Monday, August 15, 2022

Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining

-Grubbing in Chicago
Khmer Cooking in Rogers Park  

We're more than halfway through the calendar year but I expect a few places to open between now and the end of December that will be named among the years most exciting openings. But for now one of the spots that pops into my mind immediately is Khmai Fine Dining on Howard in Rogers Park. 

Recently Opened in Rogers Park 

Khmai is a Cambodian restaurant that's the latest offering from a mom and daughter duo who did catering and pop-ups before going brick & mortar. Cambodian cuisine is relatively rare in Chicago with the exception being the corner of Armitage and Kostner where Googoo's Table and Hermosa Restaurant reside. Outside of those spots, which come from the same family, this is the only other place to find Cambodian food in town. If you've never had it before it's a little different from the Southeast Asian flavors you may be used to in that it skews sweet with lots of citrus and sour. It's not as hot and spicy as other Southeast Asian cuisines but it's every bit as herbaceous. Chef Mona Sang cooks Khmer style dishes which refers specifically to the cuisine of the Khmer people. Rice is a popular ingredient as is beef so for starters I highly recommend the Sach Koh Ang which are steak skewers marinated in a Kreoung paste which is the Khmer word for the herb and spice pastes that make up the flavors of Khmer cooking. These are a leading candidate for the best thing I've ate this year. I tried them on my first visit and couldn't resist getting them again when I returned to try more. 

Cambodian Beef Skewers (Sach Koh Ang) at Khmai Fine Dining 

Khmai is the type of spot you want to visit with a group so you can try a few things. I was solo on both of my visits so I still need to try more of the menu because for now I find it hard to pass on those skewers. But I also opted for the Lort Cha (stir fried pin noodles) with ribeye on the rec of my waitress and I was happy with her call. Short and chewy rice noodles are stir fried with bean sprouts and two types of onion as well as a mix of liquids including fish sauce which is topped with chopped peanuts and a fried egg plus crispy garlic and a dollop of chili sauce. Khmer dipping sauce comes on the side, it's sweet but seems to work well with just about everything. I've never been to Cambodia but these are the flavors I remember from a visit to Cambodia Town in Long Beach. Happy to have them here. 

Lort Cha at Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining 

Khmai Fine Dining 
2043 W Howard St
Chicago, IL 60645
(312) 626-7710
Website

Friday, August 12, 2022

Captain Porky's

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)  
Roadfood in Lake County 

I typically don’t revisit spots that I’ve already posted about but this blog is more than a decade old and places change more than they stay the same so I thought today would be a good day to go back to a classic stop from the blogs early days. Back then Captain Porky’s was still housed on US 41. Back when I posted about this Lake County favorite it was an all out shack. Very similar to so many of the classic seafood stands you’ll find in the south. It was the type of spot that I sought out and still do to this day. As far as Roadfood in Illinois goes this is the type of place to be included in any guide. 

Locals Favorite in Lake County (Wadsworth)

Captain Porky’s moved to a larger spot since my last post and that’s why I thought it would be good to revisit. Space is no longer an issue as there’s plenty of seating in the new venue. Plus two large display cases showing off much of which is on the menu. One holds the wood smoked bbq while the other holds all of the days fresh seafood on offer. The smoked meats are above average but it’s the seafood, the fried shrimp specifically, that I continuously come back for. Extra large gulf shrimp come with a light and crackly batter that’s more reflective of the fried shrimp you’ll find in the Low Country than it is the stuff you’ll find in Chicago. All seafood is breaded and fried to order and they also do plates of freshly cooked fish with a Mediterranean vibe. The proprietor comes from Greece where he has a farm and makes an olive oil which they use on their Greek salad which is the perfect pairing with these end of summer days when tomatoes are peaking. There's many reasons to like this spot that makes for the perfect stop pre or post visit to Illinois Beach State Park just 15 mins east in Zion.

