Canteen in the Alley Review – Ottumwa, Iowa

Canteen on the Alley Ottumwa Iowa

Canteen in the Alley Review

Since 1927. Can hardly beat that for a recommendation, can you? The Canteen in the Alley serves “loose meat” sandwiches, known elsewhere in Iowa as “Maid Rites.”   What’s a “loose meat” sandwich?  Crumbled ground beef cooked on a steam table with diced onions and 17 herbs and spices. (Well, some, anyway – shall remain a mystery!).

The counter seating only diner is literally in an alley. Enter through there or through the adjacent parking garage.

Your consumption choices other than the sandwiches include menu items like chips, soda, coffee, ice cream shakes or a variety of pies.  There is a bevy of pie choices, depending on the day of the week.

We polished off one and a half sandwiches each, tried for the large milkshake, couldn’t finish it.  All of it delicious.  Will try harder next time.

Canteen in the Alley Review Ottumwa Iowa


Canteen Lunch In the Alley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Canteen in the Alley Review


The Norwegian Restaurant Review – Rockford, IL

The Norwegian Restaurant Review

The Norwegian Restaurant ReviewI grew up in a medium sized city (250,000) that was pretty ethnically diverse at the time. At least “Euro-diverse” largely because the first generation of settlers hadn’t died off yet.

Judging from the telephone book, there were a lot of Norwegians, Finns, and Swedes. Finns seemed to be the most notable, there were food and clothing stores that identified with that market.

As an “unwoke” child growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was acutely aware of people of these origins, and that at least one segment was subject to constant ridicule with “Fin-lander jokes.” “How many Finns does it take…” and so on.

Are Finns on the “bottom of the Scandinavian ladder?” Beats me, and I’ve traveled that part of the world.

Other ethnic groups? I’d hear adults (not in my family, tho) talk about the number of Jewish people in the city (650, one synagogue they said), and the single black family who moved into our part of the city (and was treated horribly) after retiring from the local airbase.

I didn’t personally know any Norwegians until college, when I went to a kind of Norse-centric institute of higher learning. I learned how to drink beer with one Norwegian guy. I had drunken clumsy sex with one Norwegian woman. (Consensual! Ask her!) Damn she was lovely. Is to this day.

So I find myself in Rockford, IL last week, also a place with a Scandinavian or ten, I thought I’d opt for a new restaurant called “The Norwegian.”

They offered a refreshing selection of breakfast dishes with top quality ingredients. (Menu below – click on to enlarge).

I went with the “Croque Madame” (French) curiously not a Norwegian dish at all, but nicely done with house-baked, coarse toasted bread, some variety of quality, thin-sliced ham (Danish?), melted Jarlsberg cheese (that’s Norwegian), a generous dollop of Bechamel sauce (also French) and a soft boiled egg perched atop the sandwich. (No idea on the ethnic origin of soft boiled eggs…..Chinese?)

There was a fistful of some unidentifiable (by me) greens along side.  The plate was delicious. As was their espresso.

All attended to by the most joyful server I think I have ever encountered, despite having been in restaurants of all price ranges in 65 countries. According to the receipt, her name is apparently “Weekend B.”

Although the joint seemed to have plenty of help, kinda seemed to me like she was a bit overworked, she was handling the full bar, both diners and drinkers. With aplomb. And a million dollar smile.

Open for breakfast and lunch, Tues-Sun, and apparently, unless I’m reading it wrong, Thursday afternoon happy hour.  Cozy atmosphere. Apparently live music at times.

You should check it out if you’re in Rockford. It was jammed on a Saturday morning, but table turnover was pretty fast. Two entrees, three drinks, around $34.  Parking in rear. Front facing signage is pretty minimal, so keep your eyes peeled.

The Norwegian Restaurant Review

“Croque Madame”


The Norwegian Restaurant Review

The Norwegian Restaurant Review

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

The Norwegian Restaurant Review

Casey’s General Stores Sandwich Review – Midwest C Store Chain

Casey's General Stores Sandwich ReviewCasey’s General Stores, Inc., is a chain of convenience stores/petro stations in the Midwestern United States, primarily within the states of Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, South Dakota,North Dakota,Kansas,Oklahoma,Nebraska,Ohio,Minnesota,Michigan,Tennessee,Kentucky, and Wisconsin. The company is headquartered outside of Des Moines.

With over 2,000 locations now, Casey’s started in 1959 in a rented gas station in Des Moines.

What’s unique about Casey’s is an in-house “deli” which offers cooked to order pizzas, sandwiches, breadsticks, wings, burgers and other sandwiches.

