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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

Giordanos Pizza Review, St. Charles, IL

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<div style="position:relative;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K-cTzg8DcrY?ecver=2" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" style="position:absolute;width:100%;height:100%;left:0" allowfullscreen></iframe></div>Brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio were born in a small town near Turin, Italy.

The brothers first immigrated to Argentina and subsequently  to the US. Upon arriving in America, Efren began working at a pizzeria in Chicago, but he was not satisfied with the pizzas he tasted and decided to open his own restaurant, Roma.

When Joseph came to Chicago, Efren has stated they decided to open a restaurant using their old family recipes and after experimenting over several months developed the stuffed pizza, finding Giordano’s in 1974.

A couple owners and one bankruptcy later, Giordanos is prospering and on a tear to expand nationwide, and have opened restaurantsGiordanos Pizza Review outside of the Chicago area.

Their specialty is “stuffed pizza” which is a form of deep dish, but unlike most of the chains “deep dish” that focus on way too much dough,  the emphasis here is on quantity of ingredients and the sauce is always on top.

We were at the St. Charles, IL location and served by Ilona. She did a great job, maintained her humor, despite (it seemed to me) having too many tables she was responsible for.

We ordered the large stuffed, sausage only, and it was superb.

The pizzas REALLY DO look like the ones in the TV commercials.  One large pie (served four and their were leftovers, 1 beer, 3 soft drinks, tip,  around
$42.

Locations.  Menu.

Giordano's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Giordanos Pizza Review
Giordanos Pizza Review

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Anns Bakery & Deli Review, Ukrainian Village, Chicago

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 Anns Bakery & Deli ReviewThe first time I was in Russia it was before “the change.” It was not unusual to see dozens or hundreds of people in line at food stores, even though they knew that probably there would be no inventory.

Outside of each subway station there were long lines of people selling ‘silly’ things: one shoe, two inches of vodka in a bottle, a couple of pencils.

People were hungry and would overlook conventional norms for food safety and ingredients.

And such was the feeling I got at Ann’s Bakery and Deli in Ukraine Village in Chicago.If you don’t speak Russian, I wouldn’t recommend stopping in, you’ll be treated like a 2nd class citizen by both the help and the other customers. The Russian shoppers are just plain rude, the help, not only rude, but unhelpful to non-Russian speakers.

Why I felt the resemblance between the bakery goods and pre-change Russia? A lot of the food on the shelves is past the expiration date, but it doesn’t stop the locals from grabbing it up like the just got the deal of the century on caviar.

Bakery goods are mismarked for prices and the shelf order is nothing short of chaos – with different goods all mixed up so you wouldn’t be able to tell the price in any case.

As many other customers have opined, I got home to find 1) not only were many of the baked goods stale (odd, as it was the day before Easter and one would expect a bakery to be chock-a-block full of fresh goods), and 2) the hustle of the cash register and treatment by both customers and help alike, made me miss the fact I was drastically overcharged for some items.

If you regularly read my reviews, you know that I endeavor to find something redeeming out of every visit. Not so here.

Pass on Ann’s Bakery, even for the curiousity factor. But I don’t want to discourage anybody from visiting Ukrainian Village; the cathedrals are magnificent and there are authentic Russian restaurants and culture to absorb. As well as a place distinctly NOT Russian, Fatso’s Last Stand, a superb example of a Chicago hot dog stand.

Ann's Bakery & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Anns Bakery & Deli Review

Anns Bakery & Deli Review

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Napoli Pizza Review, Woodstock, IL

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Napoli Pizza Review WoodstockI love being surprised (in a good way).

I also love having an experience exceed my expectations. Both were the case at Napoli Pizza, in the distant Chicago burg of Woodstock.

You may not recognize the name of the town, but you would if you were dropped into the town square – it’s where most of the exteriors of the movie “Groundhog Day” were filmed. There’s even a commerative “Ned Ryerson” plague on the sidewalk.

So I saw Napoli by accident some time ago, and it looked old timey. Not much about it online, other than their facebook page, which says they have been family owned for 26 years. Carry out, delivery or dine in, pizza, pasta, apps, sandwiches. Open 7 days from 11AM.

I ordered a thin crust house special (sausage, pepperoni, green and black olives, onions, mushrooms, and green pepper).

I can vouch that the dough is blended in-house, because I spied a hunk of it bigger than me, being worked in the kitchen. Their “thin” isn’t as thin as some other Chicago area pizzerias, more like the thickness of what the chains referred to as “hand-tossed.” Regardless, it was very flaky at the exterior and nice and chewy as you worked your way in from the win.

