Monday, September 28, 2009

A couple of NW Indiana Burger Gems

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Indiana

Even though I grew up in the late 80's & 90's I've always had a fascination with Drive-In's like that of someone who came from the 50's or 60's. Not only are the structure and layout along with the great signs they boast reasons they attract me but obviously its the food too. I also happen to be captivated by Northwest Indiana as a whole. Its a place I love to ride around and explore and imagine what this once bustling metropolis used to be like in its prime.

If this site interests you along with going to the places (mainly food) that survived time then your like me. The kid Seth Thomas aka "dev null" really had a passion for it and I enjoyed his pictures and stories.

Old Post Card from an old Drive-In-Highland, IN (Pic from:

When Highland was once in its prime it was a place that boasted many Drive-In's. So much so that I count at least eight from a post on this topic over at LTHforum. Many of the buildings that survived boast the Mid-Century modern style of architecture. The days of what I described above are long gone but a few of these old school burger joints including, Johnsen's Blue Top Drive-In, have survived and remain a must stop if in the area or cruising on Highway 80/94. It rests on a busy stretch of Indianapolis Blvd, about two miles south of the interstate. Its almost impossible to miss the real deal Drive-In sign.

What a Sign! I cant help but stop when I see one like this

This amazing Picture above is by Peter Engler (ReneG) posted at LTHforum

I pulled in on a quiet Monday afternoon

Its pretty obvious to see that Highland, IN was once a burger destination back in the day. I cant imagine how many drive-In and burger joints there were but you get the idea from the ones which have survived in this town of around 25,000 located in NW Indiana that the number is quite a few. If your heading into Indiana for any Fall roadtrip with your family and friends or partner then I would suggest stopping at Blue Top or if your even in the mood for a quick day trip Highland is about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago. On my first and so far only visit I had a very pleasant experience. I went there thinking that they would serve a 30's style thin patty burger but instead they offer big burgers and they let you know it on the menu. More on who "their burgers" are later in this post. On top of a Drive-in they also have an indoor area with plenty of memorabilia from the old Rt30 Speedway.

Hey, who hasn't been on youtube? that list is more impressive

Johnsen's Blue Top Drive-In Burger Choices

There was an interesting selection of burgers when I looked at the menu, obviously a burger is what I was going with. What really caught my eye though were the prices. It seems to me like a deluxe meal price of over ten bucks is a little high for a burger drive In in NW Indiana. They do include fries, soft drink and a scoop of sherbet or ice cream, which seems to be a old school trend of the areas burger shacks, but still its a steep price for lunch in that area. They also offer smaller sizes of each of their burgers. I had to pass on the signature Big Ben double cheese and instead went with a "Highlander" while my buddy ordered a ranch burger. The Ranch came on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon and ranch dressing. It was quite enjoyed by my buddy and as you can see below its a big burger and they do a good job in prepping them.

Johnsen's Blue Top Ranch Burger

Ranch Burger comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon and ranch dressing

My burger was much better than I expected it to be. I didn't think it would suck. I just wasn't sure it would be any good. In some mentions of the place it says the food is ok but the atmosphere on a busy night and the old school decor were the real reasons to go. I like it enough that I would easily go back just for it. The addition of a nice crisped burger patty to a well made BLT was perfect. The bacon was crispy and the bread was toasted to perfection. Unless your stopping for your burger at the local McDonald's or Burger King you wont find any pre made frozen patties at these spots. Fresh butchered ground beef cooked to order is what your going to get when you order a burger. Its because of this I found it to be more than acceptable.

Johnsen's Blue Top "Highlander" burger

The Highlander comes with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo on toasted bread

If I'm having a good old fashioned burger than this is about as far as I want to go as far as creativity and it worked real well. Its a club sandwich with a meat patty instead of turkey. In a time where everyone is in a rush to make some crazy burger by putting everything on it or some fancy burger where they put stuff you've never heard of on it, Highland is filled with a couple joints that haven't changed a thing in forever. I would highly recommend a stop at Blue Top if your in the area or passing thru. At least check it out and have one of their much talked about malt's. Now I'll show you why its worth a day trip from Chicago up to this stretch of Indianapolis blvd if your a burger guy like I am. There just so happens to be another old school burger joint just down the road from Blue Top.

