Friday, August 1, 2014

Weekend in Louisville

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Return to the Scene of good Food and Booze

We're shooting south down I-65 and headed to Louisville for the weekend! We did Round 2 down there this past 4th of July weekend. Check out the first trip down there from this past winter HERE. As the holiday crept up on us we had nothing to do and decided a ride down there to tour the bourbon distillery's this time around would be a fun getaway at a reasonable price. I was happy with the end result as we also squeezed a daytrip to Cincinnati in on this visit. Great getaway for Chicagoan's.

 Downtown Louisville

Good eating and drinking is what we were in Louisville to do so I again missed the Bat factory tour and also the Muhammad Ali Center. Next time! I do enjoy coming down here and the ride isn't bad at all. Boring maybe, but not awful if you stop in Indianapolis for some eats. We did a few repeats on this 3 day stay as we loved Milkwood on our last visit and then enjoyed drinks in the sun at Garage Bar and ate at Silver Dollar upon our arrival late that evening. Of course a couple trips to Indi's for some fried chicken and sides were also accomplished. That smashed pork burger at Milkwood was as good as last time of not better.

 We were repeat visitors to Garage Bar, Silver Dollar and Indi's as they were open at times when needed during the holiday weekend. We missed some favorites too.

Vietnamese Lamb Sausage w/ fried green tomato, pan- drippings, pickled fresno, green goddess dressing at Milkwood

I'm always eager to try new spots and as many places as we made it to the first go around there were plenty more that hadn't been hit up. Right across the river in New Albany, Indiana is a new-school BBQ place that gets plenty of praise both locally and nationally. Feast BBQ sits in a beautiful historic building and was open on the 4th so we made it our lunch stop before hitting up the Buffalo Trace Distillery for one of their free tours...and tastings.

New Albany, IN

Having read a few of the articles they have displayed on the walls I learned this is run by a guy who's all about the science of BBQ. Most of the worthwhile spots down in this area are run by hipsters and I don't think this place was any different though that doesn't mean it wasn't any good. One of their famous dishes is a smoked tofu and that wasn't going to be ordered so I actually went ahead and got a couple tacos while she ordered the pulled pork sandwich.

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Greens

My tacos were very pleasing. They can come two ways, American or Mexican style, and I got one of each. Brisket was topped American style with BBQ sauce, cole slaw and green onions while the pulled pork Mexican variation had cabbage, cotija cheese, pickled red onions, crema and lime. The Mexican version was much better. The pork might of been a little hidden amongst all the toppings but having tried her sandwich I can verify it was done right. Greens were approved by me but not her while the cocktails were cheap and strong. They have a really nice selection of beer and bourbon for you to enjoy with your 'que. Cool place as is the town itself which has some great Main Street Americana charm going on.

Brisket (L) and Pulled Pork (R) Tacos

Grand Theater in New Albany

Aside from maybe apple pie and fireworks what can be more American than touring a bourbon distillery on the Fourth of July? Not much I can think of so we were off to the Buffalo Trace Distillery for their free tour which I thought was tons of fun. I learned stuff, drank a few shots worth for free and got a bottle of hand packed Blanton's to start my racing horse bottle-stop collection.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour is always free

After the Buffalo Trace tour we thought about doing the Four Roses one but decided not to in favor of getting back to Louisville for more food and drink. But not before a quick pit-stop at the southern fried chicken finger chain known as Zaxby's. Started in Athens, Georgia they now have locations in 15 states along with close ties to the SEC. These fried chicken finger chains are a thing around the south and Zaxby's is supposed to be one of the giants. I've always been anti-strip but was recently turned onto this phenomenon by Farmhouse Chicken Strips on Chicago's southside. Zaxby's weren't quite on the level of Farmhouse but as far as a quick drive-thru snack goes I can ride with it. Count me a fan of their signature self named sauce.

Zaxby's Chicken Fingers

Louisville has as big of a cocktail scene as any city it's size so it was no surprise to find a couple tempting establishments that we hadn't been to last trip thru. First up is a place downtown called Meta. Upon walking in you feel like you're at somewhere like the Whistler and with it they had a verdita drink on the menu titled "Ode to Logan Square". Drinks were stiff while a late nite plate of homemade pimiento cheese was on point. If you want a cocktail in more lush surroundings I recommend checking out the St. Charles Exchange. They really went all in with the inside but as far as the drinks go I don't really remember. Though you know their bourbon selection is marvelous.