In my experience, and I’ve been in a LOT of Casey’s, you’d be hard pressed to find one that isn’t nearly antiseptically clean, and that includes the over-sized restrooms.

Food wise, while I can attest the pizzas are made to order, and subs as well, I’m not sure about the burgers and other hot sandwiches, they may be “heat and eat” from some secret Casey’s distribution center rather than scratch made in house.

I like the pizza. It’s a little “doughy” but the copious amount of cheese more than makes up for it. They sell it by the slice most hours of the day, a variety of toppings. They also have a breakfast pizza early in the day.

But today I grabbed their pre-made “Italian Sub,” out of the cooler, and I found the quality of the bread, meat and cheese to be superior to any of the sub chains and a better value as well.

I’d buy it again. Choose your own condiments from the massive selection on the counter.

Find out if you’re lucky enough to have a Casey’s near you with their locator:

Casey’s General Stores Sandwich Review

Casey’s General Stores Sandwich Review

Jubelts Restaurant Review Route 66 – Litchfield, IL

Jubelts Restaurant Review

Pony “Horseshoe” Plate

Dating from 1922, Jubelts is arguably the oldest surviving restaurant on the original US Route 66 segment in Illinois.  It’s about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis.

Functionally a full bakery with attached restaurant, the eatery is open to serve delights from all three meal dayparts.

It was late when I rolled in, and I was really looking for a motel to crash in, but when the lightbulb went off that this place was what I remembered it to be, I had to try it.

Although faced with a very lengthy menu,  as well as a full page of specials, when I’m in central Illinois, there’s really no choice for me but to get a “Horseshoe” – a plate unique to the area that many say originated in the Springfield area.

A “shoe” is two pieces of toast, with your choice of protein on top (burger, ham, pork, bacon, chicken) topped with fries, and then cheese sauce or sausage gravy. Throw in a couple of fried eggs in the middle there, if you’re inclined.

The “pony shoe” is a downsized version, and that was just fine for me; i chose another regional speciality, the fried pork tenderloin as my protein.  A tenderloin in these parts (and Indiana, and Iowa) is a lean piece of pork hammered very think, battered, deep fried, usually served between a terribly inadequately-sized bun.

In this case, it was in the middle of my pony.  Opted for cheese sauce, probably gravy would have been better.

Nevertheless, if you’re getting your kicks on Route 66, plan your day’s drive to hit Jubelt’s. Good grub.  Jubelts Restaurant Review Route 66









































Jubelt's Bakery & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jubelts Restaurant Review
Jubelts Restaurant Review

Iras Bagels Review – Lake in the Hills, IL

Iras Bagels ReviewLiving in the suburbs most anywhere, your choice for bagels is pretty much limited to one of the chains (which are all commonly owned now), the grocery store “bakery,” or grocery store frozen.

I think the first one I ever had was at a small deli across the street from my apartment in Minneapolis. I was hooked.  It was 1975.  Back then, other than at a deli, your choice was limited to frozen. Period.

Go to New York or someone that follows a traditional NY recipe (see video) and you’ll be spoiled forever.  No more chain or frozen bagels, uh huh, no way, never.


Well, I got lucky recently, with the opening of “Ira’s Bagels” in Lake in the Hills, IL, a NW Chicago suburb near me. I’m addicted.  Like I needed something else in the category?  I’ve been three times in two days!  In addition to their bagels being absolutely DELICIOUS, they are less expensive than the chain.

They also have sandwiches featuring (the very famous) Manny’s Deli corned beef and pastrami from the iconic downtown Chicago restaurant of the same name.  So no more hour commutes to dig into that, too!

My life is blessed.  Thank you Ira.  Live long and prosper.  Menu.  (Close up pic is mine – 3 “everything” bagels; store picture is from the company’s website).

Iras Bagels Review






Iras Bagels Review

Iras Bagels Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review – Milwaukee, WI

Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewSeventy-year-old Glorioso’s in Milwaukee is one of several fine Italian deli/groceries the city has to offer.

If it’s even remotely Italian, Glorioso’s has it on the shelf, in the counter or in the cooler. It’s a wonderland for foodies and cooks alike.  Naturally, I stocked up.  Sausages. Cheese. A muffaletta sandwich. So let’s talk about that.  Purportely invented a zillion years ago by immigrants in New Orleans, the “muff” is traditionally a nine inch round loaf, bedazzled with sesame seeds, with two or three types of Italian cold cuts, cheese, and topped with “olive salad” – which is finely diced vegetables and olives in oil.

The result is a messy wonderland – most people can’t eat a whole one, and happily, Glorioso’s has “halves” in their counter.

