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Dog Haus Review – Nationwide Chain (Rockford, IL location)


The growing Dog Haus chain from the Los Angeles area says their fame and success is due to their signature dogs, sausages, and burgers. They’re served on grilled King’s Hawaiian Rolls, and a variety of craft beers are offered as well. First one opened in 2010.

My take: interesting concept, terrible execution. I visited the outlet in Rockford, IL, which is on the far eastern border of the city, off a frontage road. Open for lunch and dinner, I hit it a few minutes before noon on a weekday and was the only customer. You order at the counter (bar) and are giving a table topper number.

The menu has quite a few “specialty combinations” of toppings for their dogs and burgers. One example is the “Pineapple Express” a hot dog with bacon wrapped dog, bouillonnaise, sweet ginger glaze, pineapple, scallions, pickled jalapeños, crispy onions. There are some that are far more “complex” in their toppings. Of course you may order with your own preferences as well, but I personally think this “specialty” ones are far too sophisticated for the fast food/fast casual hot dog or burger eater.

As I was more or less “sampling” I went with a burger slider (angus beef, mayo, white american cheese, caramelized onions, but I skipped the onions) and a corn dog slider (all beef mini dog dipped in our haus made root beer batter ). A corn dog is something I’d never order anywhere, but I thought “root beer batter” sounded interesting. Turns out, only the kitchen knows it’s “root beer batter,” it’s not distinquishable as a unique taste. The corn batter is very corn ‘mealy.’

I don’t like King’s Hawaiian, either, offer an alternative. King’s are “sweet” and you’re putting that was savory innards on the sandwiches.

The burger was ordinary as well.

Final food “beef” – fries are extruded, also not a personal preference, but I know many people enjoy that style.

Despite being the only customer when I ordered, it took 20+ minutes to get the food.

Looking at the location, some are in secondary markets (like Rockford) so I assume they are franchisees, and undoubtedly some will not last.

They also have a fried chicken breast sandwich, and the line of “Impossible Foods” non meat burgers and sausage. (If you haven’t tried these, and you’re a bonafide ‘meat-a-vore’ – don’t bother, they are dreadful).

Dog Haus Review

Cross section slider corn dog and burger

Dog Haus Biergarten Rockford Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Dog Haus Review

Dog Haus Review


Vito and Nicks Pizza Review, Chicago, IL


Vito and Nicks Pizza ReviewArguably the oldest pizzeria in Chicago, Vito and Nicks started as a tavern only in the 30s, before adding pizza a few years later.

While most people in America associate “deep dish” pizza with Chicago, it didn’t really come along til a decade or more later. Til then, and even today, what we all “tavern style” pizza is the city’s favorite.

It’s a very thin “cracker” style crust, some would say “overcooked”, sliced into squares. If you’re lucky, you’ve landed at a place that is going to dot the top with fresh, mouth watering Italian sausage, like Vito and Nick’s does. It is really superb sausage. I wouldn’t mind bigger chunks, but it’s not a complaint.

I waited a long time to get there, and I planned an entire day in the city around the visit. Arrived at about 1:30P on a Saturday afternoon, and it was moderately busy, but there were still a few empty tables.

Not so by the time we left when the place was rocking and a crowd was crammed into a tiny space by the bar, waiting — overheard the waitress say it was an hour at the point – maybe 3 or 3:30.

Speaking of servers, we drew the lucky straw and get “Mary,” a veteran who greets you like you’re an old-timer, makes you feel like you’re the only customer even while she’s juggling a dozen tables. Noticing there was a set-up for a large group coming in, she suggested we get our order in pronto. Appreciated that.

Vito and Nicks Pizza Review

Large Sausage and Green Olive

I ordered a sausage and green olive, large pie, and it was perfect. I was delighted that the green olives were the kind I prefer on pizzas, I’ve heard proprietors refer to them as “Sicilian Style”, they are small, sliced, greens that have been marinating in a brine chock-a-block full of Italian style herbs. Some of them end up on the pie, of course, an additional layer of flavor.

