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Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

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Sam’s Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WIThere are a few times in my life when I’ve had a plate put in front of me at a restaurant and I’ve sighed and said “this is art.”

When/where this has happened, it’s never been dependent on the price or the number of stars, or some fancy name chef.

It’s about quality ingredients, meticulously prepared, properly plated, and probably a little love thrown in.

Such was the case at Sam’s Diner, a small eatery out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. It so exceeded my expectations on every level. It’d decorated with rustic Americana, about a dozen tables and booths.

I ordered the ham steak and eggs and was presented with a thick slab of quality ham prepared just the way I requested. I opted for “American fries” for the potato, thinly sliced crispy rounds, and marble rye toast.

Everything was superb including service and follow up, including getting chatted up by the manager and the chef.

It was about a 40 minute drive for me. Well worth it. I’ll hit it again and explore more of the menu.

You can find the full menu on Zomato. It’s pretty ambitious for a small joint.

Thirty miles Southwest of Milwaukee, eighty miles NNW of Chicago (map below). Opens early, seven days.

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Ham steak and eggs, American fries

Sam's Diner Review – Waterford, WI

Sam's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI
Sams Diner Review – Waterford, WI

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The Norwegian Restaurant Review – Rockford, IL

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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

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Jubelts Restaurant Review Route 66 – Litchfield, IL

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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

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Chilis Grill & Bar Review, Markham St, Little Rock, AR

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Chilis Grill & Bar ReviewI rarely visit establishments in this segment – fast casual chains.  Just not my thing. However, I’ll go, if I’m invited and somebody is insistent.

In this case, when I asked the inviter why she chose this restaurant, she said “for the irony.”  I get it.  You probably don’t.

Anyway, this is a “new” location for Chili’s, in that they moved a bit west from a location they had occupied for decades. So in that regard, it isn’t “brand new,” personnel should be used to the menu, systems, customer service and such.

It’s too loud. If one of the restaurants goals is to get people to linger at the bar, they ain’t gonna, if they can’t carry on a conversation. It’s quite an extensive menu, offering appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees and some Tex-Mex.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest these types of restaurants, with this many items offered, aren’t cooking from scratch in-house.  Lots of ‘heat and eat’ going on, especially in the entree department.

There were three of us, we skipped the appetizers, tried some of their fancy pants cocktails (meh), and ordered.  One sandwich, one spicy burger, and my entree choice.

Fifteen minutes and a “manager” shows up and tells me they are out of my entree, but will get some in the following morning.  I offer to wait, but she doesn’t get it.  I’m forced to make a decision for a substitute within seconds.  I screw up and order a burger. (Incidentally, this is one of those places that doesn’t trust your judgment to order a burger at the doneness level you prefer).

Few minutes go by, the rest of the tables food arrives.  Not mine.  Tick tock tick tock.  Fifteen minutes.  Just a burger and fries, nothing special except the cost – 2-3x fast food. Fries have seasoned salt on them, which I don’t care for generally.  Cheese and bun were both cold. Not “not warmed,” but cold.  With the order confusion, I think they should have knocked something off the check. Nope.

They’ve joined the technology age in they have the tablets at the table where you can order, pay, or play games (for a fee).  The tablet completely freaked out trying to pay the bill. Saw this same unit (“Ziosk”) at another chain recently, also not working.

Despite this automation upgrade, four different servers called at our table, not out of a quest for excellent service, but rather out of confusion.

The entire experience reminded me of why I don’t like fast casual.  Also a segment which millenials are abandoning in droves, I’ve read. Expect some to fold.

Chilis Grill & Bar Review

 

 

 

Chili's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chilis Grill & Bar Review
Chilis Grill & Bar Review

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Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review, Sycamore-Maple Park, IL

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Petes Famous Hot Dogs ReviewI love “mom and pop” places that have survived and thrived over the years.

You’ll find a lot of these on the old, original highways of the US, like Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, or US 61 which follows the Mississippi from New Orleans to near the Canadian border.

I’ve written a lot about these kind of places. I’ll almost always stop.

