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Buena Vista Restaurant Review – Algonquin, IL


Buena Vista Restaurant Review I rarely go out for Mexican food; exception would be if I’m deep in an area of a big city with a heavy Mexican population. Traveling the world, you get spoiled on “authentic” cuisine and disappointed about the Americanized version of same. At least I do.  Same after I lived in China.  Never been in a P.F. Changs, Chipotle, or Panda Express.

All that being said, I am a gracious sorta fella. so I will go out with a friend who is dead set on a certain location. In this instance, a tiny little restaurant on an out of the way street in Algonquin, IL, a NW suburb of Chicago. The Buena Vista (good view, I imagine because it faces the local river), has a rather lenghty menu (below) for a smallish place and nightly food or drink specials, some that are quite enticing (they advertise them in their store window. Or I suppose you could call).

So we went, ate very inexpensively, enjoyed it immensely. One of my personal criteria for Americanized Mexican restaurants is the refried beans. Cooked from scratch or from a can? These definitely pass the test. I could make a meal out of beans alone.

I had a two soft taco plate, with beef. The usual other taco and burriot innars are available, as are the more traditional ones you rarely see in the Americanized places (like tongue).

It’s good. And I appreciate how hard of work it is to own/run a small independent restaurant. So if you’re in the mood, check them out.  In the summer, get it to go and sit at the riverside benches across the street and ogle the beautiful people floating by.

Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Soft taco plate

Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Click to enlarge


Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Click to enlarge


Buena Vista Restaurant & Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Buena Vista Restaurant Review
Buena Vista Restaurant Review


Being Chicken in Kingman


I have been in this shitty motel before on some other lost weekend.    I’ve made my way down here on some “public conveyance” from which I was ejected a couple hours ago, fifty miles down the road.

My crime?  Drinking on the conveyance, which would amuse a lot of people , including the person responsible for me being on the road.  I also made a fuss because someone stole my Nikon.  So there will be relatively few fotos from this leg of the  trip.

I’m farther east than I planned, as I am currently on a sabbatical/walkabout, and planned to enter Mexico somewhere in Cali.  No matter, Arizona is just as good.

It’s ironic, on my last great bus hobo trip, I felt that an awful lot of the passengers had just gotten out of some hospital or institution and really had nowhere to go.  Now people look at me like I’m that person.

I think I’m too old for these kind of changes.  Yeah, yeah, you’re only as old as you feel, well, fuck, I feel 120 after the last couple weeks.

I don’t mind Kingman, it’s a shadow of its former self, (me, too)  but is a stop on old Route 66, and there’s a lot of interesting retro architecture and some restaurants that date back to the day.  I had hoped to visit one of those restaurants, but I ‘m in too pissy a mood, so I walked down the street, got some Popeye’s to eat in the room.

I saw a documentary recently about a guy who tried to “live” off Craigslist for 30 days.  He’d get around by using ride share ads, meet people to crash on their couches and so on.  That seems really cool, plus he got to meet a dominatrix!  The last time I went hobo-ing around the country, I tried to live on $10 a day.  The whole craig’s list angle might make it easier.

But the trip overall will be harder, as last time, I knew that whatever hardships I endured, there was a nice home and loving family waiting for me at the end.

Not this time.

Popeyes Chicken


Otto and Anitas Bavarian Review, Portland, OR


I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, but nowhere til now where you could imbibe in multiple versions of a schnitzelwich! And despite my world travels, I don’t think I ever recall seeing “dill pickle soup” anywhere – where has this been all my life?!?!?

Otto and Anita’s, a smallish place (but the sign says they can host parties, meetings, receptions of up to 40!), in Portland ‘s Multnomah Village, caters to person craving modest German/continental fare – from schnitzels to sausages to Dover sole.

Pleasantly decorated thematically, the affable servers meticulously explain the menu choices, describe the daily specials, and serve your food in a pleasant and efficient manner. The traditional cuisine has not been “Americanized” per se, and is very reminiscent of similar dishes I have enjoyed in Germany and Austria.

For no particular reason other than enjoying my wife’s company, I took Mrs. BDB to lunch at Otto and Anita’s, and we whiled away an hour or so with a midweek noon sojourn.

