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Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

Burger Burger Review – Biloxi, MS

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Burger Burger Review So the story goes, the original “Burger Burger” was developed in nearby New Orleans and made its way east to Biloxi sometime after 1947.

The sandwich was sold in a local restaurant for years until one day, the perfect home of its own became available and the Burger Burger restaurant opened up, selling their proprietary sandwich, along with daily specials – their version of traditional southern dishes. Also on the menu,  traditional gumbo, salads, seafood baskets and breakfast.

Here I’ve buried the lead, haven’t I? The “Burger Burger” is like a hamburger poboy – on toasted French bread with mustard, diced onion, and special sauce, which they also call “gravy.” Somebody described it like “Swiss steak” on a bun, and maybe that’s apt, it’s sure different than a hamburger poboy in New Orleans which can be incredibly plain and dull.

They have other “specialty” burgers as well, in a form you might be more used to seeing.

Being as this is primarily a hamburger website, and I write about burgers a lot, naturally I took one look at the menu and went right for the……….catfish.

That’s right. I couldn’t seem to get enough fried catfish this trip, so it pretty much showed up in front of me once a day.

And was I ever glad.  Burger Burger makes perfect fried catfish, accompanied by fries, slaw, lemon and tartar if you wish. It was a lighter, slightly seasoned batter, perfectly crispy, the fish resting inside done to perfection, moist, not a hint of grease.

Dandy.

Service is frenetic and friendly at the same time.  Like they took classes in “Southern hospitality.”  Quite sure they mentioned everything was made in-house.

The restaurant is located in an old residence and the walls are chock-a-block with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia.

I’d like to go back.

Website has the specials but not full menu.  Menu is on Zomato.

Burger Burger Review

Catfish basket with fries

Burger Burger Review

Interior

 

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

 

Burger Burger Review
Burger Burger Review

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Zaxbys Review Update – Somewhere in Eastern Tennessee

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Zaxbys Review UpdateCouple years ago, I drove around the Southeast doing a chicken finger/tenders ‘smackdown.’  Turns out I was pretty loyal to Popeye’s, unless there was a Zaxby’s nearby. Well, this was the first time I’d been near one since that trip, two years ago this month.

I’m still a happy camper at Zaxby’s.  Good chicken, good crinkle cuts, fantastic Texas toast.  Texas toast is always a dealmaker for me. Always.

So Zaxby’s? Time to saturate the Upper Midwest. Then I won’t have to go on a 2500 mile drive to enjoy a piece of toast!  (Did you know you can order an ENTIRE BASKET of Texas toast on the side?! YES! )  Yes, I like the slaw too.  Chicken? Crispy outside, juicy inside, fried to perfection.

(I said somewhere in eastern Tennessee cause I have no f*in idea where I was. It was next to a Red Roof Inn, tho, I can tell you that, where the desk clerk was yelling at a guy for having teenage girls in his room. He promised not to do it again and all was right with the world.

Zaxbys Review Update
Zaxby's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Zaxbys Review Update

Zaxbys Review Update

Zaxbys Review Update

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Applebees Review – Nationwide Chain

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Applebees ReviewStarting as a single restaurant called T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs in Decatur, GA, 1980, Applebees has grown to a franchised chain of over 2000 units in 15 countries.

Applebee’s is in the casual dining segment, with basic American dishes including salads, shrimp, chicken, pasta, burgers, and “riblets” an Applebee’s signature dish. Most of the units feature a bar area with numerous TVs for viewing sporting events and full alcohol service.

The company frequently runs cost promotions, like “two can eat for twenty” – one appetizer and two entrees from a short list, for $20. Is it a good value or does it get you to spend more than you intended. No idea.

It wouldn’t be a regular stop of mine, but I happened into one in Sikeston, MO, when passing through. Most interstate travelers exiting here might look for a heavily advertised joint, “Lamberts – Home of Throwed Rolls” – but if you’ve done that once, like I have, that’s probably enough.

I had rings for an appetizer and a cheeseburger and fries.  It was ok.  Living in an era of (pick one) (organic, wagyu, grass fed, free range, hand pattied, special blend, ground daily) burgers, it wasn’t a standout. Nice bun. Lots of fresh vegetables for toppings and OK fries.