Image Image
 Sipping up Louisville's Cocktail Scene

One of the newly opened places I had my eye on was a spot called Gralehaus that specializes in both beer and breakfast. The guys behind it own another popular spot in town and plan on opening a B&B alongside this new venture very soon. They're taking the Longman & Eagle approach. As I mentioned in the previous post most of the city is one big Logan Square.

Located in the Highlands Neighborhood

a peak inside

They do food and beer for there or you can buy beer from their fridge to put into yours. Taps, bottles, cans, you name it they got it. Having checked out the menu beforehand it was the crepes that caught my eye. They offered quite a few variety's and while the one I wanted wasn't on there I found a replacement pretty quickly. The Country Ham with an egg and red eye gravy as well as a couple other components I can't remember was a nice way to start the day but having seen another patrons Biscuit and Duck Gravy plate I was kind of regretting having not gotten that. She had the cornmeal crusted catfish sandwich of which everything except the fish was made in-house. I heard it was good, small but worthwhile.

Country Ham & Egg Crepe

Catfish Sandwich

Best bite of this trip came from Harvest Restaurant located in the NuLu neighborhood amongst a bunch of other worthwhile spots. We stopped in for drinks, which were super refreshing, and I decided I had to try their take on an old state favorite.

Popular Restaurant in the NuLu neighborhood

Burgoo is a social event in Kentucky, much like the fish fry is here in the Midwest. Usually its made by churches and organizations but you'll find restaurants making it here and there too. Traditionally it's made with whatever meats and vegetables were available and everything from racoons to squirrels are game. At the farm to table Harvest Restaurant they're making theirs with chicken, pork, turkey, new potatoes, heirloom tomatoes and pretzel croutons. This was deep in flavor and definitely something I'd seek out next time I'm around.

Kentucky Burgoo at Harvest Restaurant

Also located in NuLu is a place called Taco Punk and seeing as how I'm a taco fiend I had to stop in and try one. Upon entering the place has the feel of a Chipotle so my hopes weren't all that high but I left pleasantly surprised with my "quick service gourmet taco". I tried the pineapple pork shoulder which is real smoked pork finished with a pineapple glaze and chose my toppings ala Chipotle. The meat had actual smoke flavor and they make the tortillas fresh to order and stuff them with fillings.

Smoked Pork Taco from Taco Punk

Last stop before heading back was to an old Louisville Drive-In that's been slanging burgers since 1947. I chose to try the other old school burger joint nearby last time so this time around I wanted to see what was up over here on this trip.

 The famous Dizzy Whizz Drive-In

Their famous Wizzburgers were 2 for $5 on my visit but she wasn't eating so I went with just one. This is a double decker burger ala the Big Mac minus the sesame seed bun. I think the sauce is a little bit different as well, mostly mayo based and I liked it for a fast food burger but would still say Jim's Hamburger Heaven in Elmhurst makes my favorite burger in this style. For more eating options check out my last report from Louisville HERE. That's it for this trip, see ya next time!


316 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 584-6455

Feast BBQ
116 W Main St
New Albany, IN 47150
(812) 920-0454

Buffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 696-5926

425 W Chestnut St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 822-6382

St. Charles Exchange
113 S 7th St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 618-1917

1001 Baxter Ave
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 454-7075

Harvest Restaurant
624 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 384-9090

Taco Punk
736 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 584-8226

Dizzy Whizz Drive-In
217 W St Catherine St
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 583-3828

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eating BIG in Indianapolis Pt. 2

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Indy: More spots where the locals eat at

I was back in Indianapolis a couple times this past Winter and now have a few more rich stops to add to my folder of places worth eating at in the area. You can check Part One of this series HERE. First and foremost is Hank's Smoked Briskets. I will never go to or thru Indy again without stopping in at this place. Every other food stop in town takes a backseat in my pocket guide.

