Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eating BIG in Racine, WI

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-The Local Eats of Racine WI

Whats up y'all? BIG post here today. So you might remember an old post from a little over a year ago titled "Eating BIG in Kenosha" and big it was. Well today were headed north, only a few miles, to Kenosha's bordering town on the lake, Racine Wisconsin and we're in for some BIG eats. Racine isn't a place untraveled on here. Its been visited before for two other absolute Hall of Fame eating gems: Kewpees and Well's Brothers.

Founded in 1841 and located along Lake Michigan

When you go thru or into Racine you take a little step back in time and can feel that this town has some history and that's also evident from all of the old school places to eat that remain like those mentioned above and those we will visit today. Racine became well known right before the Civil War for its opposition to slavery. Many slaves gained freedom by passing thru Racine and it was the site of a heavy protest in 1854 when an escaped slave who had made a home there had been tracked down by US Marshall's and jailed in Milwaukee. It would take 100 men from Racine to organize what turned out to be 5,000 'sconnies to storm the jail and free him and help him escape to Canada. After this the town began to get waves of immigration from many Germans, Danes and Czechs and then African-Americans came in large numbers after World War 1 and Mexicans started coming around 1925.

Haven't made into Frosty Freddy's...yet

Racine was a factory town from the get go and its harbor was a main component to the shipping industry in the 1800's so Racine has been home to many industrial companies and an automobile manufacturing center. Many of the buildings remain today and its a fun little town to drive thru or visit for the day. There are old tied-houses and quite a few Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses and buildings. Its also where Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler and adult film star Max Hardcore hail from. It is also the headquarters and home of S.C Johnson & Son. If you go here in the summertime, the public beaches are clean and beautiful and a great place to spend the morning followed by some exploring in the afternoon. Make sure you eat. Racine, like any town in Wisconsin, has some great eats.

Lee's Deli

a locals favorite for subs/bombers

Lee's Deli has been a staple of Racine for decades. Its one of those spots that's been in its town forever and has had half the people from there work there in high school and some people have been working there forever. Its currently owned by a guy who bought it in 1985 and he too worked there as a teen in high school. They serve sub sandwiches and a popular item in the Kenosha/Racine area called a bomber. I have a full round up of bombers coming later on but they are basically meatball or Italian beef sandwiches loaded with red sauce, cheese and hot peppers and can be found at quite a few of the places in the area. Lee's is a spot people come home to Racine and go to. The subs haven't changed and as the owner is quoted "people come back to Racine and they want pizza from Well's Brothers, Kringle and a sub from Lee's Deli" as the years have gone on it went from just a sausage shop to a sub sandwich shop to now a full blown deli with sides, hot sandwiches and other treats added into the mix.

The sub sandwich part of the menu hasn't changed

Bombers mentioned above are a popular style of sandwich

The menu has expanded since its opening decades ago

Article from the Racine Journal Times...Subway in 2nd?!?!?!?

Lee's has daily deals and I think on the day I went here with my buddy it was buy one sub get the 2nd at half off and so we were already looking good. It had a nice constant flow of traffic and the people behind the counter were really helpful and we went with a Godfather, Gobbler and meatball Bomber along with one of my favorite sides of all time, German potato salad. The interesting part of the sandwiches over at Lee's is that they come with your choice dressing on them. Since it was a while back I stopped in I want to say the most popular told to us by the woman working was either the Russian or the French but I cant recall.

Pasta and potato salads to go with your sammys

Lee's has a great German potato salad, I quite enjoyed it

Our sandwiches ready for chowing

Peperoni, pastrami, capricola, mozzarella and provolone

With all the trimmings

The Gobbler

also with all the trimmings

Like everything else in Racine I could feel that Lee's hadn't changed much and the locals love it that way. The sandwiches were very filling and well priced and I have a feeling they will be a part of the community for many more years.

Meatball Bomber

My favorite of the trio

Bendtsen's Bakery

The next stop in Racine is a place that could easily be considered a national treasure and not just a jewel of the town of Racine. Its said that Racine has the largest North American settlement of Danes outside Greenland. Its a town that happens to be well known for its Danish treats including one of my favorite baked goodies: Kringle. The pastry snack is popular throughout Scandinavia and a part of Racine's culture. There are a few bakeries that bake Kringle daily and also ship them throughout the United States. Perhaps the oldest and most well known of the bunch is Bendtsen's. It is the longest family owned bakery in Racine.

a locals favorite in Racine

Bendtsen's was founded by a man named Lauritz Bendtsen who grew up learning the pastry trade in the 1920's in Denmark. It was always his dream to open his own bakery and that became a reality in 1934 when he settled down in the US in a large Danish community in Racine, Wisconsin. Not a day has passed since then that they haven't been a family owned joint specializing in hand made Kringle and a favorite of generations of people from Racine. It doesn't matter if your from Racine or the other side of the globe, its hard not to like this place.