She started with the dill pickle soup, which I happily finished (I love this stuff, quick, somebody find me the recipe!), and had the lightly sauteed Dover Sole Almandine, and I went straight for the schnitzelwich, on a very nice crusty French, with kraut, cheese, mustard, but sans sauteed onions, as I wasn’t in an onion mood. My plate had a mound of traditional German potato salad, which was sweet and tangy at the same time. Next visit, I will enjoy plowing through one or more of the spaetzle offerings as a side.

Mrs. BDB’s plate was too much for her to finish, and I had a few bites, the sole was flaky, lemony, with a light batter, pan-fried. Very nice.

My sandwich was good too, with the pork cutlet also lightly fried, a tangy mustard, and the bread was wonderful, I couldn’t finish the bread, but didn’t leave a single morsel of the cutlet behind.

Offering something for everyone, in addition to the traditional German fare, Otto and Anita’s has a few steaks, some salmon dishes, a bevy of salads, a kids menu, and a host of appetizers and small dishes. A lot of menu for a small place.

I’ll be happy to go back, I have my eye on their burger (of course), french dip, and traditional desserts.

Otto and Anita’s is open for lunch Tues- Fri, and dinner Tues-Sat, at 3025 SW Canby, just off Capitol Hwy in Multnomah Village.

Otto and Anita’s menu is online.

View Larger Map

Otto and Anita’s Bavarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Otto and Anitas Bavarian Review


Basils Pizza Review, an Homage to Joe Szabo (Northfield, MN)


40 years ago, it was called “Bill’s,” and it was in the same location.  Hasn’t changed much, same counter, same booths, now fairly worn, the faux leather brittle with age.  The home-spun murals of scenes of Italy on the walls are fading.

But would the pizza hold up?   Did we love it because it was great?  Or because at the time, it was the only show in town?

My sophomore roommate was a guy from Chicago named Joe Szabo.   Nice guy.  Talented artist.  Wanted to grow up to be a famous talented artist.  Hope he made it.

Most college roommates experience the “either / or” phenomena, meaning that it’s pretty normal that one roommate has some money, and the other doesn’t.  The cycle reverses on a regular basis.

In our dorm room, whoever had the money had the power to dictate toppings:  Joe always got ground beef and diced onion; for me it was Italian sausage and sliced green olives.    Neither of us minded the other’s selection.

There were a couple of great things about rooming with Joe.   He had a car.   And a very tasty morsel of a girlfriend.   In a college dorm room, it’s hard not to become somewhat “familiar” with everything that goes on and Sara was, well (swoon).

One night Joe let me use his car (unheard of) so he and Sara could have a special “moment”.  He flipped me a sawbuck, too, and said “go have a ‘za’, and take your time.

I started off down College Avenue, it was winter, there were patches of ice, I was very careful with Joe’s pride, a green Beetle.   I stopped at the RR crossing for a slow moving freight, minding my own business, anticipating the ‘za, when WHAM!  I got re-ended.   As you probably know, the Beetle has the engine in the back, so a whack can cause serious damage.

No one was hurt, someone summoned the police, who informed me the drunk driver who just plowed into my roommate’s car was “so and so’s son”, and there was never, ever anything going to come of it.

And nothing did.   I got a pizza all by myself, Joe and Sara had their special moment, and if Joe was ever pissed about the accident, he never let on.

So nearly 40 years later, I show up at Basil’s, order a medium of (my) sausage and green olive, and (Joe’s) ground beef and onion, to compare and contrast as it were, to see if this is great pizza, or just a glorified memory.

I did notice a couple things while the dude is making the pie, things that (for me) are critical for a good pie: 1) sliced cheese, not shredded, and 2) bulk sausage, pinched by hand, in nice sized pieces.

The old Baker’s Pride ovens had lost some oomph, it would take a full 15 minutes to bake, with the requisite occasional door opening, and paddle spin.

I took my hot pies back to my motel room.   I tried one, then the other.  Then the first, then the other.  They were superb. Great melted cheese that clings to the crust, a cracker like crust, a big of tang to the sauce, and quality toppings.

Could I eat two mediums all by myself?  Nah. But 40 years ago I could.