Couldn’t finish it, of course. Ate some for dinner at night, and the rest was calling me at 3AM, and I polished it off while binging House of Cards on Netflix.

Vito and Nick’s is close to Midway Airport, a hike from downtown.  If you’re driving Route 66, it’s just a few miles south of Ogden, which is Route 66 out of the city, and it’s worth a detour.  PBR and Old Style on tap.

I shall return.

P.S. There are frozen Vito and Nick’s pizzas in area groceries. One of the best in the frozen segment.

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review


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


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


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


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


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


Teasia Tea and Coffees Review


Teasia Tea and Coffees ReviewAlthough only a few years old, Southern California’s “Teasia” have become known and praised for high quality teas,  coffees, and excellent customer service.

In the tea line, they specialize in K-cup products, with a variety of Oolong teas from Taiwan, and florals from around the globe.

I drink (literally) a bucket of coffee each day, from wake up to bedtime, and tho I have been able to partake in America’s favorite morning beverage on five continents, bought directly from growers, purchased green beans to roast at home, I honestly have never had coffee as superb as the line that Teasia puts out.

Concentrating on single origin,  small batch roasting, Teasia offers coffee from Africa, Asia, Central and South America. They always try their best to purchase Fair Trade beans.

The folks at Teasia sent me three different roasts to try: Guatemala Antigua, a Costa Rican, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. All three are medium roasts, single origin, whole bean.

Each were excellent in their own right, and I’m not sure I’d be able to pick a favorite. OK, I could, it is the Guatemalan. It’s very “bright” and you can detect the slightest hint of citrus and smoke. I ground it extra fine to use for espresso drinks, and it was the perfect.Teasia Tea and Coffees Review

I have not had Ethiopian coffee in the past. I’ve missed out. As a hot coffee, this one surprises you with a slight spice flavor and some floral. It’s very smooth, with no bitterness or acidic after taste.

In the summer, I’m all about iced coffee, nothing fancy, literally drip coffee on ice. Now that “cold brew” has come in to fashion, I can get the drink pretty much year around in a lot of outlets.

But I don’t always want to go on a hunt for it, so I’ve mastered it at home, and Teasia’s Costa Rican beans are perfect for it, and it’s so easy. Take a used liter water or soda bottle, rinse, put in a teaspoon of ground coffee for each six ounces of water. Fill it. Agitate. Place in the refrigerator overnight, at least. You can strain it into a new bottle through cheese cloth. I have a very fine mesh mini strainer, so I just pour out a cup or glass at a time. Costa Rican coffee may well be the smoothest you’ve ever had.

Teasia packs their coffee within 24 hours of their small batch roasting, and it is available in different sized airtight bags of whole beans. Their line is very competitively priced.

You can purchase teas and coffees online, directly from their Amazon store.

In the meantime, follow @teasiateas on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.


Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review – With Black Garlic and Wine Risotto


Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review I personally think that the sudden glut of frozen heat and eat meals at the grocery is due to the success of the “meal kit” business.

Those deals where they send you portion cut ingredients and a recipe and it’s supposed to be so easy to create a gourmet meal with no fuss.  ( I tried them when they came out, read about that here. Spendy and no less work, sez I).

So all sorts of frozen food companies have come out with meals, kits, and there are fast food branded ones, and even the big grocery chains and WalMart have their own take on the concept.

My experiment today is from the Gorton’s company, (over 150 years old)  the people you’re used to buying crispy seafood filets and fish sticks that never get crispy.  This is a shrimp bowl, with ‘black garlic and wine” (sauce) rissotto.

I know a dozen people who won’t even try risotto from scratch at home, so this is a surprise.  In smaller print, there’s a reference to ‘parmesan cheese,’ but to me, that was the predominant flavor in the rice.

