Lake Aire Review, Lake Geneva, WI

Lake Aire Review

Lake Aire Review

For over 50 years, the Lake Aire has occupied, arguably, the most valuable real estate corner in this vacation paradise. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 82 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois, has long been a four-season playground for area elite as well as the hoi polloi.  Watersports and beaches in the summer, skiing, snowmobiles in the winter.

While the restaurant shows its age, it wears it well, and is the perfect destination for people who appreciate standard American food with a sprinkle of nostalgia.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their sign posts “breakfast served all day” which is always a plus for me.  I’ve posted their menus below, and they are also online here.

My fellow diner ordered the traditional eggs benedict (Florentine option also available), eggs were poached perfectly, hollandaise creamy, English muffins toasted correctly. (I know a restaurant in New Orleans that sells them for $35 and they are served on Melba toast.  Can you imagine?)

I went with the pork tenderloin (they call it “Country Fried Pork” on the menu) and eggs, rye toast. As far as I could see, breakfasts potatoes are always ala carte, I passed on them. I’ve had some amazing tenderloins in my life, most recently in Walcott, Iowa, but there were giant ones in a small town bar in Lenore, Illinois, and at an old-timey drive-in at Kokomo, Indiana (no connection with Beach Boys song).

The Lake Aire’s version was good, crispy crust, the meat remained tender, flavorful, and juicy. Sausage gravy at ample chucks of pork sausage in it, so it was a pork on pork meal. Homer Simpson would have appreciated it.

 

The rye toast was of the marble variety, no complaints but I would have preferred more butter.  Sure, I could have asked for it, but I didn’t.  One out of thousand times, “healthy lifestyle” prevails in my thinking.  OK, one of of five thousand times.

The server was affable and professional.  I have a sneaking suspicion he’s somehow involved in ownership.

Final aside, their coffee is great.  Complete with real half/half on the side.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the experience had nothing to do with the restaurant or meal. And this issue burns me every single time I go to Lake Geneva.  I hate the downtown parking meter system. Probably some company sold the city a contract that they’d install for free in return for a large portion of the revenue.  It’s the ticket on the dashboard variety, except you have to enter your license plate, and it’s only available in two-hour increments.  The screen is hard to read.  The system is basically a nightmare for seniors and the disabled. Oh well.

Lake Aire Review

Country Fried Pork and Eggs Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As promised, the menus.  Click to enlarge.

Lake Aire Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Aire Review

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma’s Kitchen Review – Walcott Iowa

Gramma's Kitchen Review

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

If you’ve ever driven across Iowa on Interstate 80 (Mainstreet USA), you’ve either stopped at this exit or at least noticed the signage for “The World’s Largest Truck Stop.”  Yep, it’s at this exit.  But that’s not where I stopped this trip, I stopped across the road at Gramma’s Kitchen because two years it ago, it made the list of the best tenderloins in the state, according to the Iowa Pork Producers.

So what exactly is a tenderloin?  It’s a boneless pork chop, smashed with a hammer or other blunt instrument until it’s enlarged and very thin, the drenched in a coating or batter, deep-fried, plopped onto a bun entirely too small for the piece of meat, and dressed up with pickles, onions, and occasionally mayo.

I opted for tots on the side, pickle was included, a damn fine one, too, crispy half-sour.

The sandwich was perfect, crispy coating, but the meat was still juicy inside. Bakery style bun, soft yet substantial enough to hold the ample cut of meat.

The tots were piping hot, right from the fryer, and lightly seasoned.  I hated “baked” tots, not crispy enough.  If your tot hasn’t got crunch, why get them?

The restaurant has an attached bar with an abbreviated menu, and throughout the building are Iowa souvenirs as well as some preserves and the like.

As is my habit, I grabbed a colorful souvenir magnet, even tho I have no place to put them anymore, my frig is stainless steel.

Take a gander at Gramma’s menus and start planning your next road trip.  Oh, almost forgot, you don’t have to get the tenderloin battered and fried, most places will happily grill one for you instead.