Basil's Pizza on Urbanspoon


Basils Pizza Review


Chicken Strip Smackdown in the South


Swinging thru the South, seemed like a good time to do a “compare and contrast” on chicken strips, or fingers, tenders, or whatever you call them.  I would have preferred doing a compare and contrast on bacon strips, but that would make Mrs. BDB unhappy, unless she was co-judging.  Next trip.

She’s not a chicken strip gal, though; she says a true gourmand/gourmet would only eat the dark meat of poultry, so I’m just some trashy white meat eater with chicken and turkey.   But that’s why we’re together and so compatible, together we can polish off a bird with no leftovers, except enough for her to crank out her fantastic home-made soups!

I think I’ve covered the tender spectrum, pretty much, KFC, Popeye’s,  Zaxby’s,  Chester Fried, Bojangles.  I didn’t go to Chick Filet because it was a Sunday when I passed one, and they aren’t open on Sundays.   I didn’t get to a local favorite in New Orleans “WOW” (World of Wings) because of timing.

So here’s the rundown.

Although I recently crowed about liking Bojangle’s breakfast, I didn’t think their chicken was on a par.  The strips were small(ish) and with no distinguishable seasoning.  They come with a little pot of Honey Mustard sauce, and a biscuit.  My recollection is it was north of $5 for the 4 strip box, and most chains the price is about the same.

I mentioned World of Wings (Wow Café) .  This was a start-up from New Orleans, I first went when there was one location, and now they are spreading across the country, but not as fast as another Louisiana start-up, Raising Cane’s, which is rubbing up against national penetration.  What I liked about WOW was you could have your wings/tenders TOSSED in a selection of sauces, as well as get a wide variety of dipping sauces.  Not sure if they still do it that way, but I liked mixing up my order, with half on the buffalo side, half with some variation of Thai Peanut.

Then of course, there is Popeye’s, another Louisiana creation, and really the only nationwide contender to KFC.   It’s our go-to chicken place most often, I’d say, as both me and Mrs. Burgerdogboy like their chicken, the spices, and she especially digs the red beans and rice side dish.  Superb.  I like their LTO’s, too, from time to time you can get a piece of catfish or some special shrimp prep.  If you don’t know about the genius that started Popeye’s, Al Copeland, you should look up his story sometime.  Smart dude.  Dead.

Zaxby’s was started in Statesboro, Georgia, and today has over 500 locations.  It’s a chicken finger centric menu, but with a more inviting dine in atmosphere, a variety of sauces, and a fairly large offering of sides and extras.   Deal clincher for me?  A piece of Texas toast in every pack.  The chicken is good, the fries are crinkled, and the Zak sauce is some pink mayo slightly spicy thing.   One day, someone will invent a truly “secret sauce.”  I’d be a regular if there was one nearby.

Zaxby’s menu is online.

Chester Fried, or as I call it, “gas station food”, but in the deep south, they often refer to these counters in gas stations as “fry delis”, and they offer breakfast sandwiches, chicken, fish pieces, sometimes shrimp, sometimes BBQ.   It’s often cooked on site, independently, or connected to a marketing affiliation agreement with a company like Chester Fried.    What I like about these places is you can order by the piece, and I was in the mood for 2 strips, and one honking big piece of catfish.  And that’s what I got, for less than $4.  No fancy sauces or preparations here, it’s down and dirty food on the run.  And damned good.  Previous story on chick/Chester Fried.

KFC?  Consistent with the chicken, but the rest of the menu seems to vary regionally.  I do like the outlets that have a buffet, but that seems to be a phenom of KFC in the Deep South, only.

Verdict?   I’ll remain a loyal customer of Popeye’s but wait eagerly for times I can get back to Zaxby’s. (Unless Mrs. BDB is cookin’).

Bojangle's Chicken Strips

Bojangle’s Chicken Strips

Chester Fried Chicken

Chester Fried


KFC Strips Meal

KFC Strips


Zaxby's Chicken Strips

Zaxby’s Chicken Strips


Chicken Strip Smackdown


Missing My Foodie Companion


deal2There’s a phrase from an old song my pals and I bandy about on occasion “Do you know what it’s like to miss New Orleans?”   Well, I surely do.

The question I ask myself over and over again these days tho, is “Do I know what it’s like to miss my ex best foodie friend?”

The answer to that is I surely do, as well.