Miner Dunn Hamburger's (Highland, IN)

Since 1932: Lit up at night (Pic from

When you leave the parking lot at Johnsen's if you swing a left onto Indianapolis you'll end up at the once thriving burger chain called Miner Dunn Hamburgers. I think a poster from LTHforum put it best when talking about Miner Dunn and Johnsen's Blue-Top "Places like this, and Johnsen's Blue Top just up the road, are gems if only for their nostalgia factor. But, in the case of Miner-Dunn (I haven't been to Johnsen's yet), the burgers are good, too. Not the beefy, dripping rare steakhouse burgers we get in Chicago, but precious in their own right." If your from an older generation and come from the Chicagoland area you might even remember Miner Dunn and their hamburgers and signs that were once prevalent in the Chicagoland region. The MD burger and its logo have been around over 70 years since the first one opened on Calumet ave in Hammond, Indiana. I'm almost certain this location in Highland is the only one that still exists.

The menu boasts...Its not "Dunn Right" unless its a "Dunn Deal"

Miner Dunn is just another great example of a place that doesn't change anything (as long as the menu is good) is one that can last thru time. Nothing has changed here, its old and most of the people eating there are old too but there's also plenty of HS kids and families as well. The burgers served here are the same as always and also my go to style. The term "30's style" burger was coined by Mike Gebert and its the way burgers were made before they became big behemoth monsters thanks to the fast food joints and such. Its a thin patty with cheese if you want and mustard, onions, pickles and ketchup if you like it, I'm not five y/o so I don't. I like just the first three ingredients on mine. It should be served in a regular old bun and placed in butcher paper and wrapped up to get a little steam action. Nothing has changed about the way MD makes theirs and they are exactly as described by me. One thing that's a little different is they also include relish on theirs. Again, not my style, but I tried it since its their way and always has been. You get an order of really good fries and a small orange sherbet with a meal deal.

The fries at Miner Dunn are some of my favorite anywhere

Miner also happens to be the place that (I think so anyway) Johnsen's is calling out when they talk about the size of the burger. I enjoy this style very much and I must say that because of this I like MD better. In fact on what was still my only visit I was so impressed that MD could easily make the list of my favorites in the country. If anything just for the fact you can feel like your back in the times when the once thriving burger joint was a favorite of the area. However I wouldn't send someone to a food joint because the decor and atmosphere are great. The burger is the bomb and I've been thru a few in the last year. Check it out sometime soon. Before you know it treasures like these two will be extinct across the country.

Miner Dunn's cheeseburger meal is classic Americana

Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In
8801 Indianapolis Blvd
Highland, IN 46322-1553
(219) 838-1233

Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In on Urbanspoon

Miner-Dunn Hamburgers
8940 Indianapolis Blvd
Highland, IN 46322
(219) 923-3311

Miner-Dunn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Apple Haus

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-With Fall comes the Apple harvest

Ah yes the football season is underway and the leaves are falling and there is a crisp bite to the air and with all of that we know that Fall is here. I happen to be born in July so I'll always be a summer lover but Fall is right behind summer as far as my favorite time of the year. I love the hoodie weather and the food that comes with it leading up to winter. The only thing good about the cold to me is the food that makes it comforting. But before we get into winter lets get back to Fall because its here and that means so is the apple harvest.

As someone who loves to ride and explore, Fall is a great time to cruise around and see whats out there especially in the Midwest where the trees turn yellow and gold and the apples are abundant. I had never been to the historic little village of Long Grove, Illinois until yesterday when the food gods smiled down on me. I had to go to Schaumburg to do a work related thing and as luck would have it Long Grove and the Apple Haus weren't too far away. I love historic villages and walking through them and Long Grove was a cool little spot where you could feel the history. Here are some photos of the village.

What's that you ask?

Long Grove is beautiful especially the historic part with a few sections of shops and food stops and a bunch of old houses and buildings built way back when people first started settling there. The original schoolhouse still stands and is now a confectionery company. Along with many boutiques and ladylike shops is a treasure that the people in the area know all about. The Apple Haus is located in the square and is a shop specializing guessed it-apple goods. I got the recommendation to try this place out from a post I made on LTH asking about where to get all the good stuff that comes with an apple harvest. You know the pies, donuts, cider and cakes.

Make this your first and last stop when touring Long Grove

So when you approach the store the first thing that gets you is the amazing aroma outside the shop. The smell from the fresh fried cider donuts would have Homer Simpson in eternal bliss. That's what I felt, at first I thought someplace in the area was frying up some amazing chicken or something of that sort. It wasn't until I entered the store that I put two and two together that I realized the wonderful smell was coming from the cider donuts being fried.