It doesn't matter where in America you are, if you're on an MLK Jr. Drive there's BBQ nearby

In the case of East Indy, there's some top of the line brisket as well as smoked corned beef. Hank's is attached to a popular neighborhood barber shop and basically does takeout. I believe we (Grub Seeker was w/ me) got a 1/2 pound of each, it was taken out to the lot to dine al trunko. Hot Damn! I hate playing the best game but this was the best brisket I've had outside the state of Texas. No question about it. Hell, it was as good as I remember some of the top spots I had on my semi recent trip down there. The corned beef further cements the claim of the Midwest being the King of salt cured beef. They smoke theirs here and that nice hint of it added in makes me wonder if I'll ever fully appreciate corned beef being baked or steamed again.

Smoked Brisket

Smoked Corned Beef

We stopped in for a snack at this Jamaican spot pictured below. It's run by the son of a Chinese-Jamaican, I think Grub Seeker was kind of surprised to see the man with a deep Rastafari voice on the phone was actually a small Chinese guy. Nothing new to me. Many places in the states serving Jamaican food are owned by Chinese people with family roots in Jamaica. The patties here are $1 and change and a little different as far as the dough goes compared to others I've ate. Though they still tasted great. It appeared they sell lots of frozen bags full of them. I'd have a few in my freezer if I was a resident there.

Hidden in a strip mall somewhere

There seems to be a small connection in Indianapolis to New Orleans. I'm not sure why this is but there's a few restaurants and bars down there that cater to the Bourbon street loving crowd. B's Po' Boy's I'd heard was really good and it was. The sandwich anyway. They get their bread shipped in from Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans and the standard crunch that's needed is definitely there as you can see in the picture. The Gulf Shrimp were lightly breaded and the overall balance was spot on. I was just in NOLA, this was as as good as many you'll find down there.The red beans and rice and also the gumbo weren't quite on par with the sandwich as they each seemed to be too heavily seasoned with herbs.

Top Notch Po' Boy Spot

Gumbo + Red Beans and Rice

B's Fried Shrimp Po Boy

Iaria's is a classic old school Italian-American joint. It was packed on this Saturday night but we manged to squeeze a couple seats at the beautiful bar where the keeper had obviously been working for what seemed like forever. I couldn't resist trying their famous spaghetti and meatballs and they were good for what they were. I can make better but they itched the sudden fix I got for them upon entering. The old school ovens in back were more to the eye than the pizzas coming out of them.

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Classic 1950's Italian-American Owned Restaurant

We also ate a couple tenderloins on this trip which would also be the point where I dropped my camera in some water. I still had a crappy iphone cam and was able to snap pics of the ones we ate after the camera went bye bye. Nothing out of this world but I'm not sure they ever are, still I thought the couple we tried were respectable and I enjoy eating them when riding thru both Indiana and Iowa. They're comforting, no doubt about that.We enjoyed some food and drink at a really low key locals place called Ralph's Great Divide. This little neighborhood favorite has been a part of the area since pre-civil war. The east end of the building anyway.

Ralph's Great Divide

Thru the years it's been a part of a carriage, an auto repair shop and a pub post prohibition. It became Ralph's Great Divide in 1983 and has served their signature bourbon ham sandwich ever since then. While it is a bar, and a very cool one, it's more of a restaurant as far as hours and the reason patrons are there. I remember there being a guy on the piano on our visit as well as plenty of regulars enjoying their Saturday night. The aforementioned bourbon ham is described as "Slow Baked Pit Ham with Bourbon & Spices" and comes served on bread from a local bakery with the works if you want. I guess it's loved by many around here. I didn't love it, but I liked it.

Famous Bourbon Ham Sandwich - "The One and Only"

I also tried an order of their signature German potato Salad (served warm) and got the "Tips and Aug" to go with it. The tips are 6 ounces of skewered tenderloin beef and the aug is their "Hot Pot Aug" which is a cream of potato au gratin soup. The German potato salad was stellar. I would enjoy that often if this place was my neighborhood haunt. The skewer and soup were solid too. Meat was tender and had deep beef taste to it while the soup hit the spot. I think it was like $11 for the combo so not a bad deal by any means.

German Potato Salad

 Beef Tenderloin Tip Skewer with a cup of Hot Pot Aug

I'm always willing to try a place people will claim makes the best fried chicken in the country. Once you get into the Indianapolis region they start taking this all American eat very seriously. Some say the fried chicken trail starting around there and going further south is the best in the country. It's mostly served family style and seeing as how I was with the Grub Seeker we knew we'd be getting some from somewhere. That option would be this locally loved spot that's still frying their birds in a skillet which is what the restaurant is named after.