Fried Shrimp and Greek Salad at Captain Porky's 

Captain Porky's
38995 N, US Hwy 41
Wadsworth, IL 60083 
(847) 360-7460
Website

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Mother's Ruin

-Got Beef?
The Burgers of Chi (via NYC)

With the big money that backs restaurant groups these days it's common for popular spots in one city to open a location in another. One such example using Chicago is the opening of an Au Cheval in New York City. Well they recently sent us one back in the form of Mother's Ruin, a popular cocktail bar serving elevated bar food located in the Nolita neighborhood. The Chicago outpost is located on Milwaukee avenue in Avondale and it opened this summer to some seemingly welcoming crowds. 

Recently Opened in Avondale 

The vibe at Mother's Ruin is dive bar so maybe that's why they chose what seems to be a pretty random spot for a big shot cocktail bar from NYC. But judging by the crowds on my two visits it's location isn't deterring people from visiting. It's right on the edge of Logan which is home to lots of spots like it so there's plenty of potential customers for the all day bar and restaurant. As far as the drinks go they have about 10 signature cocktails one of which always comes from the slushy machine and a small beer and wine selection too. I've tried a few of those cocktails as well as the slushy and they're all pretty good. Meanwhile the food menu helps them to stay open all day as they do a daily brunch until 3p while also offering an all day menu from open to close. I was looking at the location in NYC when it was announced they were opening in Chicago and I was intrigued with their popular fish sandwich. That sandwich only lasted on the Chicago menu for a couple weeks as I was told it was tough for them to get a reliable supplier. But the bartender told me they were working on bringing it back as a special. Their double cheeseburger is also beloved so I ended up with one of them. 

Double Cheeseburger at Mothers Ruin Chicago 

NYC is known for having some of the best elevated burgers anywhere so there's lot's of competition when putting out a quality product. The burger at Mother's Ruin is a double cheeseburger similar in style to so many other trending burgers around town. Aged Cheddar, Shredded Lettuce, Onion, Pickles, and Secret Sauce give it some Big Mac Vibes as far as it's style goes. I thought it was very good and gave it a 7.5 when my friend asked me to score it on a 1-10 scale. That's basically a B on the report card and a B means it's very good. Not the best but definitely one I would return for. Although next time I might try their popular falafel burger or even the fried chicken sandwich which my friend said was an 8/10. Don't be too put off by the $18 pricetag as it comes with Old Bay waffle fries and is much bigger than your typical double cheese. Overall it's a fun vibe inside and I hope more spots start to open up around that area of Avondale which has been pretty quiet for a while now. 

Close-Up

Mother's Ruin 
2943 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Website

Monday, August 8, 2022

El Nandu

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Argentine aka Beef in Logan Square

The reason you don't see a ton of steakhouse posts on here is because I'm not a big fan of the modern day steakhouse. I have no problem paying the cost of one but I want more than just grilled meat and common sides at that price. Cooking a steak is something just about anyone with a lick of common kitchen sense can do. The other thing is I don't eat a ton of steak with the exception of carne asada tacos. But when I do have the taste for red meat I usually just cook it myself and I'm never not satisfied. But every now and then I'll head over to El Nandu on Fullerton in Logan Square where you can find one of my favorite steaks in town. It's an Argentinean joint so beef is front and center.  

Locals Favorite in Logan Square

Did you know the average Argentinian person consumes about 154 pounds of beef per year? They also eat a ton of empanadas and El Nandu makes some of the better Argentine empanadas in town. The Tucamana empanada is a style named after the Tucumán province in northwest Argentina. It's made with diced steak, green onions, and eggs and is a candidate for the best empanada in town. Part of what makes them so good are the sauces that accompany each meal. One is a classic chimichurri and the other is a spicy chimichurri that isn't particularly spicy but it does have a bit of kick. 