For the past eight years, I’ve had a best pal who has shared almost all of my food adventures, whether it’s been eating in a new restaurant, going to a YELP event,  shopping at obscure markets and discovering treasures, cooking meals together, cooking for each other, and on occasion, feeding each other.

My foodie partner tired of my somewhat pedantic approach to cuisine.   She wanted to sample more of life, try different things, and she thought that would have been in conflict with our partnership agreement, so she exited.

We weren’t Siskel and Ebert by any means, but we were tight for a long time.

I was sitting in the bathtub today, something I rarely do on my own,  thinking about her, tho I must confess barely an hour goes by that I don’t think of her.  We used to sit in the tub together sometimes, and once we even had a dinner of Thai noodles in a hotel bathtub.  That’s a picture I’ll never forget.

So now I am wandering the highways and byways of the planet on my own, and she is out drinking in as much life as she can, as fast as she can.   I’m winding down, while she’s winding up.  I understand that.

But it doesn’t mean there isn’t a void in my life.

It only appears to the outside world our link is broken.  In my heart, it’s like an old Chinese saying I once told her, she’s the kite, I’m the string, and even though she may soar above the clouds, and I can’t see her, we will always be connected.



Nationwide – Arbys Reuben Sandwich Review


I clearly remember my first visit to an Arby’s, it was in the area of Minneapolis surrounding the U of M, and at that time, they had a glass enclosed “oven” in the middle of the dining room where the ‘roasts’ were cooking (at least that’s what I remember).

Arby’s was founded in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964 by Forrest and Leroy Raffel, owners of a restaurant equipment business who saw  a market opportunity for a fast food franchise based on a food other than hamburgers. They chose the name “Arby’s”, based on R. B., the initials of Raffel Brothers. (That’s funny, I  always thought it stood for “Roast Beef”).

The Raffel brothers opened the first new restaurant on July 23, 1964. They initially served only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, and soft drinks.

Today, Arby’s is one of the  largest fast food franchises (in the US), with over 3,000 outlets, and a smattering of shops overseas as well.  The majority was purchased by a private equity group in 2011, with less than 20% being held by the folks at Wendys, who had owned it in toto, since 2008.

There haven’t been that many innovations at Arby’s over the years;  one exception was the addition of the “Fresh Market” sandwiches which seem to be popular, and I have maintained since they were introduced, that Arby’s onion rings are the best in the fast food, and maybe fast casual arena.   They are a bit spendy, tho.

We went to Arby’s as a cheap and quick solution to needing our St. Patrick’s Day corned beef fix, as they were offering a bogo on their Reubens, no coupon needed.  The Arby’s Reuben is a good value at the bogo price (around $3 each), but I don’t know if I would be inclined to pay more.  I’m not the type of fast-food consumer that goes for premium menu items.

Arby’s Reuben is corned beef, swiss, kraut, and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye.  Note “toasted” and not grilled, as most Reubens are prepared.   I doubt many consumers would object.  They also offer the Rachel, a “Midwest”  version of the Reuben which substitutes turkey for the corned beef, .(most places a “Rachel” substitutes pastrami for the corned beef, and slaw for the kraut)  If you are really bold, you can get a half and half at Arby’s.  Turkey and corned beef?  Not for me, but you might like it!  Extra hungry? Ask for the double stack, which doubles the meat portion at an additional cost.

How was it?   Good for what it was, especially when you compare it to a $27 sandwich at a Manhattan deli!   I do admit it was a lot better grilled, as I took half home and did that later.

The bogo was an LTO for St. Patrick’s Day, but the Reuben is on the Arby’s menu for the foreseeable future.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

Arby's Reuben Sandwich

Arby's on Urbanspoon


Arbys Reuben Sandwich Review


What Fatherhood Is Like


Off topic?  Nah. This is what it is like trying to feed Mrs Burgerdogboy and my four Burgerdogbrats, with another on the way.  It takes a lot of burgers, dogs, and pizza to feed that horde!  A friend posted this on FB, and I can relate. If you’re a father, it’s likely you can, too.