Locals favorite Since 1953 (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Not to be confused with the attached to a gas station chain restaurant, this place has some cool history. "In 1956 Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Kelso bought the Wacker home and transformed it into The Iron Skillet Restaurant. Alterations in the structure were held to a minimum so as to retain the original charm which had graced the old home for more than a century. In 1996, Mr. and Mrs. Kelso retired and sold the restaurant to Mr. Ronald Torr." We went in on a Sunday afternoon and family's had just started flocking to eat. We decided to do a 8 piece carry out and both liked the simple style. The breading wasn't heavily seasoned but it was crunchy while the meat inside remained mostly juicy. I quite enjoyed my pieces but wouldn't say this is the best in the game. Then again, I have too many other places to try. Jim aka Grub seeker lives in the uber-rich in fried chicken Illinois Valley Region and like me he very much enjoyed it but wouldn't claim it was King.

Fried Chicken (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Late one night before hitting the hay we rolled into a place known for their fried seafood and pastries. The Grub Seeker had scouted out this one and these were his words. "Always on the lookout for fried shrimp a visit to Mary's Seafood and Pastries was in the cards: Some good shrimps and a really great piece of caramel cake that lasted me 2 days - anyone who can remember the Sanders Caramel cakes from the Detroit area from back in the day, this is it - sorry no pic". Agreed, the shrimps were really good. Different breading than we're used to here in Chicagoland.

Fried Shrimp (Pic by Grub Seeker)

Last but not least is another shout out to Goose the Market which makes some of the best sandwiches I've come across in my travels. You can read more about them and some other worthwhile Indianapolis dining spots in part one of this series by clicking this link HERE.

Smoked Brisket w/ Poblano Chimichurri, Chihuahua and Garden Greens

Hank's Smoked Briskets
3736 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr St
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 925-1689

Patties of Jamaica
5172 Allisonville Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 253-4006

B's Po Boy
1261 Shelby St
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 916-5555

Iaria's Italian Restaurant
317 S College Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 638-7706

Ralph's Great Divide
743 N New York St
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 637-2192

The Iron Skillet Restaurant
2489 W 30th St
Indianapolis, IN 46222
(317) 923-6353

Mary's Seafood
5523 E 38th St
Indianapolis, IN 46218
(317) 546-1667

Goose the Market
2503 North Delaware Street
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 924-4944

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend in Madison

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- A perfect weekend getaway for lovers of food and booze 

I got up to Madison Wisconsin for my annual summertime trip and found myself at a few of my favorites and also a couple new spots. First up as far as the recs in the LTHforum feature post go I linked to go. Tempest is still good for happy hour slurping though the prices have gone up a little bit. Old Fashioned remains a great choice for one of your meals and some ice cold Wisconsin brewed beer. Old Glory American Pale Ale at Great Dane is still one of my favorites and Willy street continues to rock. I got a few new spots not seen in there for here.

First up, how'd I forget about Greenbush Bakery? I hadn't been to this place since my school days and a visit on this trip had me asking, is there a better baking city in the States? Madison is filled with little independent mom and pop bakeshops that dazzle every time I enter one of them. Greenbush is known for their Old Fashioneds, the donuts not the drink. They make several variety's of them, amongst other things. Dont miss the original made with sour cream, the blueberry and also the cinnamon. Best donuts I've had in a while.

Best Old Fashioned Donuts in the Game

Madison has a wonderful food cart scene and it only seems to be getting better. They actually have somewhat similar restrictions to the trucks here in Chicago but they are allowed to do things like fry on board. Check out this cool article on them from Madison Magazine. On this trip I had two really tasty bites from them.

Food Carts at the Maxwell Street Days Festival 

On Saturday we spotted Bubbles Doubles setup alongside the capitol building during the city's weekly Farmer's Market setup. They're pushing the food of the owners native Trinidad & Tobago which is one of my favorites. Doubles are common street food there and the owner aka bubbles was living in Brooklyn when he took a job with a cable company in Madison. He decided to stay and open a food cart which serve these awesome street eats. I tried the double with chicken and it definitely hit the spot. I love the flavors of Trinidadian cuisine which include spices from the Caribbean, Africa, India and China amongst others.

a double from Bubble's

We also spotted the Soho Food Cart at the weekly 'Live on King Street' concert series (going on the next few Friday's) and before that had an order of the Sausage/Shrimp/Water Chestnut Dum Sum with some drinks at Natt Spil. Later that night I made my first of three visits to Paul's Pelmeni. If you like dumplings you'll be very happy in Madison. All three pleased. You can read all about them HERE should you please.