#1 for a reason-one bite and you'll know why

One thing I knew I would be leaving with were those donuts and so I did a quick browse of the store and checked out what else they had to offer. What did they have? how about everything you can make with apples and then some. Jam's, jelly's, butter, fresh baked breads and so many other baked goods including from what I hear, the best apple pie in Chicagoland. Luck wasn't with me, since it was the afternoon they had no more pie's but I told them I will be back for my pie very soon. I'm not big on pie but I love apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I know, who doesn't? I told the friendly staff that I would like a dozen cider donuts, a gallon of house brewed cider and since I'm a sucker for slushies that I wanted an apple slushie too.

Apple Haus makes a pretty cider and at $7.95 a gallon a good deal

The Apple Slushie was very appley and very good

But what about the donuts? Oh yes the apple cider donuts. The fried delight that makes a guy like me who rarely even eats donuts go crazy for them. Since I've never been big on chocolate I always liked my treats fruit based or to have something fruity rather than chocolaty. Well one of my secrets, along with ADD and always moving around, to not expanding into Kevin Federline form is that I stay away from the donuts and treats like ice cream and cake and it helps that I don't have much of a sweet tooth. But what really helps? The fact that I live nowhere near this spectacular little apple shop that makes one of the best treats in Chicagoland. Even as someone who doesn't eat alot of them I know that these are good and you will have no reservations about checking them out and grabbing a couple dozen next time your in the vicinity of Long Grove.

I hope you guys brought some for you cause these are for me

Dude stop drooling and growling, you sound like Homer Simpson

If you need a reason to get out to Long grove other than its near Ikea or something to do the 1st wkd of October then I got one for you. Long grove will be hosting its annual apple festival from Oct.2-4, 2009. "Many visitors remark about the memories they have of the charming village of Long Grove. Whether it is the excitement of a festival, a unique shopping find, lazy summer days, or traditional Christmas cheer you will be sure to create your own Long Grove memories." the website will tell you. Now I will say that aside from the Apple Haus there wasn't a shop I wanted to go into.

The only other store that I might of hit up

If your girl has been bugging you about doing something fun or taking her somewhere then I suggest a drive to Long Grove to enjoy a crisp fall day. Just remember to "forget" your credit card and don't bring too much cash. There's a bunch of girlie shops that sell candles and dresses for your dogs and boutiques and such. Since shes sure to drag you in and out of them it could be smart to not have any cash. Don't worry, it'll all be worth it for a couple of cider donuts and she might even give it up later that night. The romantic charm of the village will do that to ladies.

Covered car at a time please

Apple Haus of Long Grove
230 Robert Parker Coffin Rd
Long Grove, IL 60047-9539
(847) 634-0730


Apple Fest (Oct 2-4 2009) info

Apple Haus of Long Grove on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My favorite Burrito in Chicago

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

I suppose I should of changed the topic from today's post to "eating like a drunken frat boy in the Windy City" We all know that the taco is the authentic dish of choice. The burrito just might be the King of drunken late night eats here in the good old USA. If your town doesn't have a late night burrito shack then you must not have many bars. The popular late nite burritos in California-especially San Diego- are stuffed with carne asada, cheese, sour cream and french fries. In fact burritos are big all around California and pretty much any college town. Some of these places try to lure customers by making "burritos as big as your head" and as noted above by throwing anything and everything in them. Personally I'm not big on burritos and Chicago in general is more of a taco town as opposed to the people of Cali who love their burritos. There is one spot however that if I pass by I have a hard time not picking up a burrito from and this is even when I'm sober. As featured here in the taco segment, el gallo bravo #5 also does up an amazing burrito and is the only spot I ever order a burrito over tacos at.

Steak Tacos were already scored in the carne asada cat.