So it’s a good value. The restaurant, ambiance? Too noisy. The bar and tvs dominate the room, but pretty sure that’s where most of the revenue comes from too.  Service was perfunctory.

It was a highway stop.  That’s all.  Haven’t been in one in decades. Unlikely I’d stop again unless the parking lot was empty.

Applebees Review

 

 

 

 Full menu is online.
Applebee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Applebees Review

Applebees Review

 

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New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review – Multiple Locations New Orleans, LA

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New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co ReviewI’ve been coming to this place for almost 20 years. It used to be for the hamburgers, and it was the hamburger because the location I used to frequent had a very large “fixin’s bar,” which was quite nice.

That feature seems to have vanished.  Now I come for the thin sliced fried catfish, cause I think this is the only place in the city you can get it, unless you’re in the mood for a Sunday drive and want to go about 40 miles north to Middendorfs, an old timey place which is really great as well.

What they mean by “thin-sliced” is the filet is sliced length-wise, resulting in a paper thin piece of fish.  It’s then flash fried in their unique breading, resulting in an extra crispy filet.

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger’s menu has all the usual suspects of local dishes. Fried and grilled seafood, oysters, gumbo, and throw in the burgers for good measure.

They have great fries, extruded potato fry shape drenched in garlic butter and sprinkled with herbs. They’re kind of addictive.

This time around, I had the thin filet cat poboy, it was good, good bread, fully dressed, too large to eat at a sitting.  (If you’re a first time visitor to the city, servers will ask if you want your sandwiches “dressed” which means lettuce, tomato and mayo. Most people say yes.

This location (uptown, on the St Charles streetcar line) has a couple large rooms, so it’d be ok to bring your family thing or a tour bus here, I imagine. Full bar and a number of draft beers, and the sign said video slots, but I didn’t see them.

I think I’ll revisit the burger next time.  Good grub. Good value. Sparkling clean facility. Efficent service.

A bunch of locations in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Full menu. (also below).   Kid choices, too.

 

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Fried Catfish Poboy

 

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Click to Enlarge

New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

 

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Palms Grill Cafe Review – On Route 66, Atlanta, IL

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Palms Grill Cafe Review One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 (US Highway 66), was established on November 11, 1926.

A few years later, the Palms Grill Cafe opened on the “Mother Road” in Atlanta, IL, about equidistant between St. Louis and Chicago (now just off I-55).

Not much has changed since then, in Atlanta, or at the Palms. The restaurant still whips up most everything from scratch on a daily basis (closed Tuesday, tho), serves breakfast all day, and offers an ever changing menu of daily specials.  This is the epitome of American home cooking.

Taking advantage of that “breakfast all day thing” meant a fried pork chop and eggs for my navigator, and for me? A central Illinois specialty, served nowhere else that I know of.  It’s called the “Horseshoe” and was created in/around Springfield, IL.

This beauty starts with two pieces of toast on the plate, your choice of protein (burger, ham, bacon, pork chop, sausage, chicken), then topped with fries, and your choice of sausage gravy or cheese sauce….or both! And sure, they’ll throw a fried egg or two on top if you want.  That makes it a “breakfast shoe.”

I went with country ham. Delish.  As were the fresh cut, twice fried fries. Not many places do that anymore.

Didn’t have room for dessert, wish I did, each day they have a selection of house made pies and cakes. This lemon cake pictured was right in front of me during lunch. Torture.

There’s a big room for events or tour buses, and the walls are chock-a-block with old time area photos.  Some vintage machines (pinball, cash register, payphone, refrigerator) dot the main room and are all in excellent working condition.

Here’s the menuAnd the daily specials.

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Fried Ham Horseshoe

 

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Pork Chop and Eggs

 

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Lemon Cake

Palms Grill Cafe Review

And directly across the street? Lookee who’s looking at you!

Palms Grill & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Palms Grill Cafe Review

Palms Grill Cafe Review

 

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Fairfield Inn Midtown Review – Savannah, GA

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Fairfield Inn Midtown ReviewI’m not very brand loyal, but after a pretty good experience with Fairfield a few years back, I generally look for them first when I am on the road.

Not as likely to be individually franchisee owned, but rather held by a group management company, the quality of one’s stay is ultra-dependent on how hard the management company works at maintaining the hotel and staff.