Empanadas at El Nandu 

There's close to ten options as far as the steak goes but I've never explored any of them past the Entraña which is a 14 oz skirt steak marinated with herbs and oil. It's a $30 steak that I actually think is well worth it when you're looking for some red meat served up at a restaurant. It comes with your choice of one side and even though the fries are the frozen kind I actually think this is maybe the only instance where they work better than fresh cut and that's because of the way they soak up the steak juices. The fries are fried crisp and parts of them stay that way while being heavily infused with the flavor of the steak. It really doesn't need any chimichurri but I still have to have a few bites with some bc it's a great combo. Not all skirt steak is equal as it’s sold in both inner and outer cuts with the latter being more tender and more expensive. Inner skirt steak works great as a taco filling but outer is what you want when you just want a piece of meat and maybe some sides and El Nandu is the spot for exactly that. Whether you just want a piece of steak for a quick weekday dinner or you’re looking for a spot to celebrate with live music into the night, El Nandu is the type of place that can offer both and either way the steak will always be great. 

The Entraña (skirt steak) at El Nandu

El Nandu
2731 W Fullerton Ave #3015
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 278-0900
Website

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

5 More Michigan Burgers

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- The Burgers of Michigan

Today's post is an ode to the burgers of Michigan that features a collection of five different spots that I've visited over the years. Michigan is a great burger state driven by it's strength in old school establishments like most of those featured below. Click HERE to see all my previous Michigan posts.
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Don's Drive-In (Traverse City)

I took a trip to the Roadfood rec’d Don's Drive-In last year on a trip to TC. It opened in 1958 making it a real deal 1950’s style drive-in. Car Hop service is still available as is takeout and dine-in. Burgers are made with fresh beef and there's three sizes to choose from. They’re cooked on a hot flattop that must have some great seasoning bc I thought this was a mighty fine drive-in style burger. From the friendly lady taking orders at the register, to Ritchie Valens playing on the speakers and the sound of sizzling burgers with shakes and malts being made in the open kitchen made the whole experience a blast from the past. Try the cherry shake made with real Michigan cherries to fully experience a visit to this Traverse City icon that sits across from the street from the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

Cheeseburger at Don's Drive-In
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Laura's Little Burger Joint (Decatur)

The Midwest has handfuls of seasonal burger shacks like this one in Van Buren County about 2.5 hours from Chicago. I visited Laura's Little Burger Joint five years ago but it's still going strong. It was once named the best burger in the state on the Michigan News Site MLive. I believe that's what shot it onto my radar. I always loved spots like this and Laura's was no exception. They make a classic Midwest smashed burger as well as the less classic Midwestern style gringo tacos with all the fixin's.

Cheeseburger and Taco at Laura's Little Burger Joint
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Zimmy's Tavern (Union)

You'll find Zimmy's Tavern in Cass County which is about two hours from Chicago and right above  the Indiana state line (20 mins south of Elkhart). It's a popular spot for cheeseburgers and booze and has been so since 1946. We visited towards the end of summer one year and sat on their back patio which was overlooking a big field. The beer was cold and the burgers were cheap but they were a bit slippery due to the tight patties they slightly overcooked. I tried the Western Michigan favorite, an olive burger, and it wasn't easy to eat due to a poor structure from the patty plus the olives and mayo that kept causing it to slide off with each bite. Nice bar and a decent burger but not worth a detour.

Cheeseburger and Olive Burger at Zimmy's Tavern
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Schlenker's Sandwich Shop (Jackson)

If you're ever driving to Detroit and want to stop for something to eat along the way there's a few iconic restaurants to check out in Jackson which is an hour and a half west of Detroit. My favorite of the bunch is Schlenker's Sandwich Shop which opened in 1927. It's a classic hamburger shack where the burgers are made the old fashioned way as they start out as a ball of beef before being smashed onto a hot flattop. A burger with “everything” includes a special sauce that's made of mustard, onion, relish and a secret seasoning. The concoction was invented by Bertha Schlenker who was one of the original owners. It seems to always be busy so expect a crowd no matter what time of the day it is.

