Buona Beef Meatballs Review – In Chicago Area Grocers

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Store Packaging

Buona Beef is a local Chicago restaurant chain, started about thirty years ago. They have been on an expansion tear recently, and it seems like they are popping up on a regular basis. As well, they have a few of their products in the grocery stores now. The chain specializes in “Chicago foods,” Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, subs. I’ve previously written about having the beef sandwich in one of their restaurants, as well as having the same product from the grocer. Quality stuff.

They own their own manufacturing facility, where they not only make their products, but also do private label business. Not sure if that’s for restaurants or groceries.

I spotted their meatballs in sauce, recently, and picked up a package to take home. It was around $7. The packages are hard frozen, so it’s best (IMHO) to let them thaw completely in the refrigerator before heating (they are pre-cooked).

The package weight is two pounds, and contains eight fairly good sized meatballs and the marinara sauce. I did not weight the individual balls. There own description of the product is: Authentic hand-rolled meatballs, seasoned with garlic, parsley, and Italian spices in a rich Marinara.

The ingredients listed on the package are thus: Marinara with Meatballs (Marinara Sauce {Fresh Vine-Ripened California Tomatoes, Sugar, Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Modified Food Starch, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavor, Naturally Derived Citric Acid], Meatballs [Beef, Pork, Water, Romano Cheese (Cultured Cow’s Milk, Enzymes, Salt), Textured Soy Flour, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Dextrose, Yeast), Seasoning (Salt, Dried Garlic, Spice, Dried Parsley, Brown Sugar, Cottonseed Oil, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Citric Acid, BHA, BHT), Ricotta Cheese (Whey, Milk, Cream, Vinegar, Salt, Stabilizers), Caramel Color]).

I was quite happy with the meatballs, they have the density, texture that I like, and great flavor. The sauce is good, but leans towards a little too much “sweet” for my personal taste, for red gravy I’m more in the heavy garlic/fennel camp.

My only real “beef” is I yearn for — say — a 24 pack of balls with no sauce. I’d be a regular.  More than regular.  I see their fresh (not frozen) Italian sausage in stores, as well. Haven’t tried it, but will. I go through a lot of Italian sausage in my kitchen, both link and bulk ground.

If you can’t find their products in your grocer, some of them are available for shipping on their website.

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Company marketing photo


Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Thawed product at my house! 


Buona Beef Meatballs Review



Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Cross section

Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Restaurant Review
Buona Beef Italian Beef 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: https://www.caseys.com/locations.

Casey’s General Stores Sandwich Review

Casey’s General Stores Sandwich Review

Kiefs Reef Review – McHenry, IL

Kiefs Reef ReviewThere are lots of bars and eateries along the Fox River in Northern Illinois. If you’re a boater, you can navigate the river up to the “Chain of Lakes” where you’ll find even more choices. At nearly each one, there are docks to tie up your craft if you feel like having lunch, dinner, or a few bumps.

In the winter, apparently, they also serve as way stations for snowmobilers going up and down the frozen river.

Such was the case yesterday at Kief’s Reef, and also it happened to be a “wake/memorial” for a local denizen who had recently passed, and was apparently quite a popular person judging from the size of the crowd. It was elbow to elbow.

I might have chosen someplace different had I known about that, but once inside, I was committed, and I had looked at the menu earlier in the day, and had a hankering for their offer of a “School of Lake Perch” platter, served with fries, tots or chips, and a dollop of cole slaw.

Kief’s Reef, I understand, is very popular for their version of the Friday nite fish fry, a big thing in these parts. They also serve up a respectable pizza, a lot of wings, and prime rib on Saturdays.

The perch was everything I was expecting and more. Three large fillets, batter fried, crispy on the outside, tender, steaming fish inside. Tots were deep fried to perfection, as they should be. Ultra-creamy cole slaw had a little twist to it, as their recipe includes ultra fine diced onion. Nice change.

The burger was mammoth, hand pattied, and covered with blue cheese morsels, not some of the icky salad dressing so many people use. The blackened seasoning was just the right amount and there was more than ample bacon. The bun was bakery soft but sturdy enough to hold up as many toppings as you could choose to garnish your meat.

Video gaming, of course, too.

I’ll go back in the summer, sit on the outdoor patio/deck, watch the boats putt by on the lazy river, maybe have a beer, and admire the sunbathers.

Full menu.  Best server ever?  Kelly!

Kiefs Reef Review

Black and Blue and Bacon Burger


Kiefs Reef Review

“A School of Lake Perch” Plate


Kief's Reef Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Coffee Pot Review – Kenosha, WI

Originally opened in the 1930s, the Coffee Pot has had different names, but remains at the original location serving the same delicious breakfast and lunch menu.

Although they can be very busy on the weekends, the table turnover seems to go quickly and within minutes you’ll be seated sipping fresh brewed coffee while pondering the lengthy and innovate menu.

We went with something new and something traditional. The “Reuben Omelet” is just what is sounds like, a fluffy three egg omelet wrapped around corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and even thousand island dressing if you want it. Or get it on the side for dipping.

I went with ham and eggs, a thick slice of ham “off the bone” ( a think in these parts), a nice little char from the grill on it, two perfectly cooked eggs over easy, crispy breakfast potatoes and house-baked toast.

The full menu offers some old favorites and new dishes at lunch time. Fresh made sandwiches, juicy burgers, crisp salads and even a veggie plate. They’re proud of their bloody marys and mimosas and have some craft beers and splits of wine on hand.