Toppings were plentiful, and I mean PLENTIFUL. I was surprised when I was first handed the box, this sucker was HEAVY. Excellent hand pulled chunks of flavorful Italian sausage. The sauce is slightly sweet, but in the way it’s supposed to be, from tomatoes. Hearty. And massive amounts of cheese, I’m sure the quantity would qualify as “double cheese” at most places. Really, really nice.

I wished I lived closer, Napoli would be my go-to place. Luckily, every few months I’m up that way. I’ll be back. I so admire mom and pop sized operators. It’s gotta be tough every day to compete against the major chain pricing gimmicks, and of course the breaks chains get on purchasing monster quantities of ingredients.

Thanks for a great pie!  Menu below.

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock

House Special

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock
Napoli Pizza Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Napoli Pizza Review

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Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

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Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage ReviewThese poor little sausages start off with a couple strikes against them – I pretty much don’t like brown and serve type breakfast sausages. Including fast food kinds.  But I thought I would give these two national brand names a shot when I saw them at the Dollar Tree.

Jimmy Dean is an established sausage maker, started by the late music/film personality of the same name. The company grew bigly and was acquired by Sara Lee (now Hillshire Farms, now Tyson).

The package (for a buck) comes with six links, you’ll find them in the frozen food coolers, if your Dollar Tree has them.

Ingredients are pork and mechanically separated turkey (another kiss of death for me, anything that has mechanically separated poultry as an ingredient).

I popped these into a skillet with my other test subjects, Banquet brand Original Breakfast Sausage Patties, and cooked them awhile. This type of Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Reviewproduct IS pre-cooked in the package, so there are microwave instructions as well, for a quick heat and eat.

Banquet is part of the multinational food conglomerate ConAgra.  The company dates back more than 60 years, having started by introducing frozen meat pot pies.

What did I think? Flavor is OK, but one of the things I don’t like about these types of products is the texture. Not enough resistance in a bite, like ‘real’ sausage.

Result, I wouldn’t be likely to buy it again, unless I had company that requested it.

The Jimmy Dean sausages were/are made by Peacock Foods, in Itasca, IL, a distant superb of Chicago. The Banquet ones are a product of Abbyland Foods in Wisconsin. Abbyland makes products for a number of brands and retailers. They are a popular source for the discount grocer Aldi.

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Banquet Patties, Jimmy Dean Links

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Abbyland Foods

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Peacock Foods

 

 

 

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

Dollar Tree Breakfast Sausage Review

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review, Suburban Chicago

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review

I went to try a new place today, the 5th outlet of a local chain called “Southern Belle’s” a breakfast and lunch place with a “Southern” twist.

In addition to “regular” breakfast and lunch dishes, you’ll find their take on Southern foods like “Shrimp and Grits,” “Biscuits and Gravy,” and “Pork Belly and Eggs.”

For some reason, apparently, the proprietor’s definition of “Southern” extends out to Arizona, as there are also Tex Mex breakfast and lunch dishes.

Burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads round out the midday offerings.

I went for breakfast around 9AM, business was fairly brisk for the time of day and the place being new. There was a mix of demographics, young families, seniors, singles, and there was a large group standing in the lobby – – I thought they were waiting to be seated in one of the large private rooms, figuring them to be a company, church group, or extended family. Nope. Turns out they were local Chamber members participating in the traditional “giant scissors” photo op out front.

Southern Belle’s has done a clever thing, the front of the restaurant, where the cashier station is, the area doubles as a coffee/smoothie bar, I imagine, creating another revenue stream by roping in passers by (Not sure if this option is in all locations). Only problem I noted with this concept, is there no signage for this segment outside. Maybe it is still to be installed.

The restaurant is in a strip mall, across the street from a major mall, and has good street signage, so traffic should be fine. It’s on the large side for the casual segment, I think, immaculately clean, as were the restrooms.

My server, Genevieve, was friendly, and  attentive without being intrusive. She stopped by a couple times to make sure I was happy. A person that clearly understands what the words “hospitality industry” mean.

Ordering coffee, I was happy when she brought a large thermal pot to leave at the table. They also have an “amuse,” 3 mini corn muffins. I’m not a corn bread fan under any circumstances, I ate one, but I can’t really give you an opinion on whether they are good or not.

I opted for Country Fried Steak and Eggs, which comes with a split buttermilk biscuit, hash browns, and a substantial quantity of sausage gravy.

I’m also not a big biscuit eater, so I won’t opine on that, either, except to say it was buried under the gravy, so if you’re an egg mopper (my mother would slap you if you are), ask for the biscuits on the side.