Frozen Pizza Review – Green Mill


Green Mill Frozen Pizza ReviewSuzy Applebaum introduced me to the Green Mill;  we were both employed at KSTP in Minneapolis- St. Paul, and I had asked her to go to lunch.  She suggested the Green Mill.  At the time, it was a small bar on Hamline Avenue in St. Paul that specialized in deep dish pizza.  It had opened in the 30s as a soda fountain at the same location.

I had a monster crush on Suzy, who hailed from a local grocery store dynasty family;  if I knew then I was going to spend the rest of my life obsessed with food, well, I might have wised up and pursued Suzy with vigor, but I knew I was outclassed from the get-go.

The legend of the local bar with great pizza grew, and today, there are 27 locations across the Midwest, serving a full menu in addition to their pizza.

There was one other significant event in my life that took place at a Green Mill, the rehearsal dinner for my wedding.  It was at the Uptown location on South Hennepin in Minneapolis, and no, it wasn’t my  selfish love of pizza that made that event happen there, but was rather my mother’s choice.  My mother loved to go with me to places that were “on the wrong side of the tracks”, and it was “our thing” to explore someplace new every time she came to the Twin Cities when I was living there.

As with most successful pizzerias, Green Mill has launched a frozen pizza line, and they are being made and distributed by a Minnesota pizza manufacturer, Bernatellos.  Minnesota somehow became the frozen pizza capital of the US, with a gaggle of brands being made across the state:  Jeno’s, Totino’s, Roma, Red Baron, Freschetta, Tony’s, Giovannis, Kettle River….I’m sure I’m forgetting many, but you get the idea.

I purchased the “Thin and Crispy” style with three meats, sausage, pepperoni and bacon.  It’s a 15 ounce affair and was priced at 2 / $11 or .73 per ounce, and that’s steep for a frozen pie.

The three pix below represent the box, note the “authentic restaurant-style flavors”  (boy, that’s as vague as can be, isn’t it?);  the unbaked pie is kind of a misrepresentation, I pushed all the included pepperoni to one side of the pie.  The last picture represents the baked pie, 10 minutes at 425.

The picture of the cooked pizza kind of tells the whole story, when you note the “glistening” on the surface.  This is a fairly greasy pizza, and the ‘cupping’ and slight char on the pepperoni indicates a high fat content (which would explain some of the oil).  The pork sausage is realtively unseasoned.  It’s a crispy crust, pleasant enough, nice herb treatment, including fennel.  Tomato sauce on the sweet side.

The ingredients list doesn’t include a whole lot of preservatives, these are pretty pure ingredients.   The flavor is simply not to my taste, but it might be perfect for you!


green mill



Green Mill Frozen Pizza



Green Mill Frozen Pizza

Baked, 10 minutes at 425





Frozen Pizza Review


Love Tapenade, But Not the Price? Cheap and Easy Recipe


I love green olive tapenade, but the price makes me shudder, usually around $5 or $6 for a small jar. I discovered an easy way to remedy this situation, which I will share with you. I have a cheap, easy, way to make it at home.

Preparation time:  5 minutes


1  jar salad olives

2 peeled cloves garlic

Olive oil to suit

Recipe tapenadeWhat are salad olives?  They are the jars of green olives that you see considerably lower priced than the others, in the olive section of your grocery.  They are called “salad’ olives, but really they are pimento stuffed greens that got mangled in production. Bits, pieces, shreds, unstuffed.   The point is, they are REALLY inexpensive, on sale, usually less than two bucks a jar. (Pictured at left).

Take a jar (or two!) of the olives, drain them, don’t chug the brine like I do, I hear it’s not the healthiest thing for your blood pressure.

Place the olives and the garlic in a mini food processor, and pulse until the mixture reaches the consistency you like.  I run mine until it is pretty fine, spreadable even.  Drizzle olive oil in the processor and pulse again, until it reaches a consistency that pleases you.

It will be the least expensive and best green olive tapenade you have ever noshed on.

If you’d like yours with a little heat, use giardiniera instead of the salad olives.  It’s a mix of olives, peppers, and occasionally other vegetables. (Pictured below).

To get really exotic, add an anchovy filet and a few capers into the pulse.

There are many brands of salad olives and giardiniera, if you pick them up when you see them on sale, you’ll be able to tapenade on demand.

P.S.  It makes a great burger spread too.

Tapenade recipe








Tapenade recipe

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