Just off the Lincoln Highway,  one of America’s earliest transcontinental routes, in Western Illinois, you’ll find Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs, an old-timey roadside stand, order at the counter, take it to go or eat at one of the dozen tables inside or outside.  I’ve driven by a dozen or more times, but it was never convenient to stop.  This trip, I made it a point to be there at meal time, and am glad I did.

There is an extensive menu of hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and sides, with some creative combinations that change from time to time.  Example? “Salami Cajun Burger.”  Sounds intriguing, I didn’t ask, I’ll try it next time, no doubt.

No, I went with a standard cheeseburger, Pete’s even asks you how you want it done, and based on your reply, tells you how long prep will take.

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Famous your food amped up?

Medium? Four minutes.  It’s a hand-formed patty done on a flattop and is / was delicious. Juicy meat, crispy on the edges.

They do an “over the top” job on fresh cut fries.  Some of the best you’ll find.  They also offer “family sized” packs of food to go. Probably to your advantage to call ahead on those if you need them at a specific time.

Pete’s is 58 miles west of Chicago’s loop, just off I-88.  Exit number 113, and meander up (North) on Illinois 47 for a few miles to the junction of 47 and Illinois 64.   It’s less than 30 miles from my house.  I’ll do it again, hell yes.   Menus below. They make some of their own condiments and they are offered for sale.

Open 7AM – 5PM daily, breakfast til 10:30.  The restaurant is CASH ONLY.

Follow Pete’s on Facebook.

 

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Cheeseburger and fries

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Burger close up

 

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Click to enlarge

 

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Breakfast

Pete's Hotdogs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review, Sycamore-Maple Park, IL

Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review, Sycamore-Maple Park, IL

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Soul Fish Review – Little Rock, AR

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Soul Fish ReviewIt can sometimes be a challenge to find satisfactory restaurants in Little Rock that are open on Sundays.  Fortunately, there’s Soul Fish, right downtown on Main Street.  Emphasis at this eatery is “bonafide Southern,” with a further emphasis on seafood. (See menu below).

We started with the smoked catfish dip, something I’ve never encountered, and I’m sorry about that, because it was delicious.  Smokey, salty, creamy, accompanied by tortilla chips which I would bet are made in house.  A light fry, crispy without being jaw jarring, light salt. The perfect go-with.

I went for the fried catfish basket, there are three choices for the size of serving, I went for the small one, since I was on the road, didn’t want to have leftovers.

The fry breading on the fish is exceptional. Cornmeal based, with a hint of one of the Creole seasonings (my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to tell them apart – could be Tony Chachere’s, Zatarains, Old Bay, or a concoction dreamed up in-house.  In any case, it’s really tasty.

There’s a wide choice of sides with baskets and plates, I chose natural cut fries, and slaw and hush puppies were included.  The slaw was excellent, rough chopped cabbage with a dressing that is creamy, sweet and tart at the same time.  Other sides?  Cucumber Salad • Black Beans • Corn • Cajun Cabbage • White Beans • Baked Sweet Potato • Fried Okra • Coleslaw • Black Eyed Peas •  Mashed Potatoes • Green Beans • Sweet Potato Fries • Broccoli • Mac N Cheese • Zucchini • Collard Greens • Pickled Green Tomatoes.

My dining companion was my daughter and after a major assist of plowing thru the dip, she opted for the Caesar salad with blackened shrimp added. Also delicious. Very fresh greens and the shrimp were cooked exactly right.

Children’s menu, desserts, beer and wine available.  I’d return.  You should go.  Appetizer, two entrees, two beverages, tip, $40.

Open daily at 11A. Soul Fish has four locations; in addition to Little Rock, find three locations in greater Memphis.

Soul Fish Review

Smoked catfish dip

Soul Fish Review

Fried catfish basket

 

Soul Fish Review

Menu – click to enlarge

 

 

 

Soul Fish Little Rock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Soul Fish Review

Soul Fish Review

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New China Restaurant Review – Fox River Grove, IL

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New China Restaurant ReviewIt’s been around for twenty-five years, so it must be “good” right?  Well, at least passable. Confession. I lived in China for six years, so it’s almost always a let down for me to go to a Chinese restaurant in the U.S.  Once and a great while, in a larger city Chinatown, I can be a happy camper.

But here we’re talking the Chicago burbs, a good hour drive from the center of the city.  But twenty-five years, right?