Gramma's Kitchen Review

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Tater Tots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

Gramma’s Kitchen Review

The Point Hotel Review – Minoqua, WI

The Point Hotel Review

The Point Hotel Review – Minocqua, WI

The Point Hotel ReviewThe Point Hotel Review. Took a drive in Wisconsin this week, ended up in Minocqua, a town so far North, one is in spitting distance of the UP of Michigan. This large complex sits waterside in this island town, which is known for sport angling, particularly for Walleye Pike and Muskellunge.  The large hotel complex is made up of privately owned condominiums, which are rented out and managed by the company as if they were hotel rooms.

The rooms are stylishly decorated and equipped with the usual add-ons, iron, microwave, mini-fridge, toaster, and a flat-screen TV.  They all ( I think) offer sweeping views of the 1400 acre Lake Minocqua, with 16 miles of shoreline.  There are picnic tables, bbq grills, firepits, landing docks, and kayaks and canoes for rent outside of the building.

Indoors you’ll find an exercise room, heated pool, hot tub, and sauna.

A complimentary breakfast is served from 7-9 AM, and during COVID times, the selection is limited to items that can be individually wrapped, as well as the ubiquitous hot waffles.

The hotel has done a good job with ‘Vid preparation, the rooms were spotless, the staff is masked, and distancing was encouraged.  The reception area has a plastic shield in place.

The staff was welcoming and helpful.  They changed our room to a better one upon arrival.  (There weren’t many guests that week, I saw no other people at breakfast or in the pool area).

There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance.  GrubHub and the like seem to not be present.  We had dinner across the lake at the “Boat Club,” which I will write up in the near future.

A nite stay was a C note.  I suspect higher “in season.”  Yep, just checked, a 3 night weekend stay end of June will set you back $236.   Add about another hundred if you want a two-bedroom suite.

Activities and attractions in Minocqua (if you aren’t there for fishing, snowmobiling, or ATV rides) are listed on the town’s website.

Photo credits:  Waterfront, author.  Hotel lobby, hotel website. Check availability and rates online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Point Hotel Review

The Point Hotel Review

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

In the “before times,” people were just nicer. Regardless of race, religion, political bent, people in general were just more well behaved. Friendlier, cordial, helpful.

At least that’s what I think.

Last Saturday I ran into a little bit of the “before times” when I stopped in a small Illinois town to get some food to go from the local diner.

Here’s a little bit of what I found out about Kirkland. And it has nothing to do with Costco.

Originally the land of the the Pottawatomie Indians, a peaceful tribe, they grew rice and corn and refined maple sugar. They were removed in 1836 as part of one of the US gov’t “treaties” and not long after a Mr William Kirk built a log cabin and began acquiring land, which totaled 1500 acres by 1886.

He donated some land to the railroad on the condition they’d make the little burg a stop, they did, and it worked to the town’s advantage, as by law, sheep traveling to slaughter in Chicago could spend no more than 36 hours on the train without a break, and that was the exact distance from Omaha, where many herds would come from. They were unloaded at Kirkland, watered, fed and sheared before continuing on. Population peaked ten years ago at 1744, but that has affected the bustle of the village. One doesn’t see the empty storefronts like in most small Midwest towns. There are several bars and restaurants, grocer, building supply, gas station, a couple of churches, a bank, and then there is the Kirkland Family Restaurant.

They are open seven days for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have a very extensive menu (posted below) for a small operation. Daily specials, too.

But I was talking about the “before times” people, wasn’t I? And that’s what I found at this small town eatery, friendly greetings from other customers, and a single waitress/server that went aboveKirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL and beyond the call to serve.

We placed an order to go (I’m still not comfortable with public spaces yet, March 2021) and I had the fried fish and fries, with a side of creamy slaw. Our other selection was the fried shrimp, which also included fries, and the side choice was cottage cheese. Fresh, soft dinner rolls were included.

They had a lot of potato and side choices, again, interesting for a small operation.

Our food was prepared quickly and correctly, fried to perfection and very tasty.

Again, the server wanted to make sure we were prepared to eat our meal on the go, and kept asking/suggesting compliments to our order, like plastic cutlery, ample napkins, butter pats, other sauces.