Hamburger with Special Sauce at Schlenker's Sandwich Shop
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Travis Hamburgers (St. Clair Shores)

Pictured below is a trio of sliders and a chili cheese fries from a popular diner in St. Clair Shores, a suburb of Detroit. Ask anyone from the area what their favorite hamburger spot is and they’ll likely name an old school spot like this that makes sliders and that’s bc there’s handfuls of places that make these “sliders” which are fresh balls of beef that are lightly smashed and smaller in size than a McDonald's hamburger but bigger than a White Castle slider. They always come loaded with grilled onions and pickles. I did a round up of many a while back that you can find HERE. It's time to start giving Detroit style sliders the same respect as their pizza and Coney dogs. It's a great burger town.

Sliders and Chili Cheese Fries at Travis Coffee Shop
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See ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, August 1, 2022

Real Thai

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Real Thai Food in Belmont Heights

The Thai food in Chicago has always been better than most places. No it's not on the same level as Los Angeles which has a Thai Town neighborhood, or Las Vegas which boasts 100's of Thai restaurants of it's own. But you'll find some of the best Thai food outside of the West Coast right here in Chicago where there's an unusually high number of Thai restaurants compared to the local Thai population which is just around 10,000 people. In fact you can find Thai food in most small towns and there's a reason for that as you can read HERE. Back in 2002 the government of Thailand launched a gastrodiplomacy campaign that has done quite well in making dishes like Pad Thai available just about everywhere. But what separates the top Thai spots in Chicago from the rest of them are the ones that cater to the local Thai community. You can tell which places these are by simply looking at their menus as the ones catering to locals have a "secret Thai menu" that's typically not so secret, as in it's listed on the regular menu. That's the case at Real Thai which needs to be included among the city's best Thai restaurants. It's way out west on Irving Park but don't be fooled by it's location. 


Locals Favorite in Belmont Heights

For the most part the city's best Thai restaurants can be found on the North Side in neighborhoods like Lincoln Square where there seems to be one on every block and that extends into areas like Lincoln Park and Uptown. At first glance Real Thai looks like the typical Thai restaurant where you can score some Pad Thai and Spring Rolls and it's location would justify this as the demographics over here tend to be the type that likes that kind of stuff. But true to it's name Real Thai is serving up some real deal Thai food and judging by the customer base, America is ready for the good stuff. Over the span of three visits I've witnessed just about every group represented in Chicago's demographic breakdown. It's pretty clear that not only has the governments plan worked out but it's worked out really well in that people from all walks of life really seem to like Thai food. It's a global cuisine.


Hoi Tod

Real Thai has a decent sized menu and most of it is worth exploring. While it's tough to translate Thai food in terms of making it as good over here as it is over there, some stuff works better than others. One dish I haven't been able to find anything close to as good as it is in Thailand is the popular street food called Hoi Tod which is a mussel pancake of sorts. While Real Thai does one of the better ones I've tried Stateside it's not to the level of those I ate in Bangkok which I'm pretty sure are taken to another level due to the use of an extremely large amount of oil. A fried dish that Real Thai excels at is it's Pad Khee Mao. Their "Drunken Noodles" are the best I've ever had made so by the fact that they're offered extra crispy (fried) and also because you can choose pieces of fried fish as your protein of choice. This is quite simply my favorite noodle dish in Chicago right now and it could be for awhile. It hits all the notes one wants when it comes to real Thai food. Sweet, spicy, funky and so on.


