana. When the World’s Fair in Chicago came along in 1893, Berghoff set up a booth to sell his beer to fair patrons.

He met with such success, he figured he better have an outlet in Chicago, and thus the Berghoff opened in 1898.

1870, when Herman Berghoff immigrated from Germany to America. After stints working on cotton and sugar cane plantations—and even time spent performing at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show—Herman opened his own brewery in Indiana.

When the World’s Fair came to Chicago in 1893, Herman Berghoff set up a stand in the Midway Plaisance and sold his beers to people entering and exiting the fair. His success at the fair prompted him to consider a more permanent place to sell his beer in Chicago. Thus, The Berghoff opened doors in 1898.

He survived prohibition by expanding the food offerings beyond sandwiches, and brewing and selling sodas and near beer. To this day, the Berghoff brews some of the finest root beer you’ll find anywhere.

The restaurant holds Chicago liquor license #1. Today, there is the full service restaurant, a bar with small bites, and a fast service cafe opening M-F lunch. One of the quirks of the Berghoff is it was strictly “men only” until 1969, when Gloria Steinham and some women friends walked in and demanded to be served at the bar.

That was that.

Renowned for authentic German cuisine, the menu also offers some American favorites, and most everything served is crafted in-house, including some of the best rye bread you’ll ever experience.

I went for the fresh cut, lean corned beef sandwich, which came with chips and a pickle. And of course, a root beer.

If you’re in downtown Chicago, be sure to make this one of your stops.

Regular Menu
Cafe Menu
Bar Menu 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Corned beef on house-baked rye

 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

House-made chips

 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Back in the day menu

The Berghoff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

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Winstons Irish Bacon Review

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Winstons Irish Bacon ReviewWhen you request bacon in the US, you know what you are going to get. Smoked/cured thin slices of pork belly, with streaks of fat parallel to streaks of delicious meat.

Unless you request “Canadian Bacon” which is neither Canadian nor bacon, but very lean sliced pork loin,  cured and smoked. Outside of the US, “American style” bacon is often referred to as “streaky bacon.”

Not so in other parts of the world, where you can be faced with a number of choices.  In the UK and other remnants of the Empire, where you will most often be served what is referred to in the US and Canada as “back bacon,” thin slices of smoked (or not) pork cut from both the loin and a small bit from the belly.  It is cut from the same part of the hog as pork chops.

Order a “full breakfast” in England, and it will come with a couple slices of back bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, and toast. Maybe a grilled tomato. Depends on what part of the country you are in.

All this to say, in my recent visit to the mecca of foodie groceries, Jungle Jims, there are many choices of bacon to put in your cart, including a number of selections not made from pork. (My father was a habitual beef bacon consumer. It’s very lean, pretty chewy, but very tasty).

I picked up a pack of “Winston’s Irish Bacon,” which, to my surprise, is made here in Chicago. I’ve never seen it before, but apparently, Winston’s is a fairly old company specializing in Irish foods, they are wholesale processors, but also have a couple of markets and a restaurant.

Anyhow, Winstons bacon is delish.  I’m eager to track down some of their sausages and whatever else they got. Their factory/store is on the far south side of Chicago, but probably worth a drive. I’m a sucker for new sausage suppliers!

In the end, quality bacon at my house nearly always leads to a gooey fried egg sammich. Today was no exception!

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

In the pan, fried for 2 minutes a side

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

My fried egg sammich

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Chicago factory and retail outlet

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

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Rays Drive In Review – Kokomo Indiana

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Rays Drive In ReviewA pork tenderloin, or simply “tenderloin” was not on my food radar for most of my life.

Oh, I’d see them on menus, people around me would order them, but for some reason, even up close they didn’t merit a look-see from my side of the table.

That’s changed.  For the uninitiated, a pork tenderloin is a sandwich, wherein a boneless pork chop is placed on a counter and hammer until very thin, breaded, deep fried, placed on a burger bun, often served with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but in my mind, this is a distinctly Midwestern thing, and narrower than that, Iowa and Indiana seem to be the champions.

Of course, restaurant proprietors want their tenderloins to be tasty, so they concoct different formulations of breading and seasonings; but another factor among some operators is SIZE.  Some satisfaction is derived by chefs and diners alike if the loin on the plate is as big as their plate.

Iowa even has a “Tenderloin Trail” you can attempt to conquer, a dozen or so of the best offerings as determined by the Iowa Pork Producers Council.  I set out to hit a few of the stops a couple months ago, and weird, just noticed I hadn’t written them up.  I will.

But Indiana, they excel in “big” tenderloins.  First one I had was last year at the Oasis Diner on US 40, the “National Highway.”  Read all about it here.

But on this trip, I set out to hit the iconic Ray’s Drive In, in beautiful Kokomo, IN.  A small eatery, with perhaps a dozen tables in the dining room, and carhop service to diners in the parking lot,  Kokomonians (?) will tell you Ray’s is a must stop. And I agree.

I ordered the “King” Tenderloin, and my table mate went for the regular ‘loin.”  There is a distinct difference.  If you love pork, and you’re looking for excellence in flavor and texture, you’ll be happier with the King than the regular.  Even if you can’t finish it (I couldn’t).  They even have different breadings.

Ray’s King Tenderloin rates in the top three sandwiches I’ve had anywhere in the world, at any time. It’s worth a side trip.

I had every intention of ordering onion rings but “tots” came out of my mouth, and compared to the fries (they are priced the same), the tots order seemed a little skimpy.  Didn’t matter, I helped myself to the fries (another dish not finished), and if I would have skipped the taters all together, I could have made more of a dent in the ‘loin.