It was a great experience, and I can wait to return for a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast. You can bet I’ll go for chicken fried steak and a mess o eggs and taters. BTW, everything on the menu is very, very, reasonably priced.

Full menu below, click on each page to enlarge.  And check out the restaurant at their own webpage here.

Kirkland Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

 

 

 

 

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Kirkland Family Restaurant Review – Kirkland, IL

Petes Hamburger Stand Review

Petes Hamburger Stand Review

My Petes Hamburger Stand Review.  For over 100 years, 112 to be exact as of this year, Pete’s Hamburger Stand has been opening Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, summers only, to sell their unique hamburgers to a hungry public.

Why unique?  Because they are BOILED. But in the interest of accurately, I think “simmered” (in water) is more accurate.  Also swimming in that water on the flattop? A gajillion pieces of sliced onion.

Don’t get it?

Here’s a short video I found on YouTube.

The menu is as basic as a food seller can get.  Hamburger. Canned soda. Chips.  End of story. My pic at the top shows a burger without onion on the left, with on the right.

There are a modest number of condiments available.

$5.00 for each smash burger.  And worth it.  And worth the drive, from whereever you are, because Praire du Chien, WI is not on the way to or from anywhere!

But it is also home to Valley Fish and Cheese, a really fun stop that I have also written about. Somewhere on this site. LOL

Petes Hamburger Stand

Minutes before opening bell

 

 

Pete's Hamburger Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petes Hamburger Stand Review

Petes Hamburger Stand Review

For over 100 years, 112 to be exact as of this year, Pete’s Hamburger Stand has been opening Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, summers only, to sell their unique hamburgers to a hungry public.

Why unique?  Because they are BOILED. But in the interest of accurately, I think “simmered” (in water) is more accurate.  Also swimming in that water on the flattop? A gajillion pieces of sliced onion.

Don’t get it?

Here’s a short video I found on YouTube.

The menu is as basic as a food seller can get.  Hamburger. Canned soda. Chips.  End of story. My pic at the top shows a burger without onion on the left, with on the right.

There are a modest number of condiments available.

$5.00 for each smash burger.  And worth it.  And worth the drive, from whereever you are, because Praire du Chien, WI is not on the way to or from anywhere!

But it is also home to Valley Fish and Cheese, a really fun stop that I have also written about. Somewhere on this site. LOL

Golden Dome Cafe Review – Fairfield, Iowa

Golden Dome Cafe Review

 

Back in the “before times” I was making one of my annual treks through Iowa, and the route took me thru Fairfield, population 10,000 and home to Maharishi International University (MIU),  is a private university in Fairfield, Iowa. It was founded in 1973 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and features a “consciousness-based education” system that includes the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

The “University” was founded in 1973 when the group purchased the bankrupt Parsons College. The University’s influence on the town has grown and added to its population and economy.

As a lark, I decided to eat at one of their two cafes open to the public. The “Golden Dome” referred to is in relation to one of two huge twin structures dedicated to group meditation.

The cafe was on the second floor of a small organic-centered market; most everything I saw on the shelves were the normal organic/vegetarian brands you see in groceries, but at a higher price (captive audience).

I was there at lunchtime, and the cafe had a very small cafeteria-style offerings, point and it will be put on your plate. Prices are by weight of your plate.  Makes accounting simple, I guess.

It appeared most of the help were students.  It appeared most of the help did not welcome strangers. There was a pitcher of cool water and paper cups, with a sign indicating said water was for diners only.  Reflecting on my visit, there were a lot of signs around the campus.  A lot of rules.

I had $9.00 worth” of food, nothing to write home about. Vegetarian lasagna was OK.

Asked if I could peek inside the Dome and was med by a resounding “NO!” and a security guard led me away from the entrance.

Fairfield, itself, is cute, a typical small town in Iowa, with stores and (a disproportionate number of ethnic) eateries surrounding a town square.

So I enjoyed the town, but not the people or cafe at the University.  Bland and overpriced. (Cafe food, can’t say about the people).

They had hopes of building a housing subdivision with all the amenities.  It’s just outside of town. There were less than half dozen homes completed.

