Monday, August 22, 2016

Wisconsin Breakfast Stops

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- AM Eats in America's Dairyland

I've long been a proponent of the Wisconsin food and drink scene. They have their very own style and it involves lots of not so good for you things. They dont do veggie dogs, they do brats. The salads here are accompanied by 4 or 5 other relish condiments and come with about a cups worth of dressing. Wisconsin does all of the All-American things really well. This includes breakfast. No matter where you are in the state there's always a good breakfast spot nearby. Here's five to try.
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The Coffee Pot 

The towns of both Kenosha and Racine offer us Chicagoan's some pretty good food options for when we're driving thru. If you ever find yourself going North on 94 and want something to eat in downtown Kenosha than the Coffee Pot is a spot you should check out. It's a great breakfast stop.

Kenosha, WI

Breakfast was at the Coffee Pot which won out over Frank's due to a wait. We were able to snag some seats at the counter and having heard some good (and bad) things about their Corned Beef Hash I was ready to try that. She went with half of a "perk-o-lator" which is basically the same thing as a garbage plate down the street at Frank's. Egg's, sausage, onions, peppers, hash browns and cheese all thrown together into one. The large which I've had before is massive, a half order with their top notch made in house toast will be more than enough.

Perk-o-later Plate (1/2 order)

I had the perk plate last time I was here and it's a signature sconnie style breakfast that will not let you leave hungry. I like it although I'm not sure it's better than Frank's version aka a "Garbage Plate". A taste off might have to happen. The CBH was pretty good. I didn't think it was top notch but the fact that it was homemade makes it comforting but they could of used a little more corned beef. The beef to potato ratio was off. But that toasted homemade bread which is given a healthy dose of butter is really, really good. Breakfast sandwich with that bread next time. It's so money. 

Corned Beef Hash Breakfast
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Jo's Cafe

I'd known about Jo's Cafe in the Brew City for some time since it's featured over on roadfood. But despite countless trips to Milwaukee over the years I had never been to Jo's until now. I spent a few days up there doing some things and opted not to stop at the Coffee Pot in Kenosha while en route choosing instead to start my day at Jo's and see what was up.

Milwaukee, WI

From the outside Jo's as you can see is a real no frills type of place. I got the feeling that everyone in there was a local regular as both the waitress and the man behind the grill whom I believe was Jo chatted it up with those coming in to dine and others taking orders to go. Its small inside with there being a few tables which were taken by local families and a counter with maybe eight seats right in front of where all the action takes place. It felt a little like Moon's up in there. 

The view from the counter

Jo's is all about the home cooking and watching him work the grill you can see he's a pro. I was impressed with how he used every last inch of space both on the griddle and in terms of storing stuff. The fresh baked buns for burgers and breakfast sandwiches were really tempting me to go one of those ways as was the daily special spaghetti plate. I usually wouldn't think I'd be interested in eating spaghetti at 10:30 in the morn but the plates they were bringing out for others smelled great. I went with their signature dish the Hoppel Poppel (or is it hoffel poffel?) which is also a signature breakfast dish of the city served elsewhere. At Jo's they take big hunks of potato browned with onions, and add scrambled eggs and chunks of spicy salami with cheese on top if you want. Very comforting and VERY filling. It's definitely a sconnie style breakfast no doubt about that. I'd go back.

Hoppel Poppel for Breakfast
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Harry's Diner

I had breakfast at the locally loved Harry's Diner in the Bratwurst Capitol of the World recently and enjoyed my visit. Upon rolling up you'll immediately notice the reflecting silver exterior of this 1950's style diner.

Sheboygan, WI

The inside of the space isn't as charming as the outside but they do serve beer so this is a popular stop for folks looking for breakfast and booze. Quite a few people were dining in on this visit and all the ladies working the tables were running around making sure it was going smooth as the manager tended to the cash register near the entrance. I don't think this place has been around since the 50's but they did a good job of making it feel that way.

a peek inside

Harry's is only open until 3p each day (Closed Mondays) so most people are here for breakfast though they do have a lunch portion to their menu too. I'd heard good things about their pancakes and in particular the potato ones so I knew going in I'd be trying those, it was just a matter of seeing if there was some sort of combo that included some of Sheboygan's finest encased meat to go with it. Lucky me they had a potato pancake served with bratwurst and two eggs done your way platter for $8.50. The pancake comes with your choice of apple sauce or sour cream and I'm a fan of the latter so I went with that. Excellent recipe. This was a thicker well minced blend with plenty of diced onion inside. Of course the split brat to go with it was what you expect from the town that makes the best.

