Friday, July 31, 2015

The Vanguard

-Grubbing in Milwaukee
New to the 'Scene'

The Vanguard opened near the end of last year and has become my go-to food/drink spot while up in Milwaukee. Everyone I've stopped in with really seems to enjoy the place as I have yet to hear any complaints. The place is co-owned by a Longman & Eagle partner, who like many others, decided to make the move north. So far so good.

Sausage and Cocktails in the Bay View Neighborhood

The menu has switched up a few things here and there but as long as they keep doing what they're doing it's all going to be great. The combination of craft sausages and draft cocktails is so Milwaukee you just know this place is going to deliver the goods. The drinks are all $8 and for the most part have been satisfying while the sausages range in price from $4-8 dollars per link.

a peek inside

What I really respect about this place is all of the encased meats are made on-site. My one minor gripe is the choice of S. Rosen's buns. Milwaukee and the entire state of Wisconsin is a bakers paradise, there has to be better. The Sheboygan Hard Rolls for one. The different sausage creations all have flavor inspirations from around the globe. Some stick close to the old world way (Housemade Brat) while others read like they were made at Midnight after catching the Munchies while watching a marathon of 'That 70's Show.'

Red Hot Zerkel (Pork Sausage / Powered Flamin' Hot) house cheese whiz, onion ring, pickled jalapeno

Piri Piri Pork (Pork Sausage / Piri Piri Sauce) pickled cactus, bleu cheese, hot sauce

Kilig (Pork Sausage / Palm Sugar / Soy Sauce) lime, bean sprout, basil, cilantro, chili sauce, hoisin

Chili Cheese Dog with jalapenos and onion

Jamaican Lamb Currywurst (Lamb and Pork Sausage) served on a bed of fresh cut fries, Jamaican curry, caramelized onion, scotch bonnet jam 

While the menu is mostly dominated by encased meats they do have a burger. It's a somewhat recent addition that, like many other masterpieces, was created by getting use out of everything in the kitchen. When the sausage is stuffed some of them burst and the ground meat from them goes into the making of Thee Dirty Burger. The beauty of it is the patty consists of a little bit of everything. It's dressed similar to an In 'n Out Burger. There's also real chopped bacon bits scattered in and the use of their housemade Velveeta style cheese. Go on. Git! It's quite a treat and something worth ordering on a menu with many interesting options to choose from. Vanguard, you are good.

Thee Dirty Burger - bacon / lettuce / onion / tomato / pickle / OK Sauce / House Velveeta

The Vanguard
2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 539-3593

Monday, July 27, 2015

Eating NEW in Detroit

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Eating in a New Detroit

In the past I've focused primarily on the places that refused to give up on Detroit. Today I thought I'd add a section on the spots helping build a new Detroit. There's countless articles out there about the new generation of artists, young businessmen, and industry people etc moving into an area that was once as rich as any. Not to mention the Chinese and English firms that have been buying up land to the point where the days of a $20,000 building are gone. I myself do some business in the area and when not indulging in the riches of Middle Eastern eats next door in Dearborn, or enjoying the best fish n' chips outside of the UK and Canada, or eating ham sandwiches stacked sky high, or enjoying real deal old fashioned burgers, these are some of the newly opened spots I've enjoyed.

The Green Rush is in full flow mode

One of the major bricks in building a new Detroit is modern art. There's countless galleries featuring the work of people from all over the globe. One of the more concentrated places featuring these montages is the MOCAD aka Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.


I'll admit I'm not the biggest art geek in the world but I find myself more appreciative of it as I get older. MOCAD is a non-collecting museum so I don't think anyone has a right to complain about the work they're showing.

 a peek inside

After a walk around the former car dealership turned museum we decided it was time. Lets be real, the real reason we were here was to eat and drink. Attached to the museum is Cafe 78 where they're serving food and drinks in a large open space with young entrepreneurs showing off their craft. On this day a young lady from Seattle was selling her 'Detroit is the New Black' clothing line and people were waiting to purchase an item to showcase. It's a tight knit community. The bar here has become a staple for me when in town. I think they have the best cocktails in these parts. It's all about the colors.

Cocktail Menu based off the Pantone Color Palette

Brunch Cocktails

Don't sleep on the food. Cafe 78 offers a bar menu and also brunch on Sunday's which was the showcase on my recent visit with the lady. We decided to split a Croque Madame sandwich and it was glorious. As followers of this thread know Detroit is as serious about its ham as they are the cars.

Croque Madame Sandwich at Cafe 78 inside the MOCAD

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails

Continuing on in this area, around the corner from MOCAD is a kitchen and bar focusing on Chartreuse and art. I've only been in here once which was my most recent visit with the lady. I thought the drinks were prety good while the small plate of charred octopus was enjoyed, though I have had more tender. Including from a place visited later that night.