The New China was recently remodeled, I was told, and the ambiance is pleasant enough.  Subdued tones and lighting, no blaring sports TVs (except in the bar). Service was more than satisfactory. He even pointed out by “rearranging” our order, we’d save some money. That was kind.

As you certainly know, there is no standardization in names or spelling of Americanized Chinese dishes, and the New China seems to have invented some names unique to their menu. So unless you ask, you might be surprised at what you order/receive.

I had shrimp and vegetables in a sauce.  It was more than adequate. It came with steamed rice, (plain) fried rice, soup and an eggroll.  Soup was good, eggroll was crispy and cabbage packed. Fried rice was quite a bit beyond the fried stage as you can see in the picture.  There wasn’t any meat or egg.

I’d go again, at least for takeout.  But I’d probably try some different items next time.  And it’s a little spendy for Chinese.  If you read online reviews, you’ll find people’s reactions are pretty mixed.  I don’t really have anything negative to say.

Menu is online. Carryout orders welcome. Online ordering. Not sure if they are hooked up with any of the delivery services.

New China Restaurant Review

 

 

 
New China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
New China Restaurant Review

New China Restaurant Review

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Gloriosos Italian Market Review – Milwaukee, WI

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Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewSeventy-year-old Glorioso’s in Milwaukee is one of several fine Italian deli/groceries the city has to offer.

If it’s even remotely Italian, Glorioso’s has it on the shelf, in the counter or in the cooler. It’s a wonderland for foodies and cooks alike.  Naturally, I stocked up.  Sausages. Cheese. A muffaletta sandwich. So let’s talk about that.  Purportely invented a zillion years ago by immigrants in New Orleans, the “muff” is traditionally a nine inch round loaf, bedazzled with sesame seeds, with two or three types of Italian cold cuts, cheese, and topped with “olive salad” – which is finely diced vegetables and olives in oil.

The result is a messy wonderland – most people can’t eat a whole one, and happily, Glorioso’s has “halves” in their counter.

I put away more than my share, living in New Orleans, and have written about several of them. Tourists like to go to the store that is supposedly the birthplace. I prefer a dive bar uptown.

Glorioso’s could easily pass in New Orleans.  I enjoyed it. If I knew how much I was going to like it, I’d have stocked up. Only “complaint?”  A little light on the olive salad.   (I bought a jar of their mix to bring home, as well).

Scored a fantastic dry salami, “Licini Cacciatore.”  I love when processed meats actually taste like the animal they came from, and this is soGloriosos Italian Market Reviewme great pork.  BTW, the name means (Cacciatore) “hunter”  and (Lincini) Bent or pointing upwards.  It’s a very hard salami, with a robust flavor.

Their beef/pork meatballs have a great flavor, run about a buck apiece, I brought home four to try. They have an awful lot of ingredients compared to the ones I make at home, which are just beef, pork, milk, bread, fennel, parsley, garlic and basil.  Glorioso’s balls are a very fine grind, good for the mass appeal market. My own balls have a rougher texture, chewier. My preference only.

Salads, olives, meats, cheese, entrees, they are all in the counter. You can order a sandwich or a plate, pasta, panini or pizza. (They have take and bakes also).  Their full menu is below.

Staff is personable and knowledgeable about the products.

Really worth a stop if you are passing through.  Really worth being on your regular shopping route if you live there. I will be back. Often.  (I had planned on writing more, but doing this made me hungry, have to go see what I have left from my trip!)

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Half a Muffaletta Sandwich

 Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Glorioso Menu – Click to enlarge

Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market Review
Glorioso's Italian Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider ReviewHardees, actually it’s predecessor, Sandys, was the first fast food in my hometown, years before McDonalds or BK landed.

Second was probably Henry’s, another defunct chain.  So, anyway, I’ve always had an affinity for Hardees, and while it has ebbed and flowed over the years parallel to their own ups and downs, the last few years I’m good with them.

I think they have the best breakfast sandwiches in the industry, and they have actual, real, bonafide ham in the breakfast hours, as well. Some years ago, they decided their target customer was going to be young men, who aren’t shy about eating hardy, and then went after that market, and while I don’t know the numbers, I’ll bet they made a solid dent in it.