Potato Pancake, Bratwurst and Eggs for Breakfast
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Mickie's Dairy Bar  

If you attended the University of Wisconsin you know all about the local icon that is Mickie's. Chances are even if you didn't go there but been to Madison you know about it. The town favorite has been a student hang out since it first opened in 1946. To this day it feels like the 1950's on the inside.

 Madison, WI

Mickie's gained much if it's cult following with the sheer size of it's meals. It's a place that you can fill up past full and walk out having spent about $10. Thus it's favorite for everyone from newly arrived freshmen to the offensive line on the football team as well as longtime residents of the city. It's most always packed and that's because there's always groups of friends eating inside. The menu boasts all the classics you'd expect to find at a popular breakfast stop as well as the typical lunches.

A Peek Inside (menus old and current)

While everyone has their favorites there are some things that Mickie's will always be remembered for. First and foremost, aside from the size of each plate, is the corn cakes. These massive cousins to the pancake taste just like piping hot cornbread. When smeared with butter they really are delicious. Unless you're starting at right tackle for the Badgers this upcoming season I see no reason you need the regular order of two but at just $1 less for one you may want to bring home breakfast for the next few days. What's great about group dining at Mickie's is you get to eat these and something else.

Mickie's Famous Corn Cakes 

Other popular items include the scrambler which is pretty much a little bit of everything mixed in with what I think was four, maybe five eggs, something ridiculous that only a college kid fresh off a 15 hour library binge followed by bong hits could enjoy. Something commonly on special is the pork chops with eggs. That's what I got on my most recent visit in this past summer. The pork chops have always been cooked until well done but when chopped up into little bits and mixed with the potatoes and eggs this is a very good, and of course filling, breakfast.

 Pork Chop and Eggs
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Delta Diner

I spent some time up in Bayfield and as always did a little research on where to eat while en route. Somewhere along the line I came up with a rec for the Delta Diner which is far, far north. It's about 20 minutes SW of Ashland which sits on Lake Superior. If there were ever a place I ate at that sits in the middle of nowhere this would be it to date. Surrounded by lakes and a few gravel rocked roads with packs of wild turkeys along them.

Mason, WI

First off if you look this place up on google, theres like six different towns they say it's in. My GPS was no help at all as it wanted us to turn down a narrow snowmobile/ATV path that would of wrecked the bottom of my car. But if you're lucky enough to have a signal on your cell phone (I didn't, she did) then google maps will get you there. But you'll go down unpaved roads for about 10 miles and wonder with each passing minute whether you're going around in circles en route to nowhere. In the end though, it's all worth it.

A feel of the East Coast hidden in the Northwoods of Wisconsin

The Delta Diner was born in 2004 and if you want the entire story about how it was born and became about you can check their website HERE. The owners decided to restore what they were told is an old 1940's Silk City Diner. They wanted to put the diner in the locally historic site of the old Delta General Store which is written about in "Growing up in a Country Store: Memories and History of Delta and Ino, Wisconsin " According to that book the town and the general store came about at the same time in 1924.

Views from the counter

I'd urge all to read the link from their website about the story of how this diner came about and the history of the land it stands on. To try and sum it up in a few quotes though. "Having an authentic diner was very important to us"

"In early 2003 we contracted for a “frame-up” restoration of a 1940 Silk City Diner, due for completion in the fall of that year"

"The Delta Diner was about 90% complete in the middle of October of 2003. Living in far Northern Wisconsin we were facing a dilemma...The restorer agreed to ship the diner for completion on site so that we could complete excavation and concrete work prior to the ground freezing. In the end we cut it close, but got it done! It was quite a sight seeing the Delta Diner coming down Bayfield County Highway H in one piece on a semi-trailer"

"We expected that our chapter to the story of the “Delta Diner” would take many years to develop. Many ingredients contribute to the story of a diner. The building, its location and possible past locations, the characters that make up its customer base, the owner or owners, and its eclectic staff all paint the picture of a diner. It can take many years to have an intriguing story unfold. Without knowing it, our diner may have come prepackaged with intrigue"

"Where did the Delta Diner come from? Where did it operate prior to being abandoned “in a field somewhere in New York?” What can the identification tag on the original frame (if still on the frame) tell us about our diner? What did it look like when it was removed from the field? These are questions that can only be answered by our restorer. While we were provided a brief verbal version of our diner’s history, the promised written and photographic record has not been delivered. We have a contract that states we purchased a “restored 1940 Silk City Diner”. However, despite our efforts to obtain verification, we have yet to receive it."