Grilled Spanish Octopus- fennel, pickled onion, chorizo, cucumber, chili, sea salt

Wright & Co.

One of the things I really love about this industry renaissance is the fact they're opening businesses in beautiful old buildings and neighborhoods. Wright & Co. sits on the second floor of the historic Wright-Kay Building, one of the oldest in Detroit. I love the views of downtown from inside but must admit that the food menu feels a little bit like it's circa 2003 though the vibes are fantastic. I've enjoyed the plates I've tried but none of them are anything new. The bartenders are well informed and will make you most anything or surprise you with something after telling them what you like.

Sitting at the bar inside


The biggest concentration of new age spots opening up shop is happening in Detroit's oldest neighborhood. When Slow's BBQ debuted some 10 years ago it turned this stretch of Michigan avenue around. Handfuls of businesses have followed the smell of the smoke and opened in the area.

Image Image
Two James Distillery is the first in Detroit since per-prohibition. The cocktails are a little expensive for the city but it's worth a stop for a shot.


This Corktown sandwich shop is the concept of a couple longtime restaurant vets who moved back from San Francisco to make their dream a reality. Most delis in Detroit are all about the corned beef but Rubbed is focused in on cured meats and such. They make their own stuff on-site and offer it by the pound and also in sandwiches. The 'East-Sider' is a favorite of mine. It packs soppressata, capicola, pepperoni, honey ham, provolone, bacon–herb spread, lettuce, tomato, onion, sweet peppers into their fresh bread and its awesome though on my last trip in it was 94 degrees and the 'Yooper' seemed appropriate. Since it was brunch time they had thick crisp local bacon ad I asked them to add that on on top of the smoked whitefish. Standard toppings are Swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot.

The Yooper Sandwich

Gold Cash Gold

Down the street is this former pawn shop turned restaurant. They call the food here "farmstead fine food" and it all comes from nearby farms and or the kitchen where they make many items in house. The fried chicken is pretty damn good as is the burger and the cocktails. It can also be a nice place to enjoy some drinks.

Pure Michigan

Johnny Noodle King

Out with the old and in with the new. RIP Johnny Ham King. At least they paid homage to the former tenant and kept the building up, and after all it aint like it was Mike's. I decided to finally try this popular Corktown spot with the bridge to Canada overlooking it on the rec of a local writer for New City. He's also a freind and rec'd the tableside torched mackerel and I cant argue with that. The pieces basically melted in your mouth. All in all this place was solid enough that we went back on the same trip. The gyoza is great as is the bacon fried rice and daily bao bun selection, get the ham if they have it. The broth in the ramen was a bit mellow but the porkbelly was cooked perfectly.

Tableside Torched Mackerel

Char Siu Bun

Housemade Pork Gyoza

Bacon Fried Rice

Shoyu Ramen

Selden Standard

Last but not least is my favorite "new" place to eat in the D. I'm not sharing any secret with this one as it's probably 1000's of others favorite spot to eat in town too. It's been named restaurant of the year and been reviewed by every local publication and had handfuls of national reviews. Selden Standard is a seasonal shared plate experience where many of the dishes are made on their wood roasting grill.

Sitting at the grill bar

My recent birthday weekend meal here will no doubt make my year end best list. I thought everything we ate could've qualified as the best thing I've ate lately. If it sounds good to you, then you'll probably enjoy it. These guys are killing it, food and drink.

Charred Octopus - Fennel, citrus, olive, saffron

Sweet Pea Agnolotti - Garlic scapes, almond, brown butter

Smoked Lamb Ribs - Garlic scapes, yogurt, lemon

Strawberry Rhubarb Sundae - Salt & pepper ice cream, shortbread

Cafe 78 at MOCAD
4454 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 832-6622

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails
15 E Kirby St
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 818-3915

Wright & Co.
1500 Woodward Ave Second Floor
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 962-7711

Two James Spirits
2445 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48184
(313) 964-4800

2015 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 265-3684

Gold Cash Gold
2100 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 242-0770

Johnny Noodle King
2601 W Fort St
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 309-7946

Selden Standard
3921 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 438-5055

Friday, July 24, 2015

Breaded Cheeseburgers, Coneys, & Spanish Dogs in Indiana

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Indiana's Odd Regional Eats

I was in the middle of Indiana last year and stopped into a local fast food place I had been to before. The purpose of the stop was a quick soft drink but it turned into more when I glanced over the menu. I saw a breaded cheeseburger on there and decided it was time to try one.