TMI Hospitality out of Fargo, which holds a gaggle of Fairfields, does an excellent job.  They have the one in Roseville, MN that I first stayed at.  North Point Hospitality, out of Atlanta, owns and operates the Fairfield Midtown in Savannah.  They built this one from the ground up and it opened in 2016.

On many levels, there are no noticeable differences from one Fairfield to another. They are generally tastefully decorated, with functional rooms geared to the business traveler, adequate work space, free wifi, comfortable lobby, exercise room, pool (this one was outdoor, but heated) and a pretty comprehensive complimentary hot breakfast, where some items change on a daily basis.

Basically, you’re going to find fruit, juices, yogurt, waffles, eggs, breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, breads and danish, muffins, coffee, tea, and milk. One morning there was scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, another cheese omelets and veggie sausage.  Pork sausages were available both days.   There are the usual accompaniments, condiments, cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit jellies.

Some observations, not criticisms, of this hotel. Staff wasn’t as welcoming, friendly or helpful as other Fairfields. Let’s call that level of service “perfunctory.”  I object to a parking fee when the ramp/lot is part of the hotel.  The parking ramp was poorly designed, and should be re-striped, at least, the slots are too small for most current model cars.

Don’t even think about taking a big pick-up or van in there.  As a testament to the design error, the hotel has taped up strips of foam on the concrete pillars to try and assist you in minimizing the potential damage putting your car in and out of the space.

Note if you’re making a reservation:  rooms with Kings have only a shower.  Rooms with two queens have a tub/shower.  Not sure why, but that’s the layout of this hotel.  Speaking of bathrooms, you can clearly hear bath “activities” from adjacent rooms.

Breakfast was fine, as described above, but one day was an hour late, without explanation.  That’s fine if you’re a leisure traveler, or one of a group of seniors off the tour bus, but business people and departing guests are apt to be put off by that kind of thing.

Pluses? Besides the things I’ve mentioned, a nice neighborhood, about 4-5 miles from downtown, shops (including two groceries) and restaurants within walking distance, city bus stops at the front door.  Appreciate the outdoor pool was heated to a very comfortable level.

I’d stay again.  FYI.  Shop hard online for rates. I discovered I was paying 30-40% less than many other guests.

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Breakfast Items

 

 

 

 

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

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Harrahs Gulf Coast Review – Biloxi, MS

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Harrahs Gulf Coast

Harrahs Gulf Coast ReviewAnecdotally, I’ve heard with “full employment” in the country, lower wage jobs are experiencing high turnover. I can’t say whether or not that is factual, but giving that theory some credence might account for the fact that any number of employees at this hotel are poorly trained and uninformed as to hotel policies….to the point where no matter how specific your questions, you’re bound to end up in front of a “supervisor” who is going to give you nothing but attitude.

Check In

I pre-paid my first night via the hotel’s website (plus the entire stay’s “Resort Fee” –  why?), after checking the usual larger travel sites. It was an attractive enough rate, but of course see-sawed over the course of the week, with no rhyme or reason – it sure wasn’t based on any kind of capacity.

I wanted to pay by a different method than the card I reserved with. Nope. No can do. And even if you pay cash or use a different card at check out, your original card’s “hold” will stay on the account for 5-10 business days after you depart.

And that’s where the management attitude comes in. No “I understand,” or “I’m sorry” or “Let me see about that,” instead it’s “you’ll just have to talk to your bank.” No charge for the scowl.  (This, of course, is bullshit, the hotel could release the hold instantly if they chose. Not doing it means their forty hotels, thousands of guests cards temporarily inflates their revenue picture).

So I say all this to warn you if you are anticipating using credit or debit lines to get home or travel on, that money might not be available.

There are quite a few people in the “hospitality” industry these days who don’t understand the meaning of that word.

Resort Fees

I don’t think there is anybody in America who isn’t pee-ohed about “Resort fees” which are a B.S. Charge the hotel makes that essentially raises the rate of your room. Here, the charge is $15 per day, which affords you the following: 1) access to the pool 2) access to the workout center 3) in room coffee 4) in room frig 5) free WiFi (tho when you sign on, it requires you to post a payment method 6) free valet parking.

Aren’t all these things standard most places? Sure they are. Hotels need to rethink this strategy.