A peek inside from the front/back

So to this day they dont know the exact history of what's supposed to be an old real deal restored Silk City Diner adding to the intrigue of this place. I'm not a diner expert but if this is indeed a rebuild of an original it's a damn fine copycat job. They try to make the experience as authentic as possible so this includes no menus. Everything available is on display and when your waitress comes to take your order she'll explain what EVERYTHING on it is. Her description of the Norwegian pancakes was like that of a big money making saleswoman so she had me sold on those which came recommended cooked with chopped jalapenos inside.

Norwegian Pancakes with chopped Jalapenos

Pancakes ala Norwegian are a larger more thin and airy type of pancake, similar to crepes. These were served with bacon from a local butcher in Ashland that was really thick and full of porky flavor along with a sprinkling of powered sugar and lemons. The chopped jalapenos inside worked really well. Our waitress was dead on with that one. The item I had read people praising was their PBLT which is a BLT with a piece of fried yellow lake perch on top. This too was very good. Served on locally sourced bread from the Ashland Baking Company with fresh in season tomatoes and that same great bacon, it made for a really tasty brunch paired with the pancakes.

PBLT Sandwich

I thought the food was great and even though they may not have much history as of today, you can see/feel that they're well on their way. Whether or not the restored diner was a real one or a restoration of a restoration it had that charm both from the atmosphere and the staff and also great food. One thing that caught my eye was Monday is "burger day" and that's all they serve as it's only time they're on the menu. Beef is ground fresh in house and I imagine buns come from the same baking company. I bet it's really good. The piece of homemade coconut cream pie to finish it all off sure was. Dude in the red Camaro should have rolled thru here by now.

I hope to make it back one day soon...see y'all next time
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The Coffee Pot
4914 7th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 653-8849

Jo's Cafe
3519 West Silver Spring Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53209
(414) 461-0210

Harry's Diner
2504 Calumet Dr
Sheboygan, WI 53083
(920) 458-5200

Mickey's Dairy Bar
1511 Monroe St
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 256-9476

Delta Diner
14385 County Highway H
Mason, WI 54856
(715) 372-MMMM 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summertime Shrimp Recipes

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

Savor this summertime weather while you can. I know I am. With all this hot weather seafood has been my go-to in the kitchen. When I want something easy it's shrimp. There's plenty of things in life that you dont need to purchase at top shelf but shrimp isn't one of them. If you're using farm raised shrimp from Asia it's just not going to taste as good as some of the wild caught stuff. The most commonly found also being one of the best in gulf shrimp. There's also the issue of what's in the farm raised mystery shrimps so always try and buy from a trusted source. Here's three summertime recipes I like to make when i have some nice fresh shrimp in the fridge. Loose easy to follow recipes.

 Shimp BLT

Because summer is the only time to eat a BLT sandwich. they just dont taste as good in winter for many reasons including the awful tomatoes on the shelves at that time. Turn a good old fashioned BLT into a SBLT with blackened scrimps. This is always a winner.

Grapefruit Avocado Shrimp Salad Cups

This is a recipe I'm pretty sure I've posted before but since I make it every summer I'm sharing it again. It's from one of Robb Walsh's book and they're perfect for a party. Take some lettuce and make small individual cups. Put a dollop of guacamole on that and then place a grilled shrimp on top of that. Sprinkle it all with some cilantro and serve. One of my favorite snacks on the healthy side.

 Tacos Gobernador 

Anyone who ever told you cheese doesn't belong in Mexican food was grossly misinformed. There's so many different dishes, other than the usual suspects on Americanized menus. Many of them incorporating cheese in some sort of way. Tacos Gobernador are said to have been made at the request of the Governor of Sinaloa's wife. Ever since then they've been on menus everywhere from Baja Mexico to San Diego and I've even seen them in Toronto. When I make these I fry up some sliced poblano strips with onion and celery. When those are cooked but still semi crisp add the shrimp and then add a few pinches of cheese and let it all melt together. Throw it into a corn tortilla and then fry the taco on both sides in the pan you cooked the filling. I always use Maggi Seasoning as well as salt, pepper, lime etc when making these. I like to add it into the shrimp and veggie mixture for 30 seconds before adding the cheese. As with everything else, bacon works great with these.

 The inside...see ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, August 15, 2016

Eating BIG in St. Louis Pt. 2

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- More exploring of The Gateway City

Was back down in Da Lou and also did some eating in the metro proper. Seeing as how it's baseball season right now this report might come in handy. St. Louis doesn't get lots of mentions as a great dining city but it's better than most people perceive it to be. Aside from the Cardinal fans its fun.