Dumpling Trifecta

If you're going to go to Madison for the weekend and you arrive in town on a Friday there's no better way to start your vacation than with an ice cold Spotted Cow and a Fish Fry. There's some really good ones in town and my guy over at Madison Fish Fry has done most of them. I've followed his lead to a few for this Serious Eats piece and did so again last weekend.

Locals/Students Bar on Regent

Jordan's Big Ten Pub came rec'd via twitter as I had asked for a place with some perch and pancakes. As my own fish fry folder continues to grow this one will be added into the really good category. Well fried pieces of fish accompanied by a dense potato pancake and a really nice bowl of cinnamon apples to wipe it all down. The New Glarus on tap was ICE cold. Winner, Winner Fish Fry Dinner.

Friday Fish Fry: Perch and Pancakes

On Saturday we did the Farmers Market in the morning, amazing as always, this is one of the biggest reasons to get to Madison before the wonderful weather goes bye bye. They say it's the best farmers market in the nation and I've never been to close to better. 

So much beautiful stuff that surrounds you as you walk around the state capitol building

After our shopping I was ready for some 'Burgers of Wisconsin' research. I didn't get to try the acclaimed burger at Tipsy Cow located downtown just off the Capitol on my last couple trips so this was a perfect opportunity to walk over and try what 'Business Insider' said is the best burger in the state. If there's anyone who's eligible to judge what truly is the best burger in Wisconsin I'll put money down that it's me.

Popular Bar food off the Capitol

We got a table outside as it was a gorgeous day. It didn't take long to place the order. I already told you why we were here. The signature Tipsy Cow burger is two smashed patties, 3 year cheddar, onion, Widmer's brick cheese, Nueske's bacon, tipsy sauce and housemade pickles. This was a fight, but it was a knockout. I cant say it's the best burger in the state because there's so many different kinds but it's easily one of the best in Madison which also happens to be one of the best burger eating city's in the country. Don't believe me? Check the previous posts.

Tipsy Cow Burger

We then hit up a few towns outside of the city for some fun in the sun. There's so many great daytrips from Madison. New Glarus, Monroe, the Dells, Cave of the Mounds, Mount Horeb, Black Earth, Spring Green and Mineral Point to name a few. The cruising produces some top notch views. Feel free to click HERE to see every post on Wisconsin ever on the site. There's lots of info about all these places.

 Riding the Rolling Hills

Lastly I got a nice addition to add to the international eats section of the list. The family behind the casual sitdown La Taguara is bringing the flavors of their native Venezuela to East Washington avenue. We had a super satisfying lunch here featuring a sandwich that made the jibarito seem tame.

Venezuelan Food on East Washington Avenue

We don't have that many options for Venezuelan food in Chicago but I see now and then when traveling abound. Madison has a really strong international food scene going on with it's university ties and all and this place is one I would add to the list of spots you should go try. In fact they now have a second location attached to the Cardinal Bar on Wilson just off Lake Monona. We got an Arepa which is basically a split open pancake made of ground corn thats stuffed with fillings. This is very common street eat in Venezuela. The pernil (roasted pig) filling was really wonderful. 

Pernil Arepa

I'd read about this spot in the Daily Isthmus paper I picked up and it was this insane sandwich that made me want to stop in. The Patacon Pisao is another popular eat in the country and if you've ever had a jibarito here in Chicago the smashed then fried plantain used as the bun should come as no surprise. What might shock you is what goes in between them.  In this case Shredded Beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, mayo, ketchup, mustard, tartara verde and Guasacaca sauce in the middle Sound like a mess? It was. But it was a glorious one. I wasn't hungover but this made me feel like I would of been just fine if I was. Good times.

Venezuelan Patacon Pisao Sandwich

Greenbush Bakery
1305 Regent St
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 257-1151

Jordan's Big 10 Pub
1330 Regent St
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 251-6375

Tipsy Cow
102 King St
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 287-1455

La Taguara
3502 E Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 721-9100


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