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Posts Tagged ‘Chicken Fried Steak’

Crystal Lake, IL – Andys Family Restaurant Review

Andy's Crystal LakeLanding at O’Hare after an overnight flight from Honolulu, I was starving.  Why didn’t I eat on the plane?  Conked out on the new lie flat seat/beds in first class, very comfy, a little too comfy.

Was heading from Chicago to Madison, so I thought I’d stop en route and get a tasty breakfast on the back roads, and my back road of choice to Madison is US 14, so I hit Andy’s Family Restaurant in Crystal Lake, IL.

Over ordered, not a surprise, went with the Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, the place was jammed, but service was prompt and friendly, they have had lots of practice, this place has been around for years.

Played “butter Jenga” while I was waiting, scarfed the meal and hit the road.  Great place.

Andy's Crystal Lake

Andy's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Andys Family Restaurant Review

Huntley, IL – Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar

Hard to believe I would find myself in this little burg twice in a lifetime, let alone twice in a month. But here I am, it’s Father’s Day, I deserve a nice breakfast out in the traditional Father’s Day tradition!

Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar is open for all meal services, and offers pretty standard “diner” fare, along with daily and nightly specials. There is a set lunch special menu, and the nightly specials are consistent from week to week, with the usual (for the area) fish fry on Friday’s.

Sammy’s doesn’t wait for the dinner hour for their fish fry, however, they start serving it up for the lunch crowed.

I went with Sammy’s variation of “Country Steak” and eggs, which in this case, did not include batter, fried beef, but rather a chopped steak patty with country gravy, two eggs, hash browns, and toast. I went with marble rye on the latter.

The beef patty is pretty ample, perhaps a half-pound pre-cooked weight, a food service type burger (meaning not hand-formed from fresh ground beef), and the gravy was good.

I was pretty happy with the service and food, and like so many small town places in the Upper Midwest, prices make the meals a really good value.

Sammy's Restaurant Huntley Illinois

Sammy's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

El Paso, TX – IHOP

You gotta love it when a date’s idea of a big nite is going to IHOP.  Well, at least I do.  Pretty tired of high-maintenance relationships, on any level.   Add to the glamour of IHOP that your date brings a “two-fer” coupon, and you’re sitting pretty.

She went with the chicken Caesar, wondering if the Romans had croutons. (Cute!).  (I didn’t have the heart to tell her the Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana, and had nothing to do with Italy).

Feeling all Texan-like, I went with Country Fried Steak, mashed taters and gravy, and steamed broccoli.  (WTF?  How did that get on my plate?!).

The food was – well, it is what it is.  At $17 for dinner for two, and two beverages (with the coupon), that’s a cheap nite out.

IHOP was started in Toluca Lake, CA (a ‘burb’ of L.A.), in the 50s, and just down the street from the original Bob’s Big Boy.   Today there are thousands of these pancake outlets around the globe, and in the last couple years, the parent company also acquired Applebee’s, and changed their corporate name to Dine Equity.

IHOP’s menu is online.

IHOP Country Fried Steak

IHOP on Urbanspoon

Portland, OR – Bird Dog Review

The “Bird Dog” name doesn’t come from any of the conventional or urban slang definitions of that phrase, but rather, one would imagine, as an homage to the cafe’s signature dish moniker, a hot dog prepared in the way occasionally people are used to hearing a different cut of meat prepared in some parts of the country.

The “Bird Dog”, is a “chicken-fried” hot dog, smothered in a rich, creamy sausage-laden gravy. It’s hard (for me) to imagine a more creative mash-up of some of my favorite foods.

The joint offers a wide variety of hot dog, burger, and sausage preparations, which increases in size with the addition of unique one-offs as daily specials.

Sausages are made in-house, hot dogs are 100% Carlton Farms pork, and the burgers Silvies Valley Ranch grass fed beef, no hormones or antibiotics.

The quality and care in prep shows throughout.

I’d been meaning to get to Bird Dog for some time, and had the opportunity when I was in their part of town around lunch time the other day.

I wanted to try a variety of things, including the signature dish, a side of chili cheese fries, and, having relocated to Portland from New Orleans, I was intrigued that they had a “muffaletta” dog, a tribute to the signature classic sandwich of New Orleans.

As I was already deep into committing to one hot dog with the Bird Dog selection, I asked that they prepare a plain burger patty with the olive tapenade from a muffaletta and a slice of provolone;  they happily agreed to my non-menu request.

The Bird Dog is an ample pork hot dog, immersed in a corn-meal and other flour batter, and deep fried, to produce a crispy coating; placed on an oversized, ample bun, with a generous topping of pork sausage gravy, all on its own, it’s a very satisfying and filling meal.  The ‘tubular nutritional delivery vehicle’ is a tasty frank, mild in seasoning, and the sausage gravy is some of the best I’ve had in Portland, creamy, no hint of a floury taste, with nice chunks of sausage throughout.