Falstaff, the Original Sam Adams

Upon getting into town and enjoying a few brews on a golf cart ride thru the neighborhood, yes this is a thing in Soulard, we headed over to 'Food Truck Friday's' at Tower Grove Park. On the second Friday of each month more than 20 trucks park around the circular park and the locals flood it for food and drink. So much so that literally every truck, despite there being at least 25, had a line no less than 20 deep. I wanted to watch the Bulls game so we had to take a pass but I will get back to try the Jambalaya Truck that was calling my name, mine and 50 others.

Food Truck Friday's

Quick snack before going over to my buddies watering hole for some bball. Spare No Rib is taking the three most trendy things in food over the last five years and putting them all under one roof.

Benton Park Neighborhood

This place is pushing BBQ, Beer, and Tacos. My friend had yet to stop in but he heard good things and we both smelled good things outside so a quick pour and a bite to eat were to be had. I forget what I drank but St. Louis has a helluva craft beer scene going on right now. Not sure how Budweiser feels about this but I imagine they'll just buy them all up at some time. Corn fritters to start were on point. These were fritters that can make a man a fiend.

Corn Fritters

The owner is from some Latin American country escaping me right now so the food has some flair in that regard. You can expect to find items like smoked chicken sopes and rib tacos on offer. Both of which we snacked on. The actual sope was a little too chewy but the smoked chicken meat was liked. The Rib Taco was worthy of another round. It just consisted of rib meat chopped down into pieces that came with a very nice smoke flavor to it. Topped with onion and cilantro it's hard to go wrong putting good BBQ in a tortilla.

Smoked Chicken Sope / The Rib Taco

Many people might be unaware but St. Louis shares a deep connection with New Orleans. I touched on this a little bit in a Missouri Roadfood post and in short summary St. Louis was founded by two guys from New Orleans and to this day the cities consider each other cousins. So much so that St. Louis has the second largest Mardi Gras Party in the country. Neither city is shy about their drinking.
Richmond Heights Neighborhood

Riverbend is one of my friends favorite stops. They used to be in a small hidden spot in the Soulard neighborhood but moved to larger digs early this year. I'm just realizing now that it was indeed a Friday when we were there but it was close to closing so I just told my friend to do the ordering so I forgot about the gumbo.

Crab Meat Stuffed Shrimp

If you saw my guy you'd know he knows the drill. Crabmeat stuffed shrimp brought me to New Orleans and thats what the owners expect, they're from there originally. Then there's the namesake Po Boy where they take their Roast Beef which is more debris than sliced and mix it with some hot ham, Swiss Cheese, and gravy from the beef. It gets dressed with the traditional po boy toppings and if not for the bread would have also took me straight to New Orleans. Not to knock it, this was an awesome sandwich is was just missing that sesame seeded crunch my favorite spots in NOLA have.

Riverbend Po Boy - Hot Ham, Roast Beef, Gravy, Swiss Cheese

As has been touched on donuts were trendy in St. Louis before trendy was a thing. The donut culture here goes deep. I don't eat donuts in the morning but I will scarf some down as a craving for my late night sweets need. So even better is the fact that most of the city's donut shops are open all day or in some cases they don't even open until the evening. Donut Drive-In has an all time classic as far as neon signs go and they also make tasty donuts that will cost you less than a buck. I wanna slap myself every time I stop into Stan's after payment. Go for the cake donuts.

Found in Lindenwood Park along Route 66

John's Donut Co. has become very popular since my last stop in. They've been around since the early 80's and have won awards before but have recently become a major hit with the drinking crowd which comes as young people move into the area.

Kosciusko Neighborhood

The reason it's so popular with the after hours crowd are the actual hours. They don't open until 11p so if you get there around Midnight you're getting fresh baked donuts still hot from the fryer. All that said you don't need to be sky high or shitfaced wasted to enjoy these. They're the real deal and the best donuts I've had in a city serious about them. I'm all about the blueberry cake kind found all over town and John's hits a home run with their rendition.

The Evenings Bounty

As regular readers know I like to explore regional offerings wherever it is that I am. Especially when it comes to burgers and tacos. I'd heard about this popular taco shop selling Iowa style tacos.

In the suburb of Brentwood

I just couldn't resist. Upon arrival these looked more like the odd offering at Obie's in Maquoketa than Tasty Tacos in Des Moines. Though Fort Taco was probably the best of the bunch. First because of the crunch and second because they offered your choice of hot (Salsa Verde) or Mild (Red Sauce) and the verde packed a little punch. It's just a drive thru in an old Rally's space and the line was pretty long by the time I was pulling out so I wouldn't be surprised to see them expand in the area. Just don't expect a real deal San Antonio style Puffy Taco going in. As Jim said these are Des Moines style puffy tacos, a kind all their own.

