Monday, June 28, 2010

Hotel Crandon Restaurant - Crandon, WI

The Hotel Crandon Restaurant in Crandon, Wisconsin came highly recommended from the ladies at the local visitor’s bureau. Seems the husband of one of them liked their Hotel Heart Attack burger very much. How could I resist. I had stumbled into the visitor’s bureau after being unable to find Ed’s Main Street Grill, which turned out to be 20 miles farther off my path in another town. (Never trust a free tourist pamphlet.)

I walked into the restaurant and all heads turned to see the interloper into their small town haven. Undeterred, I sat at one of the tables covered neatly in red vinyl tablecloths. A very pleasant server greeted me in that familiar northern Wisconsin accent and I was put right at ease. I ordered the Hotel Heart Attack ($5.95), which features both burger and bratwurst patties, pepperjack cheese and grilled onions. The menu states “Doctor’s Release Required”. My cardiologist recommends such fare and also encourages I wash it down with scotch. I added fries for an additional $2.

The burger is a very handsome looking sandwich, sitting on a soft Kaiser roll. The bratwurst was on the bottom, hand-formed burger patty on top of that, with Pepperjack and onions evenly distributed on top. I added mustard from the accompanying packet. The Hotel Heart Attack was great. The brat dominated the flavor, but with the cheese and onions, everything seemed to work well. I had no trouble finishing the sandwich and lived to write about it. I was very pleased to get my Wisconsin brat and burger experience in one fell swoop.

The medium-cut, piping-hot fries were amply supplied and very tasty. As I ate them, I overheard an introduction at the next table. “This is Bill he and John fought in World War one on opposite sides. Bill came to this country after the war.” What a cool little town in which to have a burger.

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas

Hotel Crandon Restaurant
200 N. Lake Avenue
Crandon, WI 54520

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Original Root Beer Stand - Culver, IN

The Original Root Beer Stand In Culver, Indiana has overlooked the beach at Lake Maxinkuckee since before I was a kid swimming in the lake. It has changed names and owners over the years, but is still a summer staple for the folks who descend on the lake for summer fun. It offers its drive-in, car-hop service, walk-up window and picnic tables. The drive-in has a real waitress who takes your order and delivers it on a tray. Sonic should take notes.

We stopped to try the burger and the breaded tenderloin. I ordered the Big Guy Burger with two quarter-pound patties for $4.20. The burger patties are frozen, but are thawed and seasoned before cooking, according to Katelyn, our cheerfully helpful server. One of the melted American cheese slices oozed from between the patties and another underneath. There was shredded lettuce, fresh tomato slices and soft white bun. I added ketchup and mayo. It was a good burger, somehow the patties were tasty and crumbly – better than the typical burger of that ilk.

The crinkle cut fries ($1.60) were thin, hot and salty. Very enjoyable. But as always, when we come home, the breaded tenderloin sandwich ($2.95) steals the show. Big as your face, the thin-pounded pork tenderloin, breaded and deep fried, extends out and beyond the bun. When done right, this is a treat you just can’t get just anywhere. The stand did a nice job with theirs.

We actually got out of the car and sat at a table overlooking the lake. It was a beautiful summer day to enjoy lunch at the stand.

Burger 3.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3.5 spatulas

The Original Root Beer Stand
824 Lakeshore Dr.
Culver, IN 46511

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top-Notch Beefburgers - Chicago, IL

Top-Notch Beefburger Shop in Chicago has been a fixture in the south side’s Beverly neighborhood since 1942. Surviving the onslaught of fast-food burger chains for 86 years is a testament to their staying power. This old-school place sports wood paneling and booths with tan Naugahyde. The place is well-worn, but clean and sports a friendly, lived-in vibe, like having a burger at your aunt’s house.

Choose from the Basic or Deluxe Beefburger. The Deluxe adds lettuce, tomato and pickles. Either can be had in ¼, ½ or larger versions. I ordered the half-pound Deluxe with cheese ($8.10). My wife had the quarter-pound Basic cheeseburger $3.75. The deluxe came with a nicely toasted sesame bun. The basic had a plain white bun. Both buns were fresh and spongy.

The beef, which is US choice ground round, rather than chuck, was very flavorful. The thick patty on the deluxe was juicy, despite the lower fat content of round. Both burgers were cooked well-done, but did not seem too dry. I had the onions grilled on my Deluxe, a good choice that added to the enjoyment of the burger. There was a small container of mayo with the plate, which I slathered on the bun. Pickle slices were abundant. There was a mound of lettuce and two big fresh tomato slices. The whole thing was very good, and I wolfed mine down without hesitation. Pat equally enjoyed her Basic, which she ate plain.