Hash browns? Not made there. Shreds that most likely came frozen or dried from a supplier like Sysco. I apologize to the owners if they aren’t, but that’s what they seemed like.  I’m a big fan of really, really great breakfast potatoes.  I’ll drive a long way to try some that somebody has bragged about.

I’m split on the steak. Good flavor, nice texture to the batter, not particularly flavorful, and I was unable to tell whether this was also a heat and eat food service item or made from scratch in house.  I was quite happy with the sausage gravy. Flavorful, a little spice, and large chunks of pork sausage. To my liking.

All in all? It’s pretty OK. I lean more to favoring greasy spoon type diners, but this is a nice alternative for local families. They boast that a number of items are sourced locally and they are fans of “farm to table.”

There’s also Healthy, Vegan and Gluten Free portions to the menu, if you’re fussy about that kind of stuff.

Here’s the menu, and the locations. Breakfast and lunch seven days.

$20 for breakfast, coffee, tax and tip for me today.

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Complimentary Mini Corn Muffins

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Country Fried Steak and Eggs

Southern Belle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Southern Belles Restaurant Review

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Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

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Sokolow Hunters Sausage ReviewI love sausage. Smoked. Cured. Uncured. From Chicago. China. Spain. Louisiana. France. Italy.  Poland. Anywhere.  Sokolow is a major meat processor in Poland, dating back to 1899.

They sell under the brand names of Gold, Sokoliki, Uczta Qulinarna,  Naturrino and Darz Bór. Lucky for me, some of these are imported to the states, and in Chicago, there are numerous, many, many, Polish groceries and delis who stock imported foods.

So I picked up a pack of their “Hunter’s Sausage,” a dry cured product, lightly smoked, made from pork, salt, pepper, and juniper. No matter who the manufacturer is, these are the standard ingredients for “Hunter’s Sausage.” One company in Poland makes a beef version for export to the UK.

(Sidebar).  I was literally amazed at my first trip to Poland.  It wasn’t long after the divorce from the Soviet’s, so “western style” businesses hadn’t really sprung up yet. I stayed in a creaky old Soviet style hotel, heated by coal, I can still remember the smell of that furnace.  I spent my days and nights with my local colleague, a former shipyard co-worker with Walesa – turned journalist – who had fascinating tales and was more than willing, eager to accommodate my desires to “be local.”

Restaurants were limited to “private meal houses” wherein a citizen would cook lunch or dinner in their house, and have seating for four or six, and you’d know about these places and eat there.  And he took me way out in the country to experience a local sausage haven, including sour sausage soup. Man oh man.

So Sokolow Hunters Sausage. Very dry, very smokey, not sure I can taste the juniper and have never seen that as an ingredient outside of gin. Kind of fatty, but that’s where the flavor comes from, eh?  Best used as a snack stick or on an app tray I suspect, too dense for sandwiches.

Check it out if you run into it. Sokolow makes bacon, hams, and other sausages. I’ll keep my eye out for more of their products.  The company has a promotional video on YouTube.

Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

Hunter’s Sausage / Cross Section

 

 

 

 

 

Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

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Sheboygan Sausage Natural Casing Wiener Review

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Sheboygan Natural Casing Wiener Review From their site: Since 1933, Sheboygan Sausage Company has been crafting a wide array of sausages with all the Old World goodness our customers expect. Our products include natural casing wieners, bratwurst, Italian sausage, summer sausage, little smokies, and braunschweiger.

They make quality products, using old world recipes and is now part of American Foods Group, out of Kansas City.

I stumbled upon the ‘coarse grind’ natural casing wieners, and I’m glad I did.  I am a weenie snob, and always delighted to find a quality dog in a casing. Not too many stores stock natural casing hot dogs, as they represent less than 5% of the dogs sold in the U.S.

And the ingredient list for these is a dream: Pork, water, beef, salt, spices.  No filler. No corn syrup solids. No vegetable protein. A dog eater’s dream.

If you can find these, buy them. They’ll cost you. Whereas you can find some brands of “hot dogs” (usually with a lot of chicken or turkey as an ingredient) for a buck a pack or so, a package  of good natural casing wieners will cost you about a buck per dog. For my money, well worth it.

 

 

 

 

Sheboygan Sausage Natural Casing Wiener Review

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Lombardis Italian Sausage Review

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Lombardis Hot Italian Sausage ReviewRarely have I been able to find out so little about a product that I really wanted to share with you – I’m that excited about it. “Lombardi’s” is apparently a small/boutique/artisan sausage maker out of Chicago, which may or may not be owned by a small packer named Roma.