The burger patty was massive, hovering between 1/3 and 1/2 pound, I would imagine, obviously hand-formed, and the olive salad I asked for, spot on reminiscent of the New Orleans recipe.  A bakery-soft, but sturdy, toasted bun cradled the patty.

My side of chili cheese fries was notable, also one of my clear favorites in Portland.  A “hot dog” style chili, very meaty, good flavor, no beans, burying a mound of crispy shoe strings.

Dining in, you have access to a wide selection of toppings you can add yourself, from a pickled vegetable bar to a host of mustards and sauces.   Bird Dog’s website says all of the side dishes are made in house, and I imagine the toppings are as well.

This is a place, that if it was closer to my work, I’d hit all to frequently.  I’d like to try a number of their house made sausages, and might opt for the sausage sampler plate in the future.

Or a chicken fried burger?  Mac n Cheese dog?  Cuban?   They also offer their take on the Sonoran Dog, a regional favorite from the Southwest.

Too many choices of too many good things.

Perfect for Burgerdogboy, and you.

Bird Dog is snuggled  amidst a couple of long time hot dog competitors on East Hawthorne,  so now you have a choice of the old timey guys that wrest on their laurels and rep, or some bright, innovative, quality cuisine that dazzles.

I say the choice is obvious.

Bird Dog Portland Oregon

 

Bird Dog on Urbanspoon

US Chain – Claim Jumper

Claim Jumper RestaurantFounded in 1977 in California, Claim Jumper has grown to 37 locations, mostly in the Western US.  With a decor resembling a rustic hunting lodge, and a menu that offers virtually “something for everyone”, the chain maintains its popularity because of quality food, large portions, and friendly, prompt service.

The seating capacity at the outlet we visited was 550, according to the occupancy sign at the door, and since we had to wait (very briefly) for a table, one would guess the joint was full up.

Service was prompt, regardless.   We started with the pretzel stick appetizer (choice of butter and salt coating, or parmesan / garlic), which comes with your choice of a cheese or mustard dipping sauce.  These aren’t your standard pretzel bits, but rather a half dozen nearly foot long soft rods, warm, chewy, and flavorful.

Mrs. Burgerdogboy went for the chopped Cobb salad, with an add on of chopped tenderloin steak; the salad was artfully arranged on the plate, and the beef was flavorful and very tender.

I opted for the “light” portion of country fried steak, which came with mash and white gravy.  The steak coating was crispy, and the meat was tender.   A lot of prep of CFS use a less than premium cut of beef, but I can’t say that was the case here.  It’s a good piece of beef.

My entree is not for the feint of heart or carb counters, however.  With a single plate topping 2000 calories and nearly 200 carbs, that’s a lot of “nutrition.”

We passed on dessert, tho we have had their chocolate mother-lode cake before, six layers, and 11 bucks worth of a slice of cake that can feed an entire table.

I don’t know where Claim Jumper fits in the restaurant hierarchy. It’s a few notches above what I would call “fast casual”, but a few notches below “fine dining.”

The bill for an appetizer, two entrees, 1 cocktail, 1 coffee came in at $52 including tip.

Claim Jumper is a great place for good food, prepared well, and parties of diners with diverse palates.  With virtually every food category offered on the menu, from grills, to salads, to pasta, to sandwiches, no one in your party will go away hungry.

Location finderFull menu online.

Portland, OR – Golden Touch (Redux)

On occasion, Mrs. BDB gets a bug in her craw (WTF does that mean?) about breakfast out on the weekends. We usually make an elaborate production of breakfast at home on either Saturday or Sunday, an homage to my family tradition of same.

Saturday breakfast was a meal my family almost always enjoyed together, and usually it was a family production, with my dad leading the effort. This was the only meal he cooked during a given week, with two exceptions: he was in charge of the grill, on the few days a year that Northern Minnesota summers allowed that – and he was in charge of (most) fish, of which there was plenty served in my household.

The exception to his fish manipulation was Friday nite dinner, usually fish sticks or blocks of frozen haddock, which fell under my mother’s normal purview, and one of the 26 or so meals she had in the family rotation.

I digress.

As you probably know, Mrs. BDB has been big on Groupon and Living Social promos lately (in fact our Saturday afternoon socializing was courtesy of her and Living Social – ceramics painting), so we thumbed through our coupons looking for a breakfast deal, and of course, as it usually goes, all of our BOGOs and such for breakfast had expired the previous day.

So we ran down the street to the Golden Touch Family Restaurant, a place we had visited once before for a weekday lunch.