Des Moines Style Puffy Taco

A spot I like to go to in town is Lion's Choice. They're a local chain specializing in fresh baked roast beef sandwiches and they always hit the spot for a quick cheap snack. I don't seek them out but we were driving by and again, I just couldn't resist.

Locations found around town

What makes this place popular is the fact it's what Arby's used to be. It's not mystery meat and you can have as much au jus as you seem fit. Have a cup in place of some coffee if you want.

Au Jus for all

There's nothing special about these sandwiches like those found at Charlie's in Buffalo, but they're so much better than anything from any of the other fast food joints. This sandwich with some rare thinly sliced roast beef and cheese mixed with banana peppers and au jus was worth the pricetag. I'm sure they used to be better but they're still much better than their competition.

Roast Beef and Cheddar

Last couple of spots the night before I left, I was pretty much in a food coma at this point, trying to avoid those but STL sucked me in. My buddies female friend wanted to go to this popular Vietnamese Bistro called Little Saigon and with him flipping the bills I can oblige. I wasn't hungry anyway but ended up eating a good portion of that which was ordered. The lightly battered egg rolls were enjoyed as was a plate of Bò Lúc Lac. The latter being a tender cubed beef stir fried with onion and peppers with typical Vietnamese flavor profiles. Not bad at all.

Central West End

Viet Appetizers

Bò Lúc Lac

After dinner we hopped across the street to a place called Hot Box Cookies thats specializing in after hours hot cookies. I think he said they're from Columbia, MO. Fresh made hot cookies late at night will pretty much always be good by me as will St. Louis . . . as long as I'm not wearing a Cubs hat. Check out Part One of this series by clicking HERE.

Central West End
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Spare No Rib
2200 Gravois Ave #101
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 202-8244

Riverbend Restaurant and Bar
1059 S Big Bend Blvd
St Louis, MO 63117
(314) 664-8443

Donut Drive-In
6525 Chippewa St
St. Louis, MO 63109
(314) 645-7714

John's Donut Co
1618 S Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 241-3360

Fort Taco
8106 Manchester Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63144
(314) 647-2391

Lion's Choice

Little Saigon
10 N Euclid Ave
St. Louis, MO 63108
(314) 361-8881

Hot Box Cookies
3 N Euclid Ave
St. Louis, MO 63108
(314) 899-0909

Friday, August 12, 2016

Breakfast Tacos at Home

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

Breakfast tacos. Say the wrong thing about them and you may have a certain portion of Texas coming for your head. I like having my head on upright so I'm going to give readers a quick rundown of the breakfast tacos history. It's origins trace back to...Texas. Haha. Probably the Rio Grande or San Antonio. Definitely not Austin, though I will give props to ATX for being the place that many of us non-Texans came to cherish the breakfast taco. Nothing against San Antonio but Austin just has more for the out-of-towner as far as business and or entertainment so it's how many of us become familiar with this Texas treat. That said anyone who's been to DFW, Houston, and of course San Antonio has crossed paths with the breakfast taco. As Texas Taco Expert Jose Ralat says "Breakfast tacos belong to all Texans." Here are three (loose) recipes you can whip up a quick Texas breakfast with.

 S'C'&C Breakfast Taco 

This is an original creation. Best made right about this time of the year when corn is in-season. I like to cut the corn off the cob and cook it in a little bit of grease obtained by cooking some loose breakfast sausage. Add in some diced onion and jalapeno and scrambled eggs if you want them. I then use a black bean spread across the tortilla before putting the sausage and corn mix on top and topping it with cheese. Add some cilantro and you got yourself a damn good breakfast taco.

Chorizo, Potato, Egg

This is my favorite type of breakfast taco. I make it in a variety of ways with just slight differences here and there. Sometimes I'll use corn tortillas, sometimes flour, sometimes scrambled eggs but I tend to go with an over easy fried egg as I prefer it that way. Sometimes I dont use any egg at all. One thing you do want to do is get your potatoes nice and crisp and to do that you need time. Once the potatoes are crisped up I like to add them separately so they dont turn to mush. Always delicious.

Puerco Guisado 

This is a taco that I just kind of created with what I had. Some nice pork loin which I diced up and browned. I followed that with chopped onion, jalapeno, garlic. All of that was spiced up with cumin, Mexican oregano, Magi seasoning sauce and such. Then I threw the meat back in with a can chicken stock to cover and little bit of red chile sauce I had made the previous week. Let cook until meat is just tender enough not to fall apart. Easily done with beef which would make it carne guisada. I like to smear my tortillas with rice and beans if making guisado tacos. These by the way are a popular breakfast snack in Texas but they also make great lunch or dinner. I'll be seeing y'all next time.

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