Did I say I loved this sammich?  I did.  Pix below and portions of the menu. I’m sure the other entrees and daily specials are home-cookin’ quality. And BTW? It’s pretty cheap to eat at Ray’s.

 

Rays Drive In Review

Tenderloin, tots, and fries

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

 

 

Oasis Diner Review, Plainfield, IN


Ray's Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rays Drive In Review

Rays Drive In Review

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Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

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Primanti Brothers Sandwich ReviewThere is a raft of places in the world where enterprising folks have created what I call a “one-handed meal.” Designed originally for the working class, shift workers, these foodstuffs were especially well adapted to heavy industry factory workers, miners and the like. In Cornwall, England, it was the “pasty,” a baked meat and vegetable pie.

This goody made it’s way to America and show up in miner lunchboxes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Iron Range of Minnesota. They are still popular today, and you can order them online from UP shops.

Louisiana’s version is the “Muffaletta,” Italian deli meats, topped with cheese and olive “salad” (minced olives and pickled vegetables) and served on a unique 9″ round loaf of bread. They originated at Central Grocery (review) in New Orleans, and absolutely delicious.  One sandwich can easily serve two persons if not more. And yes, you can buy them online too from Cajun Grocer.

Chicago? The genuine Chicago style hot dog. Available everywhere in the Windy City, or you can make your own by watching this short video.

But today’s “one-handed meal” is all about the famous sandwich created by Primanti Brothers, in Pittsburgh, in the 1930s. Consisting of a stack of grilled (your choice) meats, topped with cheese, French fries, cole slaw, a thick tomato slice and nestled between two pieces of hearty Italian bread, this sandwich is not only delicious but a piece of culinary art in my opinion.

I waited a long time to get to one of their locations, fortunately now they are expanding rapidly. Primanti Brothers will put any sandwich chains offerings to shame.

I went with the “Al Capone” – grilled split Italian sausage, topped with capicola and salami, melted cheese, followed by the fries, slaw and ‘mato. Spectacular. Couldn’t finish it, no surprise there. Wanted to. Bought another to take home.

Should be on everybody’s sandwich bucket list. Download their app and get your first sandwich free!

The chain offers other foods, pizza, wings, and the like. I’ll probably never get to try them as I will be working my way thru the sandwich portion of the menu posted below.

 

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Al Capone Whole

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Sandwich portion menu

 

Primanti Bros. Indianapolis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review
Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

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Hamburg Inn 2 Menu Iowa City IA

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Click to view larger image.

 

Hamburg Inn 2 Menu Iowa City IA

 

 

 

 

Hamburg Inn 2 Menu Iowa City IA

Hamburg Inn 2 Menu Iowa City IA

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Jersey Mikes Subs Review – Nationwide Chain

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Jersey Mikes Sub ReviewSo I saw this “pseudo-documentary” the other night, and one segment was on the founding of Jersey Mike’s Subs.

After reading a bit on Wikipedia, one or the other took a little poetic license. No matter. The shop started in Point Pleasant, NJ, a seaside down equidistant between Manhattan and Philly.

After 3 owners, long time employee Peter Cancro, around 18 purchased the shop in 1975, with financial assistance from a high school mate and a local banker/football coach (yeah, I don’t get that either).

They began franchising in 1987 and today there are over 1000 locations. Their “hook” is sub sandwiches made to order, slicing the meats and cheeses as needed.

They’ll ask your choice of bread (white, wheat, herb) and size (small, medium, and gigantic), and you can order by number from their menu, their recipes of hot or cold combinations, about a dozen of each, or of course, design your own.

They’ll ask you if you want it “Mike’s Way”, which involves sliced onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, salt (spices) and “The Juice” – a mixture of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

They don’t seem to have as many toppings as competitors, tho it was my first visit and maybe they just don’t have them on display.

I went with a #13 “The Original Italian” – Provolone, Ham, Prosciuttini, Cappacuolo, Salami and Pepperoni. I didn’t request cheese, should have.  The meat is ok, nothing distinguishable.

I elected for the white loaf, and it’s good bread, better than competitors.

I don’t get the point of “slicing as needed.” It’s just ordinary deli meat, and this just adds an employee to the payroll. When I say “ordinary deli meat” I am talking about the formed, seasoned ‘loafs’ we’re used to seeing in deli counters. Slicing on site does enable Jersey Mikes to have the meat be paper thin – nearly translucent, and that means profit, I imagine.

Don’t know how (most) deli meat is made? Here’s a video (Dietz & Watson, pretty high quality).

Having not been in before, I ordered the large. Shouldn’t have – it’ll end up being 2-3 meals for me. It also game with a large price tag, $15. If I added extra meat and cheese, it’d top $17. That’s a helluva lot for a sandwich that is not coming out of the Carnegie Deli.

Overall verdict? Better than the competitors, with the exception of our local guy, who actually roast meats on site. The standard add-ons of chips and cookies available. Order your “sandwich” as a wrap or salad if you like that kind of thing.

Caution tho, as with any vegetable laden sandwich, if you’re not going to consume immediately, the bread is going to get soggy over a fairly short period of time.

If you’re saving it for later, consider disassembling, at least the tomato, lettuce. Really. Postscript:  I forgot to say, the employees at this location were VERY happy and courteous.  The only other chain I have experienced this level of “hospitable” employees is Chick-Fil-A.  So whomever is motivating franchisee employees, good job!

Jersey Mikes Sub Review

Jersey Mikes Sub Review

Jersey Mikes Subs Review

Jersey Mikes Subs Review

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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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