I put away more than my share, living in New Orleans, and have written about several of them. Tourists like to go to the store that is supposedly the birthplace. I prefer a dive bar uptown.

Glorioso’s could easily pass in New Orleans.  I enjoyed it. If I knew how much I was going to like it, I’d have stocked up. Only “complaint?”  A little light on the olive salad.   (I bought a jar of their mix to bring home, as well).

Scored a fantastic dry salami, “Licini Cacciatore.”  I love when processed meats actually taste like the animal they came from, and this is soGloriosos Italian Market Reviewme great pork.  BTW, the name means (Cacciatore) “hunter”  and (Lincini) Bent or pointing upwards.  It’s a very hard salami, with a robust flavor.

Their beef/pork meatballs have a great flavor, run about a buck apiece, I brought home four to try. They have an awful lot of ingredients compared to the ones I make at home, which are just beef, pork, milk, bread, fennel, parsley, garlic and basil.  Glorioso’s balls are a very fine grind, good for the mass appeal market. My own balls have a rougher texture, chewier. My preference only.

Salads, olives, meats, cheese, entrees, they are all in the counter. You can order a sandwich or a plate, pasta, panini or pizza. (They have take and bakes also).  Their full menu is below.

Staff is personable and knowledgeable about the products.

Really worth a stop if you are passing through.  Really worth being on your regular shopping route if you live there. I will be back. Often.  (I had planned on writing more, but doing this made me hungry, have to go see what I have left from my trip!)

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Half a Muffaletta Sandwich

 Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Glorioso Menu – Click to enlarge

Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market Review
Glorioso's Italian Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review – Multiple Locations New Orleans, LA

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co ReviewI’ve been coming to this place for almost 20 years. It used to be for the hamburgers, and it was the hamburger because the location I used to frequent had a very large “fixin’s bar,” which was quite nice.

That feature seems to have vanished.  Now I come for the thin sliced fried catfish, cause I think this is the only place in the city you can get it, unless you’re in the mood for a Sunday drive and want to go about 40 miles north to Middendorfs, an old timey place which is really great as well.

What they mean by “thin-sliced” is the filet is sliced length-wise, resulting in a paper thin piece of fish.  It’s then flash fried in their unique breading, resulting in an extra crispy filet.

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger’s menu has all the usual suspects of local dishes. Fried and grilled seafood, oysters, gumbo, and throw in the burgers for good measure.

They have great fries, extruded potato fry shape drenched in garlic butter and sprinkled with herbs. They’re kind of addictive.

This time around, I had the thin filet cat poboy, it was good, good bread, fully dressed, too large to eat at a sitting.  (If you’re a first time visitor to the city, servers will ask if you want your sandwiches “dressed” which means lettuce, tomato and mayo. Most people say yes.

This location (uptown, on the St Charles streetcar line) has a couple large rooms, so it’d be ok to bring your family thing or a tour bus here, I imagine. Full bar and a number of draft beers, and the sign said video slots, but I didn’t see them.

I think I’ll revisit the burger next time.  Good grub. Good value. Sparkling clean facility. Efficent service.

A bunch of locations in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Full menu. (also below).   Kid choices, too.


New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Fried Catfish Poboy


New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Click to Enlarge

New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review


Fiorellas Cafe Review – New Orleans, LA

Fiorellas Cafe ReviewOnce upon a time there was a good and decent family that owned and operated a local favorite restaurant near the French Market for many, many years, until finally the time came for them to take it easy and they sold the establishment.

But like many people who create something with passion for a living, after a period, they missed it and made a family decision to start all over again, and opened Fiorella’s Cafe in the Gentilly neighborhood of the city.

As the old establishment was known for its exemplary take on fried chicken, so is the new eatery, winning the New Orleans Fried Chicken Festival two years in a row.

The simple neighborhood cafe serves all of Southern Louisiana’s favorites:  fried seafood, po boys, Italian specialties, along with daily specials.

All dishes are very fairly priced for the neighborhood, not to extract as many tourist dollars as possible.

The food is exemplary. This is possibly the best fried shrimp I’ve ever had anywhere, crispy fry batter, flavorful Gulf shrimp. The muffaletta is a good one, too many “legendary” places make them in advance, and refrigerate them, and they lose their luster, IMHO.  This sandwich moves into being one of my top two in the city.

The chicken lives up to its rep. Nice crust, perfectly fried, juicy on the inside, not greasy.  Fresh cut fries, done and seasoned perfectly.

Really, I finished this meal and I wanted to tell Chef that his/her food was art.  It exemplifies one of the passions of New Orleans, simple fare, prepared well, with love as one of the ingredients.  It’s easy to identify places like this – all the employees are smiling all the time.