While the steak at el gallo bravo inst char grilled over flames like I insist it be, it is my favorite steak that isn't prepared this way. I normally wouldn't order steak unless its real chopped up carne asada but EGB does a real nice job of chopping their steak into real small pieces and then letting it get crunchy while cooking on the flattop. So because of their technique in prepping it they avoid pieces of steak that taste steamed rather than grilled or griddled. Its by no means my favorite taco joint in the area but it is where I go when I'm feeling like a burrito done up my way.

steak burrito from EGB

If I'm in the mood for a American-Mexican then I want my burrito filled with steak, rice, cheese, onions and cilantro along with slices of avocado. Its my version of a West Coast style Mexican dish, not quite as authentic as the real stuff but still really good especially if you want to get filled up. Its a massive size and the cooks dont skimp on the meat and always crisp up the outside tortilla to perfection. I dont like their green sauce but the roja salsa is very good and a perfect compliment to this particular burrito. El Gallo bravo serves up a tasty burrito that can even get a die hard taco fan like myself to try one every now and then. Don't lets its presence in a strip mall scare you off. Its a pretty good option in an area where there isnt many.

My favorite in the city

El Gallo Bravo #5
1429 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613-1348
(773) 404-5358

Monday, September 21, 2009


-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the Depaul students eat.

If you have lived in the Depaul section of Lincoln Park at anytime since 1977 then today's post is going to be very familiar. When I think of a true mom and pop, all in the family run type joint, Branko's is the best example that I know of. Its been like this since Mama and Papa Branko first opened their doors to the Depaul students and neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Its a spot I've been going to since I was 7, 8 years old and nothing has changed. While the neighborhood has seen drastic change Branko's has remained the same. Upon your entry you are greeted by the same photo's of Papa Branko and the 20 foot submarines along with plenty of pics of Coach Ray Meyer and Vienna Beef posters and other photos from thru the years too.

When I was growing up it was mainly run by the older couple and their two daughters would often help. While the couple is still there most of the time, one of the two daughters (the other doesn't work there anymore) has taken over the random acts of kindness and she is as sweet as she ever was. You'll know its her when you get a "hiya honey, what can I get for a you today" She's basically watched me grow, although some would argue that's just in height, weight and age-not maturity.

a Depaul university/Lincoln Park staple

Its too bad the Depaul basketball program and idiot school president don't know anything about consistency and dedication like Branko's does. I suggest to the fools who hire coaches at the school to do everything they can to bring in a home town Chicago born and rasied coach Craig Robinson. I think getting him and doing whatever you can to get him here would be the best thing the program did since Ray Mayer recruited George Mikan. It would be instant exposure and get the schools name back in the news and create a buzz in the sports world. How are you going to have the best high school basketball talent in the country, right in your own backyard, play in the Big East conference and not be able to make something of it? They need to look into opening a stadium near campus, How about where the A. Finkl & Sons metal plant is right now after they move out? Now back to the food. Is there anything more blue collar Chicago than the original Pizza Puff? You can expect a story on this signature Chicago fast food and its history at a later date.

Are your pizza puffs Iltaco? You bet they are at Branko's

The menu at Branko's is your usual Chicago fast food fare. Popular items include the Hot dogs, hamburgers, gyros and Italian beefs. However everyone has something they like at Branko's and since I use to go there up to 5 times a week as a kid I've been through it all. During my youth I used to order a beef 8 out of 1o times when I was there to eat. If I was stopping in for a snack after school I always got a gravy bread and a cheese fries. In fact the reason that Gravy Bread is on the menu is because of me. I ordered it so much back in the day they eventually put it on the menu. I also want to congratulate the whole family on the shops recent induction into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame. The HOF plaque now rests on the wall with the other photos that have been there forever.

Double Cheese with fries is a great deal for $5 and change and way better than McD's

Branko's famous chicken sandwich is the Depaulia's favorite

Grilled Chix Sub-same great marinated chix breast patty on a French Bun

What makes a place like Branko's so good is the wonderful warm hearted service. When you put that with quality fast food at a reasonable price you can see why they are the newest inductee into the Vienna Beef HOF. In a city where burger and dog joints are abundant you wont find any that will cut you some slack if your a little short on cash. "Oh don't worry about honey, I know you, next time you get me back" Its been thirty two years of this type of service and good quality fast food fare at reasonable price. Its easy to see why its a neighborhood favorite of locals, students, construction and just about anyone who's ever been to Branko's has most likely been back. Now there's a reason for that.

Gyros Sub (gyro meat with lettuce, tomato, onions, tsatsiki sauce and seasoning)

Branko's has something for everyone

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Branko's Sandwich Shop
1118 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 472-4873

Branko's on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Late Night Thai

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the Hipsters eat.