Pad Kee Mao at Real Thai 

The aforementioned 'Secret Thai Menu' is just one of the sections on Real Thai's menu. There's some interesting dishes like grilled chitterlings which I don't think I'll be trying, at least not unless someone else orders them and offers me some. But other dishes like a bamboo shoot soup or the shrimp and corn salad seem like they'd be really good and according to most of the reviews they are. One of the items I can vouch or from the secret Thai section is the 'Three Flavored Deep Fried Fish' which I'm pretty sure is just a whole fried tilapia (judging by the $20 price). But it's what they put on the perfectly fried fish that makes it so great. The menu lists it as "homemade 3 flavors spicy sauce, dried chili, fried onion" and it brought me back to a whole fried fish I had in Koh Phangan and that's the pinnacle of Thai food in the States and most places outside of Thailand. When a dish can bring back memories of the food you ate in Thailand that's as close as you can get without going there.


Three Flavored Deep Fried Fish at Real Thai 

Real Thai
7419 W. Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60634
(773) 417-8432
Website

Friday, July 29, 2022

Cellar Door Provisions

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Hyper Seasonal Fare in Logan Square

One of Logan Squares best restaurants has reopened their outdoor patio. Cellar Door Provisions had been on and off since the pandemic but outdoor dining is back. The wine bar has beeb considered one of the city’s best neighborhood type spots since it’s opening and the introduction of a dinner service.  

Locals Favorite in Logan Square

Though there’s a menu online it’s not updated as much as the actual menu itself. Cellar Door takes full advantage of what’s local and what’s in season so the menu is switched up regularly. Now would be a good time to go as items like tomatoes are in season and on menu. A plate of them with golden plums and saffron was my favorite dish of a recent meal we enjoyed on the nicely decorated patio.

Tomato, Plum, Saffron

The bread at Cellar Door has a ton of fans and rightfully so. A nice chunk of warm porridge bread comes thickly sliced with a mouth watering butter as well as pickled vegetables available as an add on. The menu is small so we were able to try what equated to pretty much everything and my other favorite plate of the night was a piece of country bread served up with a whole sardine and a roasted green chile on top. This was something I might expect to be served in San Sebastian or somewhere. Other dishes weren’t as big of hits as the first couple but that might’ve been bc of personal preferences. A plate of Treviso and Buffalo Taleggio wasn’t to my liking (not the biggest cheese fan) while an order of mussels escabeche was refreshing but I prefer mussels served steaming hot. We ended the meal with an extra tart raspberry sorbet that had great texture from all the fresh raspberries mixed in. This was pretty much exactly what we wanted and we got it on what was a perfect summer night. Cellar Door is one of those spots that has the power to transport you somewhere mid-meal. What I like about places like Cellar Door Provisions is you can always count on something interesting coming out of their kitchen. Not everything is a home run but most of it is a hit.

Dinner at Cellar Door Provisions

Cellar Door Provisions
3025 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 697-8337
Website

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

AV Anthony's

-Grubbing in Chicago  
The Big Baby (A Southwest Side Favorite)

Today we take it back to the LTHforum days. Back to when Italian beef was relatively unknown outside of Chicago. Although Jay Leno always did his best to give it national recognition this was before the days of social media and the internet and online streaming sites like Hulu that allow users to watch a show like 'The Bear' whenever they want. I still haven't watched the show that's put Italian beef in the culinary spotlight but I've had a more than a few beefs since everyone started talking about them. With the shows release Italian beef is as well known as ever and along with hot dogs and pizza it makes up for what most people think of when Chicago food is discussed. But Chicago has as many culinary creations as anywhere and today we get reacquainted with one in the form of a Big Baby.

Locals Favorite in Clearing

According to Peter Engler (ReneG at LTHforum) the Big Baby was born back in the 1960s. First off lets discuss what it is: a double cheeseburger first introduced at Nicky's, a small Greek-owned diner near the city’s southwest side. It’s said that a Greek guy named Nicky opened that spot as well as a number of other hot dog and hamburger stands in the area. Eventually they were all sold but the stands that still bear his name (and the many offshoots) continue the Big Baby tradition. It’s a tradition that consists of two griddled beef patties with cheese in between plus ketchup, mustard and pickles on the bottom with grilled onions on top. All that on a sesame seed bun. You can find a good one at AV Anthony's near Midway but they’re very similar everywhere. They might not be much more than a standard double cheeseburger with grilled onions but they wouldn't taste the same made outside of Chicago. Part of that is the fact places like AV Anthony's are 100% Chicago and it wouldn't be a Big Baby if you're not eating it at one of the 100's of other spots just like it across the city.