Pool Area

Outdoor pool. When I’ve been at this hotel in the past, the pool wasn’t even open. This visit it was, and the water was warm enough. Dirty towel bin was full, clean towel shelves were empty, there was no signage or attendant, so people were taking dirty towels, not realizing.

The pool liner has come loose in quite a few places on the bottom, so it’s possible to trip walking across the pool. Advise your children.

Drink prices are outrageous, but that’s to be expected.

Hotel Ambiance

Poolside, lobby, elevators, restaurants, casino, are very loud. “Background” music isn’t, at all, very intrusive. If I was at a gaming table trying to concentrate, I wouldn’t be happy.

Casino

Adequate number of games. Shortage of attendants. Slots have gotten to be really confusing, haven’t they? Select how much you want to wager. How many “lines.” You can think you’re waging a quarter and end up betting five bucks. It’s not very clear. Sure, I know, they want it that way.

You might see a drink server once every couple hours, even tho the room isn’t that big or busy.

Restaurants

Spendy. Could be more. Room service prices are average, but selection is very limited, and upon your first examination of the room, you’ll be hard pressed to find out what’s available from room service. Spoiler: the room service menu and ordering is on the TV. As is an express checkout, which was not working.

Return Visit

While I’ve been here in the past, I don’t think I’ll return. The only reason I’d suggest you go there is for a rate. Some rooms in the city when I was there were $200-$300. I paid $39 plus the resort fee and taxes.

But the annoyance of all the rest of what goes on (or doesn’t) in the hotel makes a bargain rate not much of a bargain.

Just my observations.

 

Harrahs Gulf Coast  Review

Harrahs Gulf Coast  Review

@HarrahsGC

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Chesters Chicken Review

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Chesters Chicken ReviewChesters Chicken was originally  a licensed chicken concept that started in 1952 and has now evolved into a full franchise model offering. Located across the US and on two other continents, Chesters offers a “store in store” concept.

That is, you will find Chester’s Chicken counters in gas stations, c stores, food courts, and the like.

I see a lot of them in gas stations on the interstates.  They are usually well represented in the typical blue information signs on the highway, so you can be aware that there is one ahead.

I’ve never seen a free standing store, not sure if they do that.

They offered fried chicken in different styles: bone in, tenders, wings, boneless wings, sandwiches, wraps, with a whole host of sides including potatoes, vegetables and biscuits.

It seems the menu can vary slightly, so it would appear that headquarters doesn’t have a problem with that. I see some locations offering breakfast sandwiches, some locations have fried fish, usually catfish nuggets, but I have seen swai as well (which is a type of very mild Asian catfish). (Partial menu appears below).

The food is presented in well lit, clean counters, and as an ala carte, single piece, meal or snack size.  It’s all delicious, really, it’s a crispy mildly seasoned breading and I’ve never had a piece of chicken (or fish) that wasn’t cooked perfectly.

They haven’t penetrated the Upper Midwest, where I live, very well.  Hopefully that will change.

I drove around the south a few years ago and tried all manner of tenders from different joints. You can read about that here. Another similar concept is Dodge’s Chicken (not size comparable tho), and Krispy Krunchy, headquartered out of Louisiana is another comer.  Some cities have their own localized versions, catering to more regional tastes.  In New Orleans, look for “Brothers.”

Want your very own Chester’s? (I sure would). They have a real interesting, low fee/no royalty model.  Read about franchising on their website.

Chesters Chicken Review

Tenders and bone-in

Chesters Chicken Review

Choose your goodies

Chesters Chicken Review

Click to enlarge menu

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Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Pork “tenderloins” are an Iowa thing.  And Indiana thing.  We’ll leave it at that.  It’s a boneless pork chop, hammered with a mallet to make it larger Pork Tenderloin Recipeand thinner, dipped in batter and deep-fried, served on a hamburger bun about 1/10th the size of the ‘loin. You might also call it wienerschnitzel, of a sort. Or how about “chicken fried pork?”

So I had been out driving around Iowa and Indiana in search of great tenderloin, and it’s so important to the state, that the Iowa Pork Council has come up with the “Tenderloin Trail” so you can hit a dozen of the best the state has to offer.

I have written up the Iowa one as of yet, they were all pretty good. Soon.  In Indiana, I stopped at (and have reviewed) the Oasis Diner, and Ray’s Drive In.  They were both superb.