Golden Dome Market and Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Golden Dome Cafe Review

Golden Dome Cafe Review

 

Smokin Coop BBQ Review

Smoking Coop BBQ Review

Smokin Coop BBQ Review

Smokin Coop BBQ Review Belvidere Illinois. Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I……wait. Never mind. On a country road between Chicago and Rockford, IL, there’s a guy doing BBQ every summer, Mon-Sat, lunch, and dinner. Completely “al fresco” there are picnic tables and chairs scattered under the trees just off the road.

There is a port-a-potty.

The menu is is ribs, chicken, beef, and some creative sandwiches, like smoked ham or a turkey club. I went with the latter, and it was superb. Not the best club I’ve ever had in my life, that honor goes to Portland Oregon’s oldest restaurant, “Hubers” who specialize in all things turkey.

There are lines for food, lines for beverages.  There is a loaded baked potato that people rave about.

All dinners come with two sides and a piece of cornbread.  Sides choices include slaw, beans, potato salad, or apple sauce.  Plates run between $7 – $20.

This is a great place to take advantage of COVID dining.  Plenty of distancing and open air.

This energetic couple made  a video of their visit and got some insider secrets.  Nobody ever gives ME any!

 

Full menu.

Smokin' Coop BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Smokin Coop BBQ Review Belvidere Illinois. Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I……wait. Never mind. On a country road between Chicago and Rockford, IL, there’s a guy doing BBQ every summer, Mon-Sat, lunch, and dinner. Completely “al fresco” there are picnic tables and chairs scattered under the trees just off the road.

There is a port-a-potty.

The menu is is ribs, chicken, beef, and some creative sandwiches, like smoked ham or a turkey club. I went with the latter, and it was superb. Not the best club I’ve ever had in my life, that honor goes to Portland Oregon’s oldest restaurant, “Hubers” who specialize in all things turkey.

There are lines for food, lines for beverages.  There is a loaded baked potato that people rave about.

All dinners come with two sides and a piece of cornbread.  Sides choices include slaw, beans, potato salad, or apple sauce.  Plates run between $7 – $20.

This is a great place to take advantage of COVID dining.  Plenty of distancing and open air.

This energetic couple made  a video of their visit and got some insider secrets.  Nobody ever gives ME any!

Taylor Maid-Rite Review Marshalltown

Taylor Maid Rite Review Marshalltown Iowa

Taylor Maid-Rite Review Marshalltown

“Maid-Rite” restaurants started as a single outlet in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1926. For those unfamiliar with the term, the “Maid-Rite” is a loose meat sandwich, cooked on a steam table with onions, mustard, and “secret seasonings,” piled on a steamed bun with mustard and pickles.

Locations come and go, but as of today, there are 32 locations in Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. The one in Springfield, Illinois, was the site of the very first fast food drive-thru.

The Marshalltown location was one of the first franchises, purchased for $300 in 1928.

Some Maid-Rites have a longer menu,  featuring all kinds of sandwiches, including Iowa’s famous pork tenderloin, but almost all feature several kinds of home-made pie daily.

This happy traveler made a short video  of his visit to Taylor’s. (No, not me, I’m never happy).


A single sandwich is around $2.50. The Marshalltown location is usually open every day for long hours, but during “Covid” – look for them Tues-Sat, 11AM – 7PM.  It’s located in downtown, on 3rd Street, just north of US 30, the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road in the US.  A fascinating drive on its own!

I visited one other similar shop this trip, called the “Canteen on the Alley” in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Same concept, but not affiliated with “Maid-Rite.”  It’s actually in an alley.  It was tasty and great pie!  The three women working truly enjoyed their work!

Typical menuShip Maid-Rites across the country!

Taylor's Maid-Rite Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Taylor Maid-Rite Review Marshalltown

 

Ship Maid-Rites

Maid-Rite Menu

Smittys Pork Tenderloin Review – Leonore, IL

Smittys Pork Tenderloin Review

Smittys Pork Tenderloin Review

Smittys Pork Tenderloin ReviewThe pork tenderloin, also known as BPT (b is for breaded) is a popular sandwich in the Upper Midwest, particularly in Iowa and Indiana. And occasionally in Illinois.  It’s similar to Wienerschnitzel.