Breaded Cheeseburger at Penguin Point Drive-In

First impressions? These might do well in Bridgeport. The patty itself tasted like a breaded steak minus the sauce. Everything else about it was similar to a breaded steak as far as texture and likability factor and I don't write a sports column for USA Today, so I wouldn't be the one and only person in America who thinks the breaded steak is the best sandwich in the country. I also don't think the breaded cheeseburger is anywhere near the best style of burger out there. Though I felt the need to try another to be ever so sure.

 Columbia City, IN

I said I'd make it back. The Nook is your typical Coney Island Hot Dog restaurant and if it seems like I say that every time I post about a Coney shop it's because they're all pretty much the same style with views like those seen below.

a peek inside

Dogs and a pot of Coney Sauce on the flattop

I chatted with the waitress at the counter and I cant quite remember what year she told me they had been open since but I believe it was in the 70's. I guess at some point after that many of the Coney Shops across across the country started closing down so it's always nice to find one still going strong. They serve a respectable version with the sauce being the standout. Not as wet as a Detroit style Coney though not as dry as those from Flint. Somewhere in between with the spicing combination found in most other offerings. Coney stands outside of Michigan most always use cheap wieners.

Coney Dog

This visit was in the Fall so chili was available and since it's a totally different recipe than the Coney sauce, as it should be, I decided to try a bowl of that as well. This was a very thin version with some hunks of tomatoes inside with minimal traces of ground beef. Very soup like.

Bowl of Chili

Then there's the breaded cheeseburger which I also had to try to see what if anything was different about the one here than the one tried at Penguin Point the day before. The answer? Nothing, except better placed toppings. Turns out these are a popular snack in the area due to a regional butcher shop that freezes and then packages them for restaurants and the public to purchase. I'm not sure who's responsible for their creation but there's little doubt that whoever started the trend did so in the idea of a cheeseburger mixed with a tenderloin.

Breaded Cheeseburger

The Insides

Sometimes I'll put 'no highways' in my GPS when headed home from elsewhere and with it I get to roll thru some random towns and maybe come across a random spot. In this area of Indiana there's still a ton of B&K Drive In restaurants. According to Wikipedia the first one was founded in Michigan City in the 1940's and at one point they neared 250 locations. The ones that are left today are all independently owned and operated giving each one it's own character as far as looks and feel. The menu at most are the same with the longtime signatures of the establishment being the homemade root beer and Spanish Dogs. The latter being a type of hot dog sauce, different than the Coney style, that I guess originated with the first B&K. If you google around there's a couple blog posts recollecting this regional eat and even a few copycat recipes. Unfortunately all of the B&K's I passed by had closed for the season but I still snapped some photos of some of them as it seemed each town in the area had one. FYI this is the part of the state about 2.5 hours southeast of Chicago and right in-between Lafayette and Fort Wayne.

B&K Root Beer Stands across Middle Indiana

Though I didn't get to try one from a B&K the Spanish Dog seems to have spread out to other establishments in the area. There's still lots of Drive In's in Middle America and plenty of them are in these parts. One popped up in the form of Mr. Weenie in Peru and I popped in.

Peru, IN

"A classic drive-in with a gigantic grinning hot dog for a mascot. From his stand on the soaring highway sign, the friendly frank--dressed in a bowler hat and bowtie, holding the words "Mr. Weenie,"--has lured diners since the '60s. Local and long distance dog lovers pull up to the covered drive, where they're met by a carhop and a choice of 12 different types of weenie, from the standard plain pork version to the Chicago beef dog with mustard, relish, onions, pickles, tomatoes, and hot peppers." - Indianapolis Monthly

The Menu at Mr. Weenie

A quick glance at the menu and you don't have to look hard to spy a Spanish Dog on offer. It's the second one listed which means it must be popular. Also on there is a breaded cheeseburger which I'm good on forever. Don't expect this thread to reach Burgers of Wisconsin status. Just one Spanish Dog for me, for documentation sake and to see what they're all about. Upon trying one I felt like I had eaten one before and it's possible I have in the form of Jaenicke’s Root Beer Stand in Kankakee. Maybe they started off as a B&K? Or maybe there's a different connection or maybe what they call a Red Hot in those parts is called a Spanish Dog in these parts. Who knows but you probably had to have grown up on these tomato tasting cheap wiener treats to really love them but I'll stop into a B&K next time I'm driving by and enjoy one with a frosty glass of root beer. See ya next time.

Spanish Dog at Mr. Weenie

Penguin Point

The Nook
223 W Van Buren St
Columbia City, IN 46725
(260) 248-8700

Mr. Weenie Drive In Restaurant
600 N Broadway
Peru, IN 46970
(765) 473-6564


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