What sets one ‘loin apart from another is getting it thin enough, but still retaining the juiciness of the pork.  The batter. The seasoning. Length of time in the hot oil bath. These are all important.

When I set out to try it at home, I had some cheats, some shortcuts.  First off, I didn’t purchase pork chops, I bought pork “cube steaks” which were half the price of chops this week and would work just as well.

I purchased two different dry fry mixes, both Louisiana products,  Zatarain’s Seasoned Fish Fry (which I use a lot) and Louisiana Fish Fry Products Chicken Fry.

The latter suggests you mix a bit of it with 1/2 cup of water, dip your meat, and then completely cover it with more mix before frying.  I also improvised a bit with the Zat’s, in that I dunked, then dipped in egg wash, and dunked again. This would give the breading a little more depth, thickness.

Then into oil.  How long? Til they’re done!  LOL  (Not long).

On the surface, they appeared about the same when done. I plated them with some sausage gravy and a piece of Texas toast.

I liked the Zatarain’s better, simply because I’m a long time consumer and I like the pre-seasoning in it. Not a fair comparison, but it also had a bulkier breading because of the egg dip.

But I’d buy both again. There must be dozens of these kind of mixes in the grocery. You can also order both brands (and others) online from Cajun Grocer, a Louisiana company I have purchased seafood and other goodies many times.

Zatarain’s was a family owned business for decades, now it’s owned by seasoning giant McCormick and Schmidt (New Orleans area plant (pictured below) . Louisiana Fish Fry is still family owned, based in Baton Rouge. (pictured below)

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Zatarain’s

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry Baton Rouge

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

New Orleans area Zatarains plant

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Rays Drive In Review – Kokomo Indiana

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Rays Drive In ReviewA pork tenderloin, or simply “tenderloin” was not on my food radar for most of my life.

Oh, I’d see them on menus, people around me would order them, but for some reason, even up close they didn’t merit a look-see from my side of the table.

That’s changed.  For the uninitiated, a pork tenderloin is a sandwich, wherein a boneless pork chop is placed on a counter and hammer until very thin, breaded, deep fried, placed on a burger bun, often served with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but in my mind, this is a distinctly Midwestern thing, and narrower than that, Iowa and Indiana seem to be the champions.

Of course, restaurant proprietors want their tenderloins to be tasty, so they concoct different formulations of breading and seasonings; but another factor among some operators is SIZE.  Some satisfaction is derived by chefs and diners alike if the loin on the plate is as big as their plate.

Iowa even has a “Tenderloin Trail” you can attempt to conquer, a dozen or so of the best offerings as determined by the Iowa Pork Producers Council.  I set out to hit a few of the stops a couple months ago, and weird, just noticed I hadn’t written them up.  I will.

But Indiana, they excel in “big” tenderloins.  First one I had was last year at the Oasis Diner on US 40, the “National Highway.”  Read all about it here.

But on this trip, I set out to hit the iconic Ray’s Drive In, in beautiful Kokomo, IN.  A small eatery, with perhaps a dozen tables in the dining room, and carhop service to diners in the parking lot,  Kokomonians (?) will tell you Ray’s is a must stop. And I agree.

I ordered the “King” Tenderloin, and my table mate went for the regular ‘loin.”  There is a distinct difference.  If you love pork, and you’re looking for excellence in flavor and texture, you’ll be happier with the King than the regular.  Even if you can’t finish it (I couldn’t).  They even have different breadings.

Ray’s King Tenderloin rates in the top three sandwiches I’ve had anywhere in the world, at any time. It’s worth a side trip.

I had every intention of ordering onion rings but “tots” came out of my mouth, and compared to the fries (they are priced the same), the tots order seemed a little skimpy.  Didn’t matter, I helped myself to the fries (another dish not finished), and if I would have skipped the taters all together, I could have made more of a dent in the ‘loin.

Did I say I loved this sammich?  I did.  Pix below and portions of the menu. I’m sure the other entrees and daily specials are home-cookin’ quality. And BTW? It’s pretty cheap to eat at Ray’s.

 

Rays Drive In Review

Tenderloin, tots, and fries

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

Rays Drive In Review

 

 

 

Oasis Diner Review, Plainfield, IN


Ray's Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rays Drive In Review

Rays Drive In Review

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