Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dog n Suds (Lafayette, IN)

601 Sagamore Pkwy S, Lafaette, Indiana 47905, T: 765-447-5457
(there are some 20 other locations in the Midwest - and 1 in AR)

Dog n Suds started in Champaign, Illinois, in 1953, and had some 600 (!) locations in 38 states and Canada n the mid 1970s! Nowadays they are back to some 20 locations in the Midwest. They are famous for their "coney dogs" and root beers. To be honest, I don't understand what attracts people to eating in their car... it is inconvenient and messy.

I ordered a Texas Burger basket and a strawberry shake (together just over $10). The burger is "made using two burger patties, 1 1/2 buns (One top, one middle, and one bottom), a slice of cheese on the top burger, lettuce and the Dog N Suds secret sauce on the middle bun, and Coney sauce on the bottom bun" (Wiki); I had it without cheese). It tasted ok, but overal a bit spongie. I would have preferred only the Coney sauce. The fries were uneventful, while the shake was big and sweet.

VERDICT: 72/100
Dog n Suds is a relic of the past, which might do great dogs and roots, but their burgers, fries and shakes are not exceptional.

Penguin Point (Elkhart, IN)

840 W Bristol St, Elkhart, Indiana, T: 574-264-5252
(there are 12 other locations in the North Indiana area)

Let's face it, who can resist a burger place with a penguin??? Well, clearly I couldn't, while driving through the desolate town of Elkhart, Indiana. Penguin Point is a local chain that sells chicken, burgers, and tenderloin.

I was very hungry, so I ordered a Super Wally value meal, which comes with a medium drink and medium fries ($6.09). A Super Wally is a kind of Big Mac (TM), but spongier and drenched in "Wally sauce" (a kind of salty, fatty BĂ©arnaise sauce). The wrinkle fries were barely warm and cardboard-like.

VERDICT: 45/100
Do look at the website of Penguin Point, enjoy their logo, but stay away from their food (unless you are really starving and can't find a McDonalds or any other fast food place around)!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Boogie Burger (Indianapolis, IN)

977 East Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, Indiana 46220, T: 317-225-2450

Tucked away in the hip Broad Ripple district of Indy, this small shack provides honest and original burgers for students and hipsters alike. While the inside is small, there is a terrace for the warmer days and nights. Boogie Burger might opened fairly recently, but seem to have big plans (given the "franchise info" button on their website - which, incidentally, only says "coming soon").

A bit overwhelmed by their choice, I go for something familiar, the Wild Wild West Burger ($6.50), which turns out to be their most popular. It comes with hickory smoked bacon, onion ring, bbq sauce and cheddar cheese (in addition to the regulars: lettuce, red onion, tomato). I also have a side of regular fries ($1.95), which come in only one size, but five varieties (incl. garlic and chili cheese). The burger is BIG and delicious, mostly because of the thick and juicy 1/3 pound patty and the juicy onion ring. The portion of fries is HUGE, enough for two hungry souls. They are thick and perfectly crispy.

VERDICT: 90/100
Boogie Burger is a very welcome addition to the fast food sector and one can only hope that their franchise system takes off. However, if you come, make sure to be very hungry or in a group, otheriwse you will be forced to throw out a lot of delicious fast food!

Frisch's Big Boy (Springfield, OH)

2201 E Main Street, Springfield, Ohio 45503, T: 937-325-5571
(there are various other restaurants in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky)

On my way to another pig out spot, I pass Frisch's Big Boy in Springfield, Ohio, and, intrigued, decide to eat there. It looks like an old-school diner with drive-thru, but is actually quite new. While the original Frisch's Big Boy started in Kentucky in 1946, it has more recently started various new restaurants, mostly in the Cincinnatti region. While it looks like an old-school diner, it seems to atract a lot of its clients because of its big salad bar (which actually looked very fresh).

Everything inside screams "chain" and "unauthentic" (except for the white trash clientele). As the "Super Big Boy" looks like the spitting image of a Big mac (TM ;-), I go for a pork tenderloin sandwich platter with two sides (I choose fries and onion rings) for $8.13. The onion rings taste like carton, while the fries are prefab and lukewarm. The tenderloin sandwich tastes mainly salty. Even the side of Frisch's tartar sauce, which they sell in their restaurants and in grocery stores, is heavily disappointing: fat and salty.

VERDICT: 25/100
This must have been some of the worst 'fast food' I ever ate. Maybe the salad bar is worth the visit, but the greasy dishes clearly are not. Stay away fast foodies!

Young's Drive In (Mount Vernon, OH)

206 Wooster Rd, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050, T: 740-392-3238

Young's Drive In is an old-school drive in in a small town in Ohio, which clearly hasn't invested much money in it's looks since opening in, I guess, the 1950s. Although it offers hot food too, -including burgers, hot dogs, and even shrimp - it seems to mainly sell ice cream, slushes, and shakes. Particularly on the hot summer day that I am there (92 degrees!).

While all the kids in front of me order slushes, I fear brain freeze and decide to go for an ice cream. I choose the Buckeye Classic, which turns out to be a kind of mocha ice cream with big chunks of chocolate. It tastes very sweet, not my style.

As I only had one cone of ice cream, I don't feel I should judge the place. It seems to a be a regular small-town ice cream shop with very sweet ice creams.

Hog Heaven (New Philadelphia, OH)

1290 West High Avenue, New Philadelphia, Ohio 4463, T: 330-308-8040
(there are 2 more restaurants, in Dover and Canton, both in Ohio)

Hog Heaven is an open flame bbq restaurant with three branches in Ohio. It caters (very successfully) to bikers; when I am there, on a warm Sunday afternoon, at least half of the roughly 50 people in the New Philadelphia restaurant are (40+ white) bikers.

As a starter, I order the "hog balls" ($4.99), pork meatballs in BBQ sauce, and a pulled pork sandwich with a side of coleslaw ($8.99). The balls are firm and have some spices in it, but the BBQ sauce is too sweet (almost like the Chinese sweet & sour sauce). Similarly, the pork is tender and the kaiser bun freshly toasted, but the sauce is too sweet for me. The slaