Posts Tagged ‘Route 66’
Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review – on old Route 66, Chicago
Based on my personal consumption, I’m thinking their slogan should be “come for the biscuits, stay for the chicken.”
One of the original highways across America, Route 66 ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA, a total of nearly 2500 miles.
It’s also been referred to as “America’s Main Street,” and the “Mother Road.” The highway was instrumental in boosting America’s migration to the west by automobile, and was full of interesting tourist stops, eateries and motels with creative architecture. I’ve written about some of the eateries in the past, including the Maid Rite and Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL, the onion burger establishments in El Reno, OK, Country Cup diner in Countryside, IL, and the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, to name a few.
I love driving Route 66, the trip evokes memories of a simpler time. I think it’s officially my own personal “happy place.”
The Chicken Basket grew out of a gas station lunch counter in the 30s or 40s, and opened in its present form in 1946. They are famous for – what else – chicken – and they offer it in a bunch of different forms, including a weekend lunch AYCE buffet.
The servers are very friendly and chatty, and the knotty pine room is adorned with Route 66 memorabilia. A basket of fresh baked biscuits is presented when you’re seated, and they were delicious, reminiscent to me of “Boy Scout dutch oven Bisquick drop biscuits” except these were perfect, not burned or half baked balls of dough that we used to have in scouts.
I started with an order of onion rings, large slices of sweet Vidalia’s in a crispy corn meal coating. It’s a large serving, adequate to share between two or more people.
We ordered a couple of meals, the chicken fried chicken, a boneless breast, which comes with fries, gravy, and corn “pudding.”
The menu cautions that it’s up to a 30 minute wait for the chicken, as it is all fried to order. The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, with the breading having some nice crunch. In the chicken dinner, the coating was considerably different, much lighter and less substantial, and I’m going to venture an uneducated guess that while the boneless breast was actually deep fried, it seemed like the chicken dinner was prepared more like ‘broasting,” a distinctly Midwestern thing, a deep-fry with less oil that also involves a pressure cooker. Maybe, maybe not.
In any case, unlike many legendary eateries, the Chicken basket exceeds its hype, the food is really great. Two dinners, one appetizer, two beverages and tip, $47.00.
Full menu is online if you want to ponder your choices prior to arrival.
If you’ve never driven Route 66, put it on your bucket list, even if you have the time only to do segments in one or two states. In addition to Illinois, the road crossed Missouri, a smidgen of Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and into California. It’s a very popular trip with foreign tourists, as well, and there are even “Route 66 Associations” across the globe.
Maid Rite is the brand name for a franchised group of restaurants that sell what is generically referred to as “loose meat sandwiches.” Created by a butcher in Muscatine, Iowa, there are plus/minus a hundred outlets in the Upper Midwest selling Maid Rite type sandwiches, whether they are paying to use the name, or not.
If you are not from, or have traveled through the Upper Midwest, you still may have heard to this specialty via telecoms: Roseanne used to refer to them, and her and (then ) husband started a restaurant to sell them in his home town of Ottuma, Iowa, which was also the fictional home town of Cpl Radar O’Reilly on MASH.
So what the heck are they? Crumbled ground beef, cooked on a steam table with a bit of mustard and finely diced onions stirred on. A scoop is placed on a lightly steamed hamburger bun, and there you are. Ketchup and mustard on the tables.
I stopped into one of the first ones, in Springfield, IL, on the old Route 66; the Springfield outlet is also credited with having the first fast food drive through in America. It’s on the National Historic Register, in fact.
Their menu is simple: Maid rites, Cheese maid rites, hot dogs, fries, soft drinks including a house-brew root beer. Lunch is gonna cost you about $7.00. I actually think it’s kinda spendy for what it is. BTW? Be sure you pay attention to the “rules,” when dining in house (below).
Maid Rite Review
Give me a home, where the….oh, wait. Give me a diner, on Route 66, and I’ll be one happy camper. In a distant suburb of Chicago, the town of Countryside, is the Highway 66 exit route from the Loop, and on it, inside a bowling alley, with little signage to let you know it’s there, is the Country Cup dinner, with all of 10 tables, a counter for 8, and on this shift, about 7 employees hustling to serve the jammed packed café.
Serving a full menu 24/7, I stopped in for a corned beef, changed my mind, and went with a specialty unique to Chicago (as far as I am concerned), the “olive burger”, also referred to as the “Queen Burger” in other locales.
I’ve written about other stops along Route 66 in the past.
Everybody knows Chicago is a great hot dog town, but it’s a great burger town, as well, with one of the most (in)famous being the Billy Goat Tavern, underneath the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue. The Billy Goat was perfectly poised between two rival newspaper buildings, the Trib and the Sun Times, and was where a lot of the reporters used to hang out regularly.
But the Billygoat became known to the rest of America through John Belushi’s SNL skit, where the punchline was “cheezbooger, cheezbooger, no coke, pepsi”, which pretty much describes the ‘Goat as it remains today.
Back at the Country Cup, the coffee is fresh and plentiful, the burger was a sizzling food service patty, and the rings were hot and greasy. And the olives? They were just fine. I couldn’t leave w/o grabbing a reuben to go. I’d had a hankering for good corned beef for awhile.
If you ever find yourself in need of a nosh in this part of Chicago, check out the Country Cup anytime of day or nite.
If you’re a fan of surface streets, stay on the original Route 66 from downtown Chicago to the Cup…. Just about 20 miles, take Adams out of downtown, to Ogden Avenue, and roll out there 16 miles or so to Joliet Road.
(Editor note – I am currently traveling and will be mostly posting reviews that I left unfinished for one reason or another, while building up a repertoire of the new places I hit! There will also be reviews from some new reporters we have signed up).
Local favorite, going on 50 years, I was delighted to get to try it, as it has a good rep.
Spoiler alert. I don’t know why it has a good rep. Hand tossed crusts, and surely house-made tomato sauce, but the upside stops there. The sauce was flavorless (meaning it is crushed and pureed tomatoes, without a hint of herbs or spices), and is probably the same product they sell by the jar as a pasta sauce.
Sausage was pre-cooked crumbles, and the pepperoni was oily and cupped, indicating a high fat content, and a low price. Skimpy on the toppings, as well.
Mario’s would do in a pinch, if one were in Albuquerque and being pinched. For me, that thankfully only happens once every five years or so.
Marios Pizza and Restaurant Review
Marios Pizza and Restaurant Review