Its not too often you find a food spot who's hours are 9p-5a. Its pretty obvious that Late Night Thai was aiming to serve the drunks and shade balls of Chicago when they opened up over a year ago. Located in the Lakeview neighborhood on Belmont it is located in the spot that used to occupy the legend that is River Kwai II. Just like RKII its idea is to offer the clubbers and night hounds something other than hot dogs, pizza and Mexican food into the early hours of the morning. While I am no Thai expert I know enough of it too say that this place wont be anyone's favorite Thai joint in a city with some good ones, but it might be your favorite spot for food after 3am.

Hours are 9pm to 5am

I've been over to LNT a few times since its opening and have had something different each time. The first thing that I noticed was kind of weird was the fact its pretty well lit inside and that can be annoying after a night of partying. The food however does come out fast and it a BYOB so why not bring a few cold ones and sip them down while eating some Thai food in between bar stops. Now I will say that the best part of my visits weren't the food but the little girl who's family runs it. She's maybe 3 or 4 years old and is probably the cutest little kid I've ever seen and so friendly. Its worth stopping in just if shes there's but that was over summer and I'm sure shes not going to be there at night this winter. Here are a few of the items I've tried.


^These were your typical frozen stickers but they were fried nicely and can be appetizing at 3:30a after a few too many John Daley's.

Chicken Pad Thai

^The Pad Thai is not their strongest dish. I know you might be thinking then what do they do good? Well I'm not a frequent eater of Pad Thai I didn't like this version very much compared to other places around town. I would also suggest going with beef or shrimp when making your choice. I didn't find the chicken good and wouldn't get it again.

Crazy Beef Lard Nar

^I love me some stir fried wide rice noodles and anything spicy. While this dish was listed as spicy I didn't find any heat to it whatsoever. I thought it was also just ok and have had better versions at many other joints...but not after 2am.

Late Night Fried Rice

^On my most recent trip there a few months back I finally found my go-to item. Should I ever make it back there in the wee hours of the a.m then the Late Night fried rice with shrimp, peas, carrots, corn and green beans all in a special sauce will be my choice again. Was it the best fried rice dish I have ever had? nope. It was however pretty satisfying and something I would order again if I'm in the area or have a fried rice craving that hits me after midnight.

I checked out Yelp! and like usual its about half and half as far as satisfaction reviews. I tend to agree with the people who like it for what it is, a late night Thai joint in an area where there isn't anything else open too late.

Late Night Thai
1650 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 327-9945

Late Night Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jimmy's Place

--Got Beef? Italian Beef
as seen on 'What's Your Beef?'

Its a special month for the people of Arlington Height's and the lifelong patrons of Jimmy's Place. Its this September that Jimmy's celebrates its 50th anniversary. The only way to describe Jimmy's place located on Northwest Highway in the Northwest suburbs is a world class grease dive. I actually got to try Jimmy's for the 1st time ever last week and just loved it. Stepping into this bar/fast food joint is like stepping back in time because nothing has changed. Upon your entry you are greeted by a dark room with a bar with a some regulars drinking and some old TV's showing the games and there's also tables for food patrons. On the walls are a bunch of Jimmy'd memorabilia and newspaper clippings from thru the years highlighting their excellent hot dogs and Italian beefs. Its been all in the family for three generations now.

Everything is old School over there

On top of all that, its been the same bartender and food prep people going on 30+ years so when I say nothing has changed I mean it in every sense. Same atmosphere, same beer, same people, same food. Same as it ever was or so I'm told anyways and I can see why. We were greeted by the lady who had been there 30+ and she was very alive if you know what I mean. I did the ordering so my buddy said he "was fine" when she asked what he needed. Lets just say she told him that she was just fine too. It was all in good fun because obviously they knew we were new. It was really easy to feel that this was a classic Chicago hot dog and beef kind of joint. The dogs are served up somewhat Chicago style minus the poppy seed bun and were a real winner if your in the area and craving yourself a hot dog. Guess what? for the month of September they will be rolling back the prices on the hot digs to the price when they first opened.

