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Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

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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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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