Here’s the full ingredient list: (Cooked arborio rice, Shrimp (Shrimp, salt, sodium di-, tri-, and polyphosphate [to retain moisture], sodium bisulfite and sodium citrate [preservatives]), water, mushrooms (mushrooms, water, salt), olive oil, cream, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, black garlic and wine seasoning (maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, vinegar solids, modified corn starch, spices, malic acid, dehydrated parsley, black garlic powder, soy lecithin, lactic acid, jalapeño pepper, white wine solids, natural flavors), onions, corn starch, garlic (garlic, water), butter, white wine (contains sulfites), sea salt, parsley, tara gum).

There were  about 8-9 shrimp in the bowl, which are frozen solid, of course, so when you microwave (three minutes, stir, one minute) a lot of the trapped moisture in the shrimp is going to escape and they are going to shrink.  So I added a half dozen, because I had them on hand, and I could.  There are mushrooms, which retained their texture well. They look like slices of baby bellas.  The box says a “hint of parmesan” but as I said above, I think it’s a pretty dominant flavor.

The risotto was creamy as it should be and the shrimp remained very firm, as they should be too.

Bottom line?  I surprised myself and liked it.  Not sure if it’s supposed to be two servings or not, it wouldn’t have been at my house.  It was a comfortably sized serving for me.

It was $5.99 and a bogo yesterday.  There’s a coupon below you might want to try.  Their Entire product line.   Where you can pick some up.

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Frozen, out of the box

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Plated after microwave

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review









Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review


Hazels Diner and Bakery Review, Hebron, IL


Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewLong ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was convinced I had stumbled upon the best breakfast potatoes in the country.

OK, it wasn’t a galaxy, it was a breakfast horseshoe in Springfield, and after breakfast at Hazel’s Diner and Bakery, Springfield has been relegated to second place.

Located in the quiet ville of Hebron, IL, on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more committed to scratch cooking. All baked goods, breads jams, spreads, donuts, cakes, pastries come from the kitchen.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily, except Monday.  In addition to the home-made quality of the food, expect massive servings.  Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewThough technically it was lunchtime, I ordered breakfast – simple, ham and eggs, potatoes, rye toast.

Everything was prepared precisely as ordered and meticulously plated.

The thick-sliced house-baked rye is amazing.  Excellent quality ham off the bone, salty and smoky with a very firm bite.  I’m a ham snob and this is an excellent choice.  Breakfast potatoes, rough cut, roasted, lightly seasoned, are over the top. You may opt for a shredded version as well.

My companion ordered a variation of eggs benedict, poached eggs, strip bacon, artichokes and spinach atop a house-baked English muffin and bathed in silky, creamy Hollandaise in ample quantities. ( “Excuse me, could you bring a tumbler of that and then look away while I chug it?”).

The restaurant is pleasantly decorated with Americana, and service is very small-town friendly.  Unisex bathroom is immaculate.

Baked goods are available for purchase, including breads, donuts, muffins and other pastries.  There are a few tables outside and they beckon passersby to grab a donut and coffee and watch small town America go by on a lazy summer morning.

The restaurant/town is a mere ten minutes south if you’re staying in the Lake Geneva resort area in Wisconsin.  Ask for Amy, server extraordinaire.








Hazels Diner and Bakery Review

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review


Jays Krispy Fried Chicken Review, Sikeston, MO


Jays Krispy Fried Chicken ReviewOnce you’ve done “throwed rolls” (Lamberts) you’re left with few choices in Sikeston.  Jay’s Krispy Fried Chicken is one of them, and they’ve been around a long time. Also heard they have a buffet, so you know I’m down (up) for that.

Rolled in, ordered at the counter. “Do you want a breast or wings?”  Well, a breast, I guess, and they handed one over on a disposable tray and I headed to a table adjacent to the buffet area.

So apparently, unless I missed something, the “buffet”here is one piece of piping hot fried chicken and all the sides on the buffet you want. There were also unidentifiable (to me) chicken bits on the steam table.