We knew we’d get standard diner breakfast fare, and we’re about to have the patience (or at least she knew I wouldn’t) to hit the popular PDX weekend places, nor would I have the lack of intelligence to once again hit the Original Pancake House, which is also nearby.

We were seated in the back again, and by coincidence, we were waited on by the same veteran server that had taken care of us on our previous visit.  We knew service would be above most people’s reports for this establishment.  Our waitress has been at Golden Touch forever, and is accomplished and joyful in her work choice.

Mrs. BDB went with Swedish pancakes (another homage to my father? LOL), the Scandinavian version of the crepe, thin cakes, usually served with a dollop of sweet or savory toppings and whipped cream.  She opted for blueberries, and passed on the cream.

I went with Chicken Fried Steak, accompanied by two perfectly done over easy eggs, white toast, hash browns of the shredded variety, the steak bathed in sausage gravy.   The taters at Golden Touch are served crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, without any special seasoning.

The “steak” is ample in  size, maybe 6 oz, with a light breading, and mildly seasoned.   The toast comes butter with a couple choices of food service preserves.

It’s an adequate meal, tho the best Chicken Fried Steak in Portland is served up at Slappy Cakes, in my opinion.

I dutifully jabbed and mopped my yolks with my toast (my mother would have had a fit witnessing this), and devoured the steak, barely touched the potatoes (I am trying to watch carbs).

They were trying out a new blend of coffee that day, and we thought it was pretty OK, which is a big deal, considering Mrs. BDB thinks diner coffee belongs in the category of “warm brown water.”   She got her jones for fancy caffeine later in the day at Chuck’s in Lake O. (Vanilla latte, if you must know).  Chuck’s is a purveyor of our most favoritest brand, Illy, from Trieste,  Italy.

Breakfast for two, about $24, including tip.  I am sure we will return.

 

 

Golden Touch Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Banquet Frozen Chicken Fried Steak Meal

Another in a line of inexpensive frozen “dinners”, the Banquet brand (ConAgra) Chicken Fried Beef Steak Dinner comes with a breaded meat patty, whipped potatoes, cream gravy, and kernel corn.

About 10 ounces in all, 43 carbs, and nearly half your daily sodium requirement.

The instructions call for microwaving on high for 3 minutes, stir the potatoes, another 2 minutes in the nuke, and then 2 minutes resting time.

At the “stir potatoes” mark, in my oven, the potatoes were mostly still frozen, so there wasn’t much stirring to do.

After the full  five minutes, everything was heated, but the potatoes did not have a very good consistency, more watery than they should be, almost like grits.

Nevertheless, I waited the suggested two minutes more, did another stir of the potatoes, and slopped the gravy around the tray.

Kernel corn?  Fine. How can you mess that up?  Potatoes never acquired a “whipped-like” quality, so I was put off by them.

Naturally, the meat patty with the breading didn’t crisp up – why hasn’t this been mastered yet, crisping in a microwave meal?   But the flavor wasn’t really that bad.

If you’re not a cook, or have a much busier life style that I do, these frozen meals today are a good value, often the major chains have huge sales on them, I have seen them at 4 / $5 and even on a 10 / $10 basis.

There is a huge variety to chose from between all the different brands.  You’re sure to find something you like, even if I haven’t!

Flagstaff, AZ – Galaxy Diner

Galaxy Diner, Flagstaff, AZ

Galaxy Diner, Flagstaff, AZ

Gettin’ my kicks, on Route 66, which I do a leg of at least a couple times per year.   Most recently, tooling thru Flagstaff, I came across the Galaxy Diner, a joint I hadn’t noticed before.  It had a lot of promise from the get go – great neon, roadside location on 66, lots of chrome inside and out.  Every inch of the interior walls were covered with memorabilia, movie stars, music, platters.  All the trappings of the 50s and 60s, existing in an age where only old fuckers like me ‘get it’.    If I took Mrs. BDB in this kind of place, she’d stare blankly at the photos and say “who are all these people?”  (She’s a young’un).

So I felt instantly at home at the Galaxy, and stopped to eat breakfast, cause I love diner breakfasts, any time of day or nite, and most great diners serve breakfast any time, day or nite.

It didn’t take long with the menu to spy my choice:   the “MONDO”.   An ‘oversized’ portion of chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, ‘diner potatoes’, and 3 eggs your style. (Over easy, please).

In almost as little time, my affable server appeared with my selection, and didn’t need to ask if I wanted any additional condiments, a full selection on every table.

The 50s and 60s music provided a nice ambiance this sunny Arizona morn, with the only anachronism was a couple of large televisions blaring CNN.  Wish they’d lose those.