I wish the family all the success in the world.  They deserve it.

Menu is here and below.

Fiorellas Cafe Review

Half muffaletta. Perfect.

Fiorellas Cafe Review

Fried shrimp basket with fresh cut fries

Fiorellas Cafe Review

Click to Enlarge

Fiorellas Cafe Review
Fiorella's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Fiorellas Cafe Review

Fiorellas Cafe Review


Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives ReviewIt’s hard to explain this company, you practically need to use Ancestry dot com to understand the hierarchy, but I’ll give it a shot.

Food Club is one of dozens of brands of a privately held Chicago company called Topco Associates LLC.

–Topco is a co-op. That is, it is owned by its “members.”

–It’s membership is comprised of grocery store companies and grocery distributing companies co-ops, which in turn, are owned by their member grocery store chains.

Topco started in 1944 as a way of establishing a reliable pipeline of grocery goods to stores, after the shortages left by the war. They have since grown to have hundreds of brand names, all across the grocery segment, fresh and frozen foods, jars and boxes, baby stuff, healthy stuff, with a brands you are familiar with including Food Club, Sure FIne, East, Buckley Farms, Papa Enzos, Cape Covelle. They also have a “Premium” line, a “health and wellness line” and a “Basics” line where the products mostly are labeled “Valu Time.”

Remember when “generics” first hit the grocery stores? White packaging, black block letters – “OAT CEREAL” and such.  Today “generics” (store brands, really) make up a huge percent of a store’s inventory and are very often made by the largest manufacturers in the country, the ones that make the brand names you trust.  ALDI stores is a master of this segment, having products made to their specifications by major processors, and putting a brand name label of their own on the product.  I’ve reviewed a ton of Aldi products on this site.

All these types of products are generally considerbly less money than the brand names, and are on the shelf right next to the majors so you can compare. Yeah, I don’t get why Oreos would want fake ones right next to them on the shelf, but it is what it is.

IN ANY CASE, today it’s about Food Club brands Spanish Olives with Diced Pimento and “Olive tree.” Now that last item is intriguing, you have to admit, it’s going to be the perfect coat rack companion to my pizza box “doll house tables.”

These are Manzanillo olives from Spain. Processors pick at different times in the season depending on the size they desire, these are early, the smallest.  I’m an olive snob.  I’m always eating them and once a year, I cure them myself at home, purchasing raw olives and going through the painstaking and lengthy process to cure them naturally (in a brine).

Large olive producers can afford to wait around, so the natural bitterness of the fruit is removed from the olive with a lye bath. Yes, lye.

As far the Food Club product? Whatever process they’ve used has caused the fruit to be too soft.  The brine is fine, and these would be ok to finely dice and use in whatever recipe you use diced olives in, but they aren’t fun to snack on.

The upside? They were only 99 cents.  Probably less than half the price of competitive brands.

So there you have it. Yes, I did dice them.  Put them on an Italian hoagie (sub, grinder, torpedo, hero, poorboy, poboy)  where they worked just fine.





Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Topco Associates

Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review – Nationwide Chain in 46 States

Sonic Drive In "Slingers" ReviewCan’t say who thought of this concept, but naturally the “Mushroom Council” is excited about it.

The idea is to use finely diced mushrooms and seasonings as an extender for beef with a two-fold goal: to make hamburgers juicier and more flavorful, and also to do a bit for the environment – if we’re using less resources for beef, that’s supposed to be a good thing.

Seems like the suggested percentage is ‘shrooms in the 25-30% range.

Boldy going where no chain has gone before, the people at Sonic jumped on this, and are currently offering two different LTO blended burgers which they call “Slingers.”  Bigger than a slider, not as big as a “regular” burger (tho I have strongly suggested they get with that!).

The “Classic” is cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. An upgrade gives you bacon/cheese without the produce. $1.99 and $2.49, respectively.

An affinity for mushrooms came to me quite late in life. I could possibly be a little shy about some of them still.  But I was committed to diving into this for the sake of you, dear reader.

Glad I did. They ARE tastier. They ARE juicier. You can’t see or ‘taste’ anything mushroomy. At least I couldn’t.

I did enjoy them. I would prefer them over most fast food standard burgers. Nice brioche bun, as well. Soft but sturdy, how we like ’em!

So that’s that.  Sonic menu. All items available all day.  (I like their breakfast “toasters” too, and I’ll always go out of my way for tots over fries).

Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review


Sonic Drive In "Slingers" Review

Bacon Cheese Edition

Sonic Drive-in Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review

Sonic Drive In “Slingers” Review


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