They focus on larger burger patties, 1/3 pound minimum, heavily loaded  — like the Monster Thickburger, two 1/3 pound patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, mayo on a bakery bun.

In order to tell their target customer about their new focus – they employed a number of attractive female celebrities, portrayed as seductively eating the new burgers.  This went on for a few years, then somebody moaned about it and they stopped.

I thought it was brilliant.  PC aside, the company had a demographic specific product and designed marketing to capture that audience. It worked.

Here’s one of the commercials.

Feeling a might pecking a few weeks ago, somewhere unidentifiable in the Carolinas, I pulled off to grab a snack and happened into Hardees for the only reason is it was the easiest to get in and out of off the street.

They were advertising a double cheeseburger slider for a buck, which would be all I’d need at the moment. (BUT….the only TRUE sliders, IMHO, come from White Castle and Krystal).

I was the only customer inside. There were no drive-thru customers.  Yet for some reason, it took a full fifteen minutes to put this sandwich together, and apparently they couldn’t spare another 15 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese.

No matter. Tasted OK.  Mission accomplished.  Hey it was a buck!  Better meat and bun than lots of fast food burgers at $2-4.

I don’t see it on the menu on their website, must have been a limited time thing.

So here’s a pic of the slider.

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

 

 

 

 

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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The Sand Bar Review – Twin Lakes, WI

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Sand Bar ReviewStop me if you’ve heard this.  So a few weeks ago I was on one of my food tours, back down to the Southeastern U.S., Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and one thing I was looking forward to was a lot of seafood and fish, of course.

One particular item I was hot for was grouper fish, a quite common offering in Florida, I ate it a lot living there, and it’s also popular in Southeast Asia, so I had my share living there, as well.

So after having my fill at all you can eat catfish buffets, I started a search for grouper. Two places had it on the menu, both were “sorry, we’re out.”  Pretty much gave up after that.

So I spot it on the menu at this boater’s bar on the Illinois/Wisconsin border (literally). WTH?  They bill themselves as a “Tropical Oasis in the Least Likely of Places.”  Apparently the owner spent quite a bit of time on FLA’s west coast, and wanted to transfer a bit of the culture and cuisine to Illinois. I mean Wisconsin.

It’s cutely decorated on a marine theme, with nets and decorative fish and crustaceans, as well as theme “signage,” and a list of exotic sounding tropical drinks.

But I came for the grouper, fingers crossed, please don’t be “out.”  They weren’t.  And chef delivered.

Perfectly grilled, a dusting of blackened The Sand Bar Reviewseasoning (not actually “blackened” as the menu states, and that’s just fine, it’s a delicate fish. It’s plated as a sandwich on a toasted bun (firm enough to cradle the contents, pretzel bun available as upgrade), with a lemon zest mayo, which is an interesting addition.

Lettuce, tomato and red onion slivers.  Fries or slaw are standard accompaniments. I upgraded to get rings.

Rings have medium thickness of breading with a beer based batter. Done correctly.  Nice crisp.  Nice sized onion.

Lots more interesting things on the menu, worth a return visit.  I’m sure curious where they source the grouper around here.

Sandwich is a little spendy at $15.95 plus $1.98 upcharge for the rings, but this place is probably jammed jammed jammed in season and they have a captive audience.  If they can do, they should.  Oh, full bar including large selection of “tropical” cocktails.

Modest amount of indoor seating, outdoor patio for more temperate weather.  Server Cate did a fine job, checking in as necessary, but not too often.

Co-located facility has water toy rentals available by hour or day.  Boat launching facilities and dock.  Saw a sign for live bait, as well.

Finally, a note to women. I am told that the women’s facility is small and narrow.  To the point that the only place to put one’s purse is in the sink basin. Unfortunately, it’s an auto-on sink.  So if you don’t want a complimentary purse wash, have a different solution.  Might be good if a couple hooks were placed somewhere on a wall?  That’s all.

Highly recommended.  Menu is online and also below.

 

 

The Sand Bar Review

Grilled Grouper with Rings

The Sand Bar Review

Sand Bar Food Menu – Click to enlarge

Sandbar Bar & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sand Bar & Island Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Sand Bar Review

The Sand Bar Review

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