My plate lived up to its menu description, there were two over-sized slabs of CFS, the three eggs were done perfectly, the “diner potatoes” left a bit to be desired for my personal taste, but that’s my fault, I should have asked for them to be extra crispy.   They were thin-sliced taters grilled on the flattop.

The oversized biscuit was drenched in sausage gravy, and the gravy was also adorning the steak.   Bonus?   The food was all perfectly seasoned, I tend to use way too much salt, and didn’t raise the shaker once on my breakfast, after tasting the grub.

This place, to me, was diner perfection.  It’s one of those places I want to poke my head in the kitchen and tell the chef, “that was art.”

Which it was.

Galaxy Dinner, Route 66, Flagstaff

Galaxy Dinner, Route 66, Flagstaff

Galaxy Diner on Urbanspoon

Portland, OR – Banning’s Restaurant and Pie Shop

Banning's Cafe & Pie Shop

Banning's Cafe & Pie Shop

Every once and awhile, all I want is a good piece of pie and a cup o joe, and Banning’s fills that need, 24 hours a day. If you don’t know Banning’s, it’s right off 217 on 99W (southbound), just a couple blocks off the exit, on the right. It’s one of the few places in SW open 24 hours.

Mrs. BDB wanted to run out tonight for something “quick” and nearby, and I suggested three places, and she chose Banning’s, as I have been muttering about needing pie for a couple of weeks.

Banning’s is standard American coffee shop fare, from breakfast all the time, to fish and chips, burgers, and entrees like pot roast.

It’s the kinda place where you “get what you expect”, and you “get what you pay for.” Not exceptional, just coffee shop food.

She went with the roasted pork chop dinner, which comes with a choice of soup or salad, choice of potato, dinner roll or corn bread. While Banning crows about their pies being made fresh daily, one can assume that same is not true for their dinners. This is standard Sysco or simliar output all the way.

I went with the chicken fried steak, opted for soup, which was split pea with Italian

Split Pea & Italian Sausage Soup

Split Pea & Italian Sausage Soup

sausage, which was pretty darned good. The other choice tonight was turkey noodle. Oh, and yes, they do offer roasted turkey dinners. I’m sure Huber’s doesn’t have to worry, but it’s nice to know you can get Thanksgiving any day of the year in this end of the city.

The steak and fries were just ok, the gravy (our waitress informed me I could have a choice of white or brown) left something to be desired, really didn’t have any taste at all. Like thickened au jus from a French dip.

BTW, our server was fantastic, and after a heart to heart with Mrs. BDB, probably ran off to DSW after her shift in search of shoes.

We got a couple of pieces of pie to go, still sitting in our frig, as we were pretty full from the dinners – which neither of us finished.

Like I said, Banning’s is what it is, probably perfect if you are coming out of one of the nearby bars at closing, or just wandering around the city at 3am wondering where you can get a coffee and read the paper.

Exterior foto above from Banning’s website.


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Banning's Restaurant and Pie Shop

Banning's Restaurant and Pie Shop




Banning's Restaurant & Pie on Urbanspoon

Los Angeles Coffee Shops

When you see a billboard proclaiming “Esquire Magazine says best pancakes in USA”, you take note. And the place is Dupar’s, with several Southern California locations, as well as the flagship in the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax. That location has been open since 1938, and a few years ago, was closed for two years for a top to bottom renovation, after being purchased by legendary Los Angeles coffee shop mogul, Biff Naylor. Naylor was formerly the proprietor of two of my regular stops, Biff’s, and Tiny Naylor’s. Los Angeles is a mecca for traditional coffee shops.

Here’s a quick tour of the renovated Farmer’s Market location:

When you watch the video, you’ll note that as much as Dupar’s is famed for its pancakes, lots of folks would say it’s the pies that make the place. And who doesn’t love pie? I don’t get nearly enough pie.

Biff’s, the valley location, was one of our regular lunch hangouts when I was working in Los Angeles, my colleagues had to have lunch daily, and they had a specific rotation. As I was a newcomer to the group, I was not allowed to make a contribution to the list, and went along with the daily choice, which may have included Biffs, Dr. Hoggly Woggly’s Tyler Texas BBQ, the coffee shop at Galpin Ford, a random deli or two. But that was about it.

When I ventured out on my own, I was a regular at places like Ship’s, or Norms, one of the few survivors to this day. Chicken Fried Steak and eggs was always my choice off the Norm’s menu. (Find other posts on chicken fried steak here.)

No matter what part of the city you are in, there are countless traditional coffee shops, many of which have been open for decades and decades. And there are the “super legends”, like Clifton’s in downtown.

Then of course, there are the excellent deli’s, dozens and dozens of them in a class by themselves.

Los Angeles – coffee shop mecca.  Yearnin’ to be returnin’.


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