The Coffee Pot has recently added a couple of “hotel” rooms upstairs, if you’re inclined to explore the neighborhood for the weekend and have a couple great meals brought upstairs to you. Burgers in bed anyone? Yes please.


Coffee Pot Review Kenosha

Reuben Omelet

Coffee Pot Review Kenosha

Fried eggs and ham off the bone


Coffee Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coffee Port Review
Coffee Port Review

Bonchon Review – Korean fried chicken in Schaumburg, IL

Bonchon Korean Chicken ReviewBonchon Review. Korean style fried chicken.  Starting in Korea in 2002, the Bonchon chain specializes in highly flavored chicken wings, strips, and fusion Korean dishes. They are presently on a tear spreading across the United States.

I had onion rings as a starter, pretty conventional prep, a heavier breading, not ultra crisp.

Moved into the strips, an order of six, which I requested “half and half”, that is half “Spicy” and half “Soy Garlic” for seasonings. There’s no “sauce on the side” option here, they come seasoned, period.

And they are delightful, super crispy, extremely flavorful, something really different, and juicy white tenders inside.

The Salmon Ball was a change for me, served chilled, it is a mix of avocado, crab, cucumber, wrapped in lightly seared salmon and topped with spicy mayo, unagi sauce and crunchy tempura bits. Very nice.

Bonchon has locations in New Jersey, California, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas, and Hawaii. But probably coming soon to a city near you. It’ll be worth the wait.

Table service. Casual atmosphere.  Locations and menus.

Bonchon Review

Salmon Ball.


Bonchon Review

Chicken Strips – 1/2 spicy, 1/2 soy garlic flavored





Bonchon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Bonchon Review

Bonchon Review

Da Catch Review – Rockford, IL

Da Catch Review RockfordDa Catch seems to be a franchise, I’ve seen them in other cities, but I couldn’t find any info on that. There are a few locations in Rockford, IL, which is where I bumped into them. Fried fish is the specialty of the house, the full menu is shown below.

They also feature wings, tenders, and Philly cheese steaks, as well as bulk orders on the fish and shrimp, and a few other fried sides choices.

I grabbed a catfish “meal” which comes with 3-4 fillets, french fries, and I got a side of fried okra for an additional charge.

I’m gonna guess the fish is dusted with lemon pepper, seems to be a thing around these parts.

The breading was seasoned corn meal and not overbearing. Fries were good, so was the okra. At under $10, it’s a good value. The restaurants are “simple trappings,” seems like they are more geared to drive thru/pick up service than dine in, but there are tables. There are multiple locations in Rockford.

Da Catch Review, Rockford IL

Catfish, fries and okra

Da Catch Review

Menu 1 Click to enlarge

Da Catch Review

Catch Fish & Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Da Catch Review

Da Catch Review

Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs Review – Lily Lake, IL

Pete's Famous Hot DogsLiterally in the middle of nowhere (no offense, Lily Lake, but you’re a highway intersection) – Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs may not actually be famous, but they deserve to be.

Open seven days from 7AM thru the dinner hour, this small eatery is manned by “Pete” and his daughter? Companion? Wife?

Pete is affable and the other is terribly competent cooking food to order as expeditiously as possible in terribly small confines.

And altho it will take a few minutes to get your food, (Pete tells you when he rings you up – “cheeseburger? Six minutes.” Or whatever) It’s well worth the wait. The food is fresh, hot and delicious.

Hand pattied burger, quality beef, and fresh cut fries. Too cold to eat outside the day I was there, but I could see lingering at the outdoor table on a hot summer day.

Pete’s is located at the intersections of Illinois highways 64 and 47, a few miles East of Sycamore, a few miles West of St. Charles, and a few miles North if I-88 (Reagan Memorial Tollway – the Chicago – Kansas City Expressway that stops a mere 370 miles short of Kansas City). (Oh well, maybe completing it will be part of Infrastructure Weed #4 coming up soon, probably).

Breakfast, burgers, dogs, pork chops, chicken and a few specialty entrees. Worth the drive.

Pete's Famous Hot Dogs Review

Cheeseburger and fresh cut fries


Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Breakfast menu


Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Lunch and dinner menu –  click to enlarge

Pete's Famous Hot Dogs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Flying Fish Review – Little Rock, AR

With about a dozen locations, the Flying Fish is a fish and seafood-centric eatery, offering fried, grilled, broiled and steamed fish and seafood, as well as po-boys, gumbo, tacos, and appropriate side dishes. The full menu of the Little Rock location I visited is here. A few salads, chicken strips and a lonely hamburger round out the menu.

The Little Rock location is “counter service” – you order back by the kitchen, await your vibrating beeper to go off and then collect your food from another station. Tables at this location are at the front of the restaurant, facing President Clinton Avenue (which runs to the Clinton Presidential Library, within walking distance. This is also the “marketplace section” of downtown, so there are plenty of other distractions nearby.

I ordered the two filet catfish basket, which comes with fries and two hush puppies ($9.50). I would have liked some slaw, but lately restaurants seem to think coleslaw has some actual monetary value and charge the same price for it as they would for most any slide, and I object to that.

This location has beer, wine, frozen margaritas, and the usual soft drinks, lemonade, iced tea and coffee.

I pronounce the experience a success. I’ve been on a catfish jag lately, and this was great. Crispy, light breading, easy on the corn meal. Pretty ordinary fries, and I can take or leave hush puppies. Something else I’m not sure restaurants should charge for.

If you’re in one of the dozen cities Flying Fish has planted their flag, I recommend it. Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas only.

Flying Fish Review

Flying Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The Flying Fish Review

The Flying Fish Review

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