Jimmy's Place always gets love when best dog in Chicago is discussed

The hot dog was very good but it was the beef that I came here for. Its very rare that I just randomly drive by a beef joint that's been open for fifty years and I've never been to it let alone heard of it. So it was a special day and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I guess I wasn't expecting all that much because I was shocked at the old school taste of Jimmy's Italian beef. It reminded me of the beefs i used to eat as a kid from the places that are long gone. I especially liked the gravy which was seasoned very well and took me back to a time when everyone made their own beef and didn't order it pre-sliced from one of the many distributors of it these days. It really tasted like a beef I hadn't had in over ten years. The meat was tender and the peppers were average and served on the side even when ordering a beef with hot. So that was its only blemish and I would give it my signature of approval any day of the week should you be in the Arlington Height's area near Jimmy's Place.

beef with hot from Jimmy's Place

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 4
hot peppers: 3

Score: 15/20

Jimmy's Place
640 W Northwest Hwy
Arlington Hts, IL 60004
(847) 398-9783

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bears vs Packers Grilling Battle & Tube Fest

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)
with 2009 NFL Preview

Is it Sunday night yet? leave it to the NFL to get it right and open their 2009 Primetime Sunday Night football on NBC season with the Bears vs the Packers. When Jay Cutler was traded to da Chicago Bears on 4/3/09 I think everyone can still remember where they were. I was having lunch with some popo over at Freddy's Pizza in Cicero and I didn't believe it despite the fact it was being reported on the Score and ESPN radio stations every other second. It wasn't until I saw the press conference that it totally sunk in. It was shortly after that, the NFL put the Bears on display in Primetime night games a total of five times this season. You can forget about the Sexy Rexy's, Henry Burriss', Craig Krenzel's, Jonathon Quinn's, Rick Mirer's, Chad Hutchinson's, Kordell Stewart's and goodbye to the Moses Morenos of the world! You don't need to remember Cade McNown anymore. Now that you know what a real QB is, don't ever say Jim Miller was alright. I don't remember a buzz greater than the one Jay has brought to the city since #23 who happens to be getting his dues later today when he goes into the NBA Hall of Fame, could you see that one coming? If Jay gets his way, which he usually does, he'll be a first ballot into Canton, Ohio when his time comes and have a few rings of his own to wear for the occasion.

The NFL's best selling jersey since the trade was made

Now as far as the upcoming season goes its a tough call on the NFC North. The old black and blue division has turned into an aerial assault camp but here is what the others are saying. Sports Illustrated has the Bears winning the NFC North in the NFL season preview issue (with Aaron Rodgers on the cover) However they also moved Green Bay from 16 to 3 in their NFL power rankings because of the teams preseason performance. What? b/c of how they played in the preseason they moved up thirteen slots? sounds like crazy talk to me putting the Packers as the 3rd best team in the NFL. It seems like everyone has jumped off old man Favre's bandwagon despite the fact the Vikings have a better team overall than the Packers by my estimations and have added Percy Harvin to the mix on special teams along with #4 as QB. The way I see it is the Bears, Packers and Vikings will all split their games against each other and sweep the Lions. This leaves all three teams at 4-2 with ten games to decide the division. While I have Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre (yep the old guy) on my short list of MVP picks, I don't see the Packers being better than da Bears or Vikings but I do see 2 of the 3 teams going into the playoffs and the Vikings winning the division easily. I like the Chargers over the Steelers in the AFC Championship and the Saints over the Vikings in the NFC. So for Super Bowl XLIV I have the Chargers over the Saints. I pick it like this because everyone else has New England or Pittsburgh winning it all but it never goes the way its supposed to in the NFL and that's why its so great.

Its time to check the engine and fill up the tank on the Old Halas Hauler and head up North.


Next on Sunday Night football.

Tailgating Recipes and Ideas

If your not going to the game then there's only one thing to do leading up to this exciting week one matchup-drink and grill. I have a few suggestions on what can be done to make it a very successful extravaganza.

1st up- Get over to the Vienna Beef Factory store on Damen ave in Chicago to load up on Hot Dogs and Polish's. The Vienna beef all beef natural casing hot dogs are the best in the world and you can also grab buns and all your "new" Chicago style topping needs. If your a minimalist man then you can also grab the hot peppers you'll need.

Isn't it safe to say...legends are made this way?

2nd thing to do-If you can head over the border and into Kenosha to grab some groceries from Woodman's and meats and other delights from the area then I highly recommend you do. On top of all the other spots I'll give you at the end of this and have given you the past year on this site I would strongly urge you to get over to Lake Geneva Country Meats in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The heavily over populated vacation destination actually has a spot worth going to and its about 15 minutes up the road opposite way of Kenosha off I-94 from the main Kenosha exit-so its not even downtown.