The onion rings ($2.60) were heavily battered. The crunchy exterior wrapped itself around the moist breading and sweet onion on the inside. Pat’s fries were unusual, as stated on the menu. They appeared very brown and a little limp, signs that they are fresh cut on site. They were very tasty and we enjoyed the thin cut morsels.

I also ordered a small chocolate shake ($2.40). It was very thick and came stacked over the rim of the small glass. Barely suckable through the little straw, the shake was very creamy and very chocolaty.

We really enjoyed our trip to Top-Notch. I hope they last another 68 years at least.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion rings 3.5 spatulas

Top-Notch Beefburger Shop
2116 West 95th Street
Chicago, IL 60643

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Garage Pub and Grill - Columbus, IN

The Garage Pub and Grill in Columbus, Indiana, sits amongst the modern architecture that dominates this town in the middle of Southern Indiana. My wife and I traveled south to see the sites. When we got there we were hungry and stopped to get a bite. The Garage Pub and Grill looked like a good spot. It is fairly new, with flat screens adorning the wall. It has a vaguely chain restaurant feel, but a very extensive menu.

I ordered the BBQ Bacon Burger ($9.49) with onion rings. It comes with a thick, tasty Angus Chuck patty. The sauce, American cheese and bacon were tasty. Lettuce, onion and tomato fresh. Kaiser roll was a little tough and not as fresh tasting. It was a good burger, but didn’t really knock my socks off.

The onion rings were breaded, crisp and very thin. Crunchy and pretty good.

Burger 3.5 spatulas out of 5
Onion rings 3 spatulas

The Garage Pub and Grill
308 4th Street
Columbus, IN 47201

Monday, June 21, 2010

Triple XXX - Lafayette, IN

The Triple XXX Restaurant in West Lafayette, Indiana is one of those classic places where everyone should experience a burger. When I was in college, I enjoyed it, as generations of Purdue Boilermakers have. My favorite was always the Duane Purvis All-American ($6.75) - a ¼ pound ground sirloin burger with peanut butter. I have always said peanut butter should be the third condiment on the table after mustard and ketchup. This burger makes that argument more forcefully than I ever could.

The Triple XXX cannot be ignored with its black and orange stripes screaming from along the street in West Lafayette. Inside are U-shaped counters, autographed photos from all the Purdue greats like, Gene Keady, Drew Brees, Bob Griese and Joe Tiller.

The burger comes with peanut butter smeared on the bottom of a spongy, toasted sesame bun along with American Cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. You bite into the burger and taste the great combo of tastes that a well-prepared burger always exhibits, followed by a nice peanut after taste.

The onion rings are thin and very crisp, with not a lot of onion to them. The fries are thin and salty and hot, very good.

By the way, my daughter had the grilled cheese. At $1.85, it is the deal of the century.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Onion rings 2.5 spatulas
Fries 3.5 spatulas

Triple XXX Restaurant
State & Salisbury Street
Lafayette, IN 47906

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Powhatan Restaurant - Pocahantas, IL

The Powhatan Restaurant in Pocahantas, Illinois, beckoned to us as we sailed along I-70. We had just veered off our Route 66 trip to head toward our final destination in Indiana. A very well-kept scarbine establishment, the Powhatan has tasteful billboards along I-70 along with its sister restaurant the Blue Sky Café, home of the Mile High Pie.

We stopped in at about three in the afternoon, so there were only a couple of farmers seated among the wood tables and booths. Gretchen Wilson stared out in to the restaurant from a signed poster. The Red Necked Woman is a resident of Pocahontas and in fact has a song about just that.

I ordered the Colby and Bacon Burger ($6.95). This is a fabulous burger made just the was my grandma used to make burgers. Fresh ground beef is smashed into a patty on the griddle, resulting in a thick, juicy patty with a crisp outer “crust”. Shredded Colby cheese was melted on top with crisp, salty bacon. The bun toasted bun held the whole thing together. This was not your standard frozen patty cheeseburger. A lot of care and thought went into producing a unique and flavorful product.

Onion rings were killer as well, thick sweet and battered crisp. The fries were thin, hot and salty.

What a delectable find in the middle of the infinite flatness of middle Illinois. Don’t miss the Powhatan.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Onion Rings 4 spatulas

Powhatan Restaurant
Exit 36, I-70
Pocahontas, IL 62275

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tally's Cafe - Tulsa, OK

Tally’s Café in Tulsa, Oklahoma was shown on our Route 66 map as we motored across the U.S. It sounded good so we stopped in for a burger. Nestled on a corner in the old section of Tulsa, it is a bustling place. It seats at least 100 people in its red booths and stools. The place looks like it probably has for forty years. Not a re-creation of a 50’s diner, but the real deal. The waitresses have probably been there for years. They have plenty of attitude, but are sweet at the same time.