A pork cutlet is cut and then smashed to make it larger and thinner, dipped in breading, sometimes cornmeal, panko, crushed saltines and deep-fried.  It is usually served on a hamburger bun, garnished with any or all: tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, pickles, onions.  Frequently accompanied by fries as a side.

There’s been a friendly competition among purveyors to lay claim to the title of “the largest,” and certainly in Illinois the small town of Smitty’s in Leonore, takes the title. Leonore is a booming locale south of Lasalle-Peru, 100 miles West of Chicago.  Population 13o.

I rolled down there on a Saturday, aiming to beat the lunch “crowd” so I called in my order (still, as of this date, curbside service only).

Both I and the sandwich arrived at the same time, and like those who have gone before, I agree, this baby is YUGE.

And delicious. Proper amount of breading, gently seasoned, good quality pork taste and texture.  Excellent pickles and fresh cut onions.  There are tables outdoor for diners to enjoy their BPT’s or other items until the interior opens up again.

Worth a drive.

Iowa has an entire “Tenderloin” you can try and conquer.

I’ve written about tenderloins on the trail and also in Indiana.

Go on, go for it.  You know you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smittys Pork Tenderloin Review

Smittys Pork Tenderloin Review

National WWII Museum Review New Orleans

National WWII Museum Review New Orleans

National WWII Museum Review New Orleans

National WWII Museum Review New OrleansBring tissues.  Lots of them.  If you have any heart at all, you will cry at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.  Odd, I lived in New Orleans, and never visited.  It opened in June of 2000 at the “National D-Day Museum” conceived by two local scholars, Stephen E. Ambrose and Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhDs.

An act of Congress in 2004 designated the facility as “America’s National WWII Museum.”  Comprised of exhibits detailing the operations in both the European and Pacific theaters, as well as related activity on the homefront, the museum is housed in multiple specially built structures, and the staging of the exhibits goes way beyond what most are used to seeing in historical museums, with lifesize dioramas, airplanes and vehicles, professionally made videos with historical coverage and much more.

Inside the Campus

After paying your admission, you start your self-guided (guided are also available) tour by being handed a plastic card with a dog tag number on it.  National WWII Museum Review New OrleansEach number represents the story of a single person from the war, including members of the allied and axis forces, POWs, internees in prison camps both overseas in the US.  You can swipe your card at many stations throughout the museum to get updates on “your person,” and review it when at home at a special website, “The Dog Tag Experience.”   Myh assigned person was Charlotte Weiss, a member of a Jewish family in Teresva, Czechoslovakia.

It’s a lot of ground to cover, but the museum is well planned, with benches, washrooms and water fountains throughout if you need a break.  I’m personally not much of museum person (except for dinosaurs and science) and I spent over four hours there and could have easily extended the visit.

Eats and Such

Need a break in the middle? Have a bite to eat or an adult beverage at the “American Sector” cafe, with a complete lunch and dinner menu available.  Local and traditional American favorites are available, sandwiches and entrees, as well as appetizers, salads and a brunch menu on weekends.  Lighter fare and sweets area available at Jeri Nims Soda Shop.  BB’s Stage Door Canteen offers live music of the era on weekends (additional charge), as well as cuisine and beverages for a pre-dinner show if one is so inclined.

Off-Campus

At New Orleans Lake Ponchartrain, book a ride on fully reserved PT Boat from WWII.  Built in New Orleans by Higgins Industries, the patrol-torpedo (PT) boat PT-305 was a critical asset for the US Navy during World War II, serving in European waters from 1944 to the end of the war. The ship served many other uses after the war and was found festering in dry dock in Houston and acquired by the museum in 2007.  Tours only are offered Wed, Thur, Fri, and Sun at various times.  Rides are Saturdays only, children under 12 not permitted.  Advance purchase of tickets for rides is highly recommended.  A short video on the restoration effort is below.

Support

Besides buying admission tickets, there are lots of ways to financially support this worthy endeavor, including straight out donations, annual memberships, or sponsoring a “brick” to honor a loved one who served.  Consider a gift to the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/visit/pt-305

 

National WWII Museum Review New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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