I have to say “may be owned” because I can’t find a reference to that one way or another, but I was able to determine that Lombardi’s is made in the small Roma plant. (Pictured below).

Various business sites list Roma has having sales of less than $750,000 annually, and between 5-10 employees. That’s a labor of love.

Speaking of love, I adore this product, Lombardi’s (Hot) Italian Sausage. Check out the ingredient list:  Pork, Water, Salt, Sugar, Spices, Paprika. Wow. Fantastic, huh?  Well, I think so.

The flavor is terrific, texture is perfect, and the casing makes for a great snap, if you’re having on a bun, whether you cook on the stove top or grill.

I made half the package like that and bunned them with kraut, and the rest I stripped the casings off of and pinched pieces to dot the top of a home made pizza. Superb. Bravo. Really.

But this company is so small, you’ll probably not be able to share my enthusiasm, unless you’re in the Chicago area and spot the sausages in a local supermarket.  I found mine at Woodman’s, a regional chain in Wisconsin and Illinois.

I love these babies.

Lombardis Hot Italian Sausage Review

 

Lombardis Hot Italian Sausage Review

Roma Packing Chicago

 

Lombardis Hot Italian Sausage Review

 

 

 

Lombardis Italian Sausage Review

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Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

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Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza ReviewI’m “frozen pizza rich”  in one sense; there’s a mega grocery near me that stocks more brands of frozen pizzas than I even knew existed.

It seems like there’s always something “new” in their freezers. (There are four, 30 foot long freezers of pies!). This week it is Pep’s Drafthaus.

Pep’s Drafthaus Pizza is from Hansen Foods of Green Bay, a 100+ year old company that started as a local dairy. Primarily in the  fundraising business, Hansen is a company you go to if your  school, church, scout troop wants to have a money-raising project, by selling nearly any kind of food: cheese, candy, meat snacks, and yes, frozen pizza.

Prices for products sold by fundraisers are considerably inflated over retail store prices, providing a great opportunity for your group to make some real cash.

I picked up the Taproom Double variety, which has two kinds of sausage and two kinds of pepperoni.

I’m loving the ingredient label, about has pure as it gets, like sausage being pork and spices, and actual mozzarella.

I don’t know how long Hansen has been in the retail pizza biz, this is the first I have seen the brand in a local store, and it was in  the medium range of spendy, $7.99.

400 at 18-20 minutes produced great results. The crust is a little thicker than my general preference – say it’s the equivalent of “hand tossed” at the national chains.

VERY GENEROUS  supply of nice hand-pulled sausage, flavorful pepperoni, and I think more cheese than I’ve ever experienced on a frozen pie. Akin to if you ordered “double cheese” from your local pizzeria, IMHO, and I appreciate it.  Has a nice “pull” to it.

Four times a year Hansen has a ‘factory direct’ sale where you can stock up on cases of these pies.  Schedule of dates and details here.  Or follow them on Facebook.  Pep’s easily moves into my top four for regular frozen pizza purchases.

Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza Review

Out of package, unbaked

Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza Review

400 degrees, 20 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

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Lou Mitchells Review, on Route 66, Chicago

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Lou Mitchells Review

Exterior

Main Street of America, the Mother Road, Will Rogers Highway, all names for US Route 66,  established in 1926, and destined to become one of the most famous roads in America.

It ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean, at Santa Monica (Los Angeles), California. Towns and cities grew up along side it, merchants prospered as America’s love of the automobile grew. It was a major route for families escaping the dust bowl in the 30s.

A TV show, which began in 1960, romanticized the road.

Lou Mitchells, open early, and serving breakfast and lunch menus seven days, there are certain things patrons of Lou’s have come to expect: being greeted at the door with a hot donut hole, being expediently served by a professional and happy staff, complimentary Milk Duds on the table, an orange slice and a single prune as an “amuse,” and an offer of free ice cream upon the completion of your meal.

Not to overlook the obvious, expect quality ingredients, meticulous preparation, and large servings of the menu items.I went with fried eggs and ham, 3 (4?) eggs served in a skillet along with home-cut hash browns, four strips of perfect bacon, and two thick pieces of toast. Like many Chicago diners, Lou’s has a giant dish of butter on the table, so feel free to overindulge. I did.

Whether you’re beginning or ending traversing the Mother Road for a vacation, or just passing thru Chicago on business or pleasure, be sure to include Lou Mitchell’s on your “must” list.  Especially for those who pine for a time when things were “better” in America, Lou Mitchell’s will transport you there.

Lou Mitchells Review Route 66

Eggs Over with Bacon

Lou Mitchell's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lou Mitchells Review

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