I ordered Double Meat Cheeseburger ($6.95) with Bacon ($1). I upgraded from fries to Onion rings for another dollar. An order of the Tally-Os goes for $4.95 by itself. My daughter had fries with here Texas Toast Grilled Cheese, so I got to have those as well.

The burger was great. The sesame bun was perfectly toasted. The two 1/3 pound patties were juicy and just smoky enough after being charbroiled. The bacon was crisp and flavorful. Fresh lettuce, tomato and onion sat under the burger. American cheese was melted on top. I also selected mayo, when asked “mayo or mustard” by the server. I think this is the best burger I have had in a long time.

The onion rings were just as good. Crisp and lightly battered, juicy and sweet on the inside, I cannot say I have had better. The fries were medium cut and coated, not my cup of tea, but hot and tasty none-the-less.

I found Tally’s the perfect mix of atmosphere, authenticity and good food. Check it out when you are cruising Route 66.

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 2.5 spatulas
Onion Rings 5 spatulas

Tally’s Café
1102 South Yale Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74112-5343

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Aurelia's Diner - Gallup, NM

Aurelia’s Diner in Gallup, New Mexico was named after the grandmother of our server, the day we stopped in on our Route 66 trip. This is a clean, spotless little gem of a diner. It is obviously run with pride by the family that owns it.

All, chrome, white tile and red naugahyde, it is tastefully decorated to feel like a fifties diner. I ordered the Bacon Swiss Mushroom Burger ($7.95) with fries included. We also had onion rings ($4.50 and a chocolate shake ($4.25).

The burger looked great. It was a big patty, probably frozen, that was a little overcooked. The bun was soft but a little crumbly on the edges. The Swiss cheese was nicely melted and gooey, to good effect. The mushroom blended nicely with the flavors. It should probably come with mayo. If it sounds like I am overly critical, I guess it was because the lovely place and great service got my expectations up. With a little more attention to detail, this could be a very good burger.

The onion rings fared better, huge, crunchy and sweet. The fries seemed fresh cut. They were wide and flat and quite unusual. I liked them.

The shake was good. Creamy but maybe a little thin, it was presented well in the coke glass.

I would recommend Aurelia’s, despite the quibbles. It was a fun place with good food. Just a few details from being very good.

Burger 3 spatulas out of 5
Fires 3.5 spatulas
Onion rings 3.5 spatulas

Aurelia’s Diner
2502 E. Historic Highway 66
Gallup, NM 87301

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mr. D's Route 66 Diner - Kingman, AZ

Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner in Kingman, Arizona is a nice stop on your visit to the old route 66. We set out to take the old Route 66 that breaks off from Interstate 40 from Kingman to Seligman. We kicked it off at Mr. D’s.

The restaurant is a clean and attractive diner with pink and turquoise chairs and booths. I ordered a Cheeseburger ($6.95.) The patty is one half pound. The burger has shredded lettuce, tomato, onions and a pickle spear. It comes with fries.

It is a big burger, moist and cooked nicely, but obviously from a frozen patty. Bun was soft and toasted. The veggies fresh. Fries standard issue medium cut, but hot.

The service was cheerful and the place had a nice charm. You could do a lot worse.

Burger 3 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3 spatulas

Mr. D's Route 66 Diner,
Old Route 66 & 1st St
105 E. Divine Ave
Kingman, AZ 86401

Friday, June 4, 2010

Snackbar - Austin, TX

Snack Bar in Austin, Texas, sits right in the middle of my favorite part of Austin, the South Congress area. I had visited earlier in the week and enjoyed their pulled pork sliders, but had noticed the Brie Burger on the menu. Drea the charming hostess, waitress, artist that works there, assured me it was quote good. Anyone sporting a "Where the Wild Things Are" monster tattoo on her arm has credibility with me. So I ordered it the second time I ate there.

The Brie Burger ($10) is made with "Beef raised right", caramalized onions, brie cheese, of course and the usual lettuce, tomato, etc. The bun is nicely toasted and fits the large patty well. The onions are so sweet, they could have been apples. The beef is prepared to order, medium for me, and was cooked right and tasted very good.

As good as the burger is the ambience of Snackbar. There is outdoor dining and indoor. Indoor they have a dining area and bar area. They play movies on the wall. This night, Kung Fu Hustle, was playing on the wall with subtitles below. A steady stream of Autsin's energetic young crowd came in and out keeping the place lively on this "First Thursday", a night once a month that South Congress stores stay open and the street is packed.

Drea recommended I try the burger at Jackalope next. A fine idea next time I am in Autsin.

Burger 4 spatulas out of 5

1224 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704