Big Baby Cheeseburger at AV Anthony's 

AV Anthony's
4720 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 585-7180
Website

Monday, July 25, 2022

Honest Niles

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)  
Indian Fast Food (V) in Niles

I’ve found myself more interested in Vegetarian dishes of late. Not necessarily as a cuisine but I'm equally interested in the veggie and meat offerings when I’m dining out at a spot that does a seasonal menu. I’m not talking about the type of stuff that’s makes burgers and bacon vegetarian but rather the use of what’s in season cooked in a way that doesn’t need meat. If I’m going to eat Vegetarian I don’t want chili or a Reuben sandwich and such. I want something that makes actual vegetables and grains taste great and the region of South Asia and India in particular is really good at this. So I recently decided to try a popular mini chain called Honest that has a few Chicagoland locations including one in Niles right around the corner from the large Patel Brothers grocery store that anchors the lot.

Locals Favorite in Niles

As is typically the case with international spots like Honest it’s tough to find any info online about it’s history. But as you can see in the picture above it seems to be a brand from India that first started out as a street stand but I could be wrong. Judging by the crowds this place brings in on a Friday night I would venture to guess that Honest is a popular place with the local South Asian community. Despite the fact they were jam packed my order came out in timely fashion which was a bit of a surprise. I started off with the Bhaji Pav bc it’s their signature dish which consists of spiced vegetables and a potato mash served with soft buttered rolls plus raw onion. I’d never had this dish that traces it's origins to the textile workers of 1850’s Bombay. So I have no other versions to compare it too but I was satisfied with what we got. The vegetables and potatoes were all melded together to create a thick curry like sauce and the spicing was excellent, as was the toasted bread used for dipping. 

Bhaji Pav at Honest 

Honest offers up a handful of Indo-Chinese classics including Hakka Noodles which are a favorite of mine. It seems like everything here leans spicy bc we tried the original style, not the Szechuan, and they were still pretty spicy while also being exactly what I wanted in terms of a stir fried noodle dish, these were clearly cooked over a high heat. This was another dish that didn't need any meat. 

Hakka Noodles at Honest 

You won’t find it on the menu (at least I couldn’t for the life of me) but I asked the friendly lady behind the counter if they had Vada Pav and they do. The street food favorite from Mumbai has become one of my personal favorites that I plan on trying whenever I see it on offer. I’ve only had a few and have yet to try one that I didn’t like including this one which came with a roasted long pepper and a side of green chutney. It had minimal toppings compared to the ones in Mumbai I've seen on YouTube but it’s all about the crispy ball of fried mashed potatoes mixed with green chile in-between a soft and sturdy roll. An excellent snack and perfect as is. Find good Indian fast food at Honest.

Vada Pav at Honest in Niles

Honest Niles
8351 W Golf Rd Unit A
Niles, IL 60714 
(847) 594-4117

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

5 More Indiana Drive-Ins

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- The Drive-Ins of Indiana

Happy National Hot Dog Day! Today's post is a collection of Indiana drive-ins I've visited in the last few years. A couple of which are known for the hyper regional Spanish dog. You can check this previous report for a history on this Northern Indiana favorite that was made popular in the area by BK Root Beer. The now defunct drive-in chain was founded in Wabash in 1941 and at one time had more than 200 locations in Indiana and Ohio. The chain is long gone but plenty of independently owned BK’s still exist in Indiana. But why the name “Spanish Dog?” Well I’ve done some digging since that last post and some say the name was coined by one of the BK founders but then you can find recipes for Spanish Hamburgers predating BK as does a 1935 article traced back to The Morning Spotlight in Hastings Nebraska that mentions Spanish hot dogs being served following a Red Cross meeting. A year later an advertisement in the Kokomo Tribune announces their arrival in Indiana. So while it’s tough to say exactly how hot dogs topped with a Sloppy Joe like sauce became known as Spanish Dogs it’s easy to trace their popularity to parts of Indiana and Ohio too. Let’s check them out.