View of the inside of the bakery

Bendtsen's has received lots of love thru the years

Old Photo from inside

The fourth generation of Bendtsen's is keeping the Kringle craze alive and well. Traditionally the Kringle is made pretzel shaped but this practice was abandoned by US bakers who make them oval shaped to ditch the unfilled overlapping parts. The original definition of a Kringle was just butter layered pastries but over time and in the US a variety of fruit and nut flavors were added in. In order to make a true authentic Kringle you need time and love. Since it is a delicate pastry with sheets layered on top of each other, one must roll very slowly to make these as thinly as possible and they can take up to three days to prepare. But oh its so worth it. On top of the Kringle they also bake up some amazing pastries and doughnuts of all types.

Kringle packaged and ready for chowing

The Kringle menu at Bendtsen's

I have been enjoying Kringle since my college days in Madison where I was able to buy it at the grocery stores. However if you want the good stuff you gotta go to Racine and visit a bakery like Bendtsen's to taste why these are so beloved and shipped throughout the country to the people who cant live without them. Since I'm not a big chocolate guy, my favorite Kringle is the cherry cream cheese. I mean how could you not like it? Wisconsin is known for both its cherries and cheese and also its Kringles. Makes sense that a cherry cream cheese Kringle would be special right? I also love the blueberry and even the chocolate topped ones.

Fruits and cheese are popular filings

As are chocolate and cream

Blueberry Kringle ready for my love

Elephant ears were always a favorite of mine...of course they take it up a notch


I'm sure this is another old school recipe that's been used forever

They always bake for the occasion at Bendtsen's

Since I always gotta try a little bit of everything I was really happy when I saw the donut case and the many different kinds offered that I don't see too often. Homer Simpson might move the family to Racine if he ever gets a taste of these. I liked them all and boy he would too. Who wouldn't? If your from the Chicagoland area or anywhere near Racine then I would suggest the first day in summer your bored and want something to do that you take a trip to Racine and do some exploration and eating. I might see you there.

Very Good


Buttermilk Donut

Cheery Cake Donut

Inside the cherry cake donut

Kringle in all its glory

Lee's Deli
2615 Washington Avenue
Racine, WI 53405-5001
(262) 634-2373

Lee's Deli on Urbanspoon

Bendtsen's Bakery
3200 Washington Avenue
Racine, WI 53405-3037
(262) 633-0365

Bendtsen's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 26, 2010

Best Bar-B-Que

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

It was last fall when I was doing a cruise to the southside along I57 that took me off at my normal exit that leads to 115th street in Morgan Park. As you drive along you will notice a smokehouse with a large chimney coming out the roof that goes by Best Bar-B-Que. Its a place I had driven by many times but was always closed or I was en route elsewhere. However that all changed when me and a buddy drove by one early afternoon and the smoke was flowing out of the chimney so we had to pull in and grab some BBQ.

Smoke coming out on top

Decided to go with my standard first time order when I go to a real BBQ spot in the Chicagoland area which is a rib tip and hot links combo with the sauce on the side. It took about five minutes as I recall and we took our combos out to dine al trunko and see if this was some legit BBQ or if we were getting smoke blowed up our ass. The BBQ sauce was pretty legit and was the first thing I got a little taste of like I always do at a BBQ joint by sticking my finger in to see whats up.

BBQ sauce

Soon after I ripped into my tips/links combo and was pretty damn satisfied. Since we had driven by when there was a ton of smoke coming out the chimney, both the tips and links seemed to be fresh out of the aquarium style smoker that all the places in Chicagoland use. The tips were done to near perfection with perfect amount of smoke flavor and they had plenty of charred bark like I like mine to have. The links were also very good and had a good amount of heat to them, also the way I like mine. Overall it was a great quick snack to grab and a bargain at about $5 for it. Its not the best 'que I've ever come across but it was more than acceptable and would be a regular stop for me on days when smoke is rising from there if I had lived a little closer.