Otherwise, standard fare, salad fixings, mashed, gravy, couple different beans, greens and the like. Might have had soup, too, I think. I loaded up.  I’m got a high degrees of confidence those side dishes came straight from a number 10 can delivered by Sysco or similar.  No matter, it’s a good value.  And the chicken IS exceptional.

I’d do it again, but stick to the menu.  They seem to do a brisk take-out and drive thru biz.  Open early.

Jays Krispy Fried Chicken Review

Jay's Krispy Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Jays Krispy Fried Chicken Review

Jays Krispy Fried Chicken Review


Polar Freeze Review, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas


Polar Freeze ReviewContinuing my northbound trek through Arkansas recently, I came upon Walnut Ridge, which doesn’t seem to have any Walnuts OR Ridges.

However, I did find out that the Beatles landed at the airport for a minute in 1964, and there’s  a plaque commemorating that event.  It’s also on the Amtrak route from Chicago to Dallas.  That’s about it.

It also has the Polar Freeze, a local family owned fast food drive-in, which seems to specialize in pit BBQ as well as burgers and the usual drive-in fare.

I was in the mood for a quick burger and tots, and it seemed like the Freeze could fit the bill.  They weren’t very busy, and they had lots of employees (all family?) scurrying about pretending to be busy.

The customer ahead of me was grumbling that they “lost his order” – but finally he was handed a bag, jumped in his car and took off.

My order just took a few minutes.  They handed me a number that they would call when it was ready.

It was ready, and I too, jumped in the car and headed east, towards I-55 and the Mississippi River.

The tots were perfect and they included a solitary salt packet along with a handful of ketchup packs.

My first bite into the burger took me by a little bit of surprise. I might have gotten the other guy’s lost order, or else they dress their burgers around here in a unique way.  My burger was topped with a flavored mayo (tho I can’t tell you what the flavor was) and dill pickle chips.  Period. Not disagreeable, but not my choice.

The hand-pattied burger was ultra local beef (you can tell) which was a pleasant surprise.

I should have ordered more, should have tried the BBQ.  Shudda, wudda, cudda.

There’s a note on the street sign that asks “Have you thanked the man upstairs today?”  But as you can see from my pic, there is no upstairs at the Polar Freeze.  So.

Polar Freeze Review

My number

Polar Freeze Review


Polar Freeze Review

Polar Freeze Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Polar Freeze Review

Polar Freeze Review


JJs Lakeside Cafe Review, Lake Village AR


JJs Lakeside Cafe ReviewNorthbound on US Highway 65 through Arkansas the other day, was feeling a might peckish and decided I was in the mood for some catfish, a specialty around these parts.

A quick stop and visit with the helpful people at the Lake Village Visitors Center pointed me to JJs Lakeside Cafe.

The kindly old lady advised me to scurry, tho, it was 11:30 and soon the townsfolk would show up and it’d be slammed.  So off I went. The big feature at JJs is a daily lunch buffet, where for under $10 you can embibe on several entrees, side dishes, a salad bar, dessert and tea. Seriously.

But I had somewhere to be, couldn’t linger, so these people fixed me a catfish plate to go, with perfectly fried fillets, crinkle cut fries and tangy slaw. I told them I was a slaw fan and they doubled up on the portion for me. Nice. Also got a monster ice tea (brewed) and forked out less than $9.00.

The fish breading had a slight kick to it, one of the Cajun seasonings or an in-house blend, maybe, very flavorful, enjoyed it bigly. Crinkle cut fries were done and seasoned to perfection.

Wish I had time for the buffet, no doubt would have been some other delights I would have enjoyed.  Someday.

JJs Lakeside Cafe is open Monday thru Saturday, 6A- 9 PM.  Sunday 10:30A – 3PM. Breakfast served all day, everyday.  Menus are below, click to enlarge.

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review

JJs Lakeside Cafe ReviewJJs Lakeside Cafe Review
JJ's Lakeside Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review

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