Stop at this guys joint en route to Country meats for a pie and other goodies

Although I had passed by country meats many of times they were always closed since it was later in the day. I made it a point to get over there and pick up some of their award winning meats along with great canned goods and deli salads, twice stuffed potato's with 'sconsin cheese smoked meats, bacon etc... You know all the good stuff. I also made sure to grab some of their world famous brats which I had heard much about. Well the brats were some of the best I have ever had from the state which means they are best in country thus far on my search.

Worth the drive for some of their Brats

If your headed to green bay for the game then this little 30 minute detour (there and back to the highway) is well worth it. Make sure to pick up some brats for your grill if your going to be doing some tailgating. Even if your not headed to the game then I would still head across the border and pick these up for your Sunday night football party.

Absolute Stunners

If your going to head to Country Meats then there's no reason to not stop in at River Valley Ranch and grab some of the world famous five cheese garlic spread but also some fresh mushrooms for burgers, stuffing them or whatever.

River Valley Ranch Mushroom Farm in Burlington, WI

Five cheese garlic spread is also available around Chicagoland

Chicago Style Dogs and Wisconsin Brats

I started by using the five cheese garlic spread and stuffing some white mushrooms from RVR with half of the spread and half bread crumbs and put those aside for the grill.

Before the grill

after the grill...ready to eat

The only thing I did different than normal was I just soaked the Country Meat brats in beer and onions. After about a 45 minute bath I threw them and some Vienna dogs on the grill and the only thing missing from this was NFL football. Luckily that is now a part of our fall grilling days.

Ready to go

Bears vs. Packers...Hot Dogs vs. Brats

of course if were doing Chicago style we do the original Chicago style too

Do not forget to grill up some Bill Swerski Polish Sausages as well. Click the link below the pic for more on them and other tubed meats.

Bill Swerski Polish with Recipe

Of course if your having both Bears and Packers fans over for the Sunday night game then we can all agree that we like Char Cheddar Bacon Dogs loaded with grilled onions. Click the link below the pic for more on them and other tubed meats.

Char Cheddar Bacon Cheese Dogs with Recipe

Going to Green Bay for the game? Then you might want to stop at one of the famous stops in Wisconsin along 43 en route to Milwaukee and Green Bay. You can pick up all your tailgating needs at both the Brat Stop and Mars Cheese Castle. I would say the Brat Stop is better for brats and drinks at the bar for lunch while Mars is better to pick up cheeses, beer and other fun food things for tailgating. Make sure to get a loaf of their famous cheddar bread, its da bomb.

Kenosha's Brat Stop is known world wide

as is Mar's Cheese castle located not too far down also in Kenosha

Brat Stop has the best brats in the state that are made to order

Mar's has a good brat but not quite up to par with the BS's but this is WI, its good

Then of course there is the legend that is Bobby Nelson and his cheese and sausage country store. Its here where you want to stop for all your bacon and beef jerky needs and of course they got cheese too. Its just a small little store compared to the other two but its filled to the walls up and down with encased and smoked meats. Bobby isn't around anymore but I can promise y'all a detailed report of him, his shop that lives on and that oh so chronic bacon they slang later on in the year. In the meantime stop in for yourself and you'll see whats up.

A Bacon Driving Destination

Other Possible Foods Stops en route to Green Bay


Sarkis (grease food)
Captain Porky's (fried shrimp & BBQ)


Franks Diner (classic American diner)
Oliver's Bakery (donuts and kringle)
Kewpee's (classic burger joint)
Big Star Drive In (burgers and drive in foods)
Fred's Bar (Burgers)
McBob's (corned beef and fish fry)
Zaffiro's (tavern style pizza)
Kopp's (burgers & custard)
Koppa's (deli sandwiches)
Jack Pandl's (German)
Charcoal Inn (Brats and WI tavern steak sandwiches)

Country Meats
5907 State Road 50 east
Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Vienna Beef Factory Store & Café
2501 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL
open til 4p weekday's-3p wkd's

Mar's Cheese Castle
2800 120th Ave
Kenosha, WI 53144-7599
(262) 859-2244

Brat Stop Entertainment
12304 75th St
Kenosha, WI 53142-7323
(262) 857-2011

Bobby Nelson's Cheese Shop
2924 120th Ave
Kenosha, WI 53144-7531
(262) 859-2232


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