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Dick's Drive-In (Rochester)

Even though I'd been to Rochester many times growing up, as my aunt and uncle have a lakehouse there, I didn't make my first visit to Dick's Drive-In until adulthood. They're known for the previously discussed Spanish Dog. Dick’s was originally a BK Root Beer stand when it opened in 1957. They make the best Spanish Dog I’ve come across which is all about the tomato forward sauce that’s basically the same stuff used to make a Sloppy Joe (you can find recipes for Spanish dogs online). Just don't call these chili dogs or coneys bc they’re not the same according to those that love them. The tacos are actually the most popular item on the menu. They were introduced in 1958 when the owner switched it’s name to Dicks and put his wife’s tacos on the menu. They’re made with the same sauce used on the hot dogs which in my opinion works better with lettuce, cheese and the house hot sauce on a tortilla than it does on a hot dog. It’s possible this is the oldest spot serving tacos in Indiana. So while not “authentic” by most measures they’re most certainly iconic. Not just bc of the age of the place but also bc tacos like these are now are found at other drive-ins in the area.

Spanish Dog and a Taco at Dick's Drive-In
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Jamie's B&K Drive-In (Knox)

Here's an old B&K that kept the name, now called Jamie's B&K Drive-In, located in Starke County. Spanish dogs and root beer are the big draws here and they do a pretty zippy sauce that I found to be better than most others. That's the thing with these now independent BK's across Indiana, each spot has their own Spanish sauce recipe and so just like with chili sauce it differs from place to place. 

Spanish Dog at Jamie's B&K Drive-In
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The Original Root Beer Stand (Culver)

The town of Culver is located in Marshall County about two hours from Chicago. It sits on Lake Maxinkuckee and is home to Culver Academy which is a private boarding school that's been around for a long time. The Original Root Beer Stand is their other popular venue and it's got all the looks of a classic drive-in as it sits on the lake in a postcard setting. But the good things about this place kind of end there. I had a chili dog and a double cheeseburger and neither was worth finishing. 

Hot Dog and Hamburger from The Original Root Beer Drive-In
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Tastee Top Grill (Cedar Lake)

You can find this locally loved year round stand on the outskirts of Northwest Indiana. My visit was more than five years ago but recent reviews show it's still going strong. Judging by the name it's possible this was once a Tastee Freeze but there's not much info online about the Tastee Top. They offer most all of the usual stuff you'll find at a place like this including hot dogs and burgers. The Big Tastee is their signature offering and it's a double decker served up with mustard, onion, pickles. 

Big Tastee at Tastee Freeze
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The Port Drive-In (Chesterton)

The Port is a place I've visited a few times over the years. Another aunt and uncle of mine have a place in Dune Acres and Chesterton is the closest town to their spot so I've pulled into The Port a few times over the years while visiting them. It was an old B&K Root Beer like so many other Indiana drive-ins. While the name has changed the location has been serving hot dogs and root beer since 1953. The chili cheese dogs aren't bad but what I really like from here every few years is one of their namesake 'Port Dogs' which is a Chicago style hot dog plus lettuce, peppers, and cucumbers. It's a style that was once more prevalent in Chicago than it is these days but places like Byron's still put a similar set of toppings on their hot dogs. To me they bring back memories of my childhood. Even though I never went to The Port until later in life I ate hot dogs like this as a kid so I still enjoy one now and then. Bonus points for serving up their homemade root beer in a frosted glass mug.

Hot Dogs and Root Beer at The Port Drive-In
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Previous Post: The Drive-Ins of Indiana

See ya next time @chibbqking

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