Insides of the smoked hot links

Rib Tip looking like money

Rib Tips/Hot Link Lunch Combo

Best Bar-B-Que
1648 West 115th Street
Chicago, IL 60643-4370
(773) 239-1522

Best Bar B Que on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Regional Sandwiches @ Home

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

It seems like to every little neck of the woods you go to, there's a specialty sandwich the locals love to eat. Since its almost impossible to travel everywhere and taste all of them sometimes people like to make adaptions to these local treats. I am lucky enough to have been able to try both of today's featured sandwiches in their respective habitats but never when I had a camera. I quite enjoyed both my experience with Florida's ever popular grouper sandwich and also Iowa's beloved pork tenderloin. So much so that ever since I had these two treats I have had many of cravings for them since. So at some point in the lats year I made what turned out to be excellent versions of both in the comfort of my own kitchen. Here are my adaptations of two regional classics.

chibbqking Florida Grouper Sandwich
-as adapted from 'wich of the week

I've actually tried a grouper sandwich from the place that claims to have invented it-Frenchy's in Clearwater Beach. I couldn't find much else on the history of it but I'd say its pretty obvious the sandwich came to be due to the Grouper being fished for often in Florida waters.

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot-pepper flakes
2 tablespoons shredded coconut flakes
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 teaspoon corn oil
4 grouper fillets (about 5 oz. each)
4 hamburger buns, toasted or grilled
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
tartar sauce to taste

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a shallow bowl. Put egg whites in another shallow bowl. Dip each fish fillet in cornmeal mixture, then in egg whites, then again in cornmeal mixture.
  2. Place fillets on a plate; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 10 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add fillets and cook over medium-high heat, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. On the bottom half of each toasted or grilled bun, spread tartar sauce to taste and top with one fillet. Divide the iceberg lettuce evenly between the four sandwiches, and top with coleslaw if desired. Place top of bun onto lettuce and slaw and serve.

Florida grouper Sandwich

chibbqking Iowa Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

The tenderloin sandwich is not just an Iowa thing but big in other parts of the Midwest such as Indiana. Its pretty much a variant of the wiener schnitzel sandwich made popular by immigrants that came into the Midwest. One of the tenderloins signature components is the tenderloin itself is always larger than the bun its served on. If your ever in Iowa and want try a tenderloin sammy from one of the 1000's of places that serve them then I'd highly recommend checking this site out here> Des Loines Spot.

1 lb boneless pork loin or cubed pork steak
1 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
sliced onions
sliced pickles
4 sandwich buns

1. Cut 4 1-inch slices of pork. Trim any exterior fat from edges and butterfly each slice by cutting horizontally through the middle almost to the edge so that the halves are connected by only a think piece of meat. Put each butterflied slice between pieces of plastic wrap. Using a wooden meat mallet, or the side of a cleaver, pound vigorously until the slice is about 10 inches across. Mix together flour, cornmeal, salt and black pepper.

2. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a deep, wide skillet to 365 degrees F. Dip each slice of pork in water, then in flour mixture. Fry tenderloin, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve on buns with desired condiments.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Dressed the way I like mine

Ready to Eat

See ya next time on S'C'&C.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Fresh Fries

-Fried out on 420

Do you have that holiday feeling? You getting hungry because of it? 420 is here and so is the now annual "Fresh Fries" post that comes with it. Last year I showed you around town and where to go to get the best sets of fries in the city and beyond and this year is no different. So I hope you got your munchies going and are enjoying yourself on 4/20/10. Check out last years featured fries right HERE.

an old neighborhood standby in Pilsen (Fran's Beef)

Fran's Fry sandwich: fries and hot peppers loaded inside a gravy bread

Something I do up at Pop's now and then with their fries and gravy bread

an old neighborhood standby in Evanston

Little Islands cheese fries have been eaten by generations of locals

Toons Bar & Grill: best stoners creation with the use of fries
(nachos ordered with fresh cut fries instead of chips and topped with chopped brisket)

fRedhots: best unique set of fries in the cityscape

Tore's Beef: best fries at any of the blue collar favorites

W&SC: best fries and dipping sauces for them

Illinois Bar & Grill: largest and best batch of fries in the city

Top Notch Beefburgers: best old school style fries in the city

Miner Dunn: best fries with a burger in NW Indiana

Kopp's: best fries with a burger and custard in Milwaukee

Mr. D's: best sandwich and fries combo in the city

Redhot Ranch: best set of fries loaded up on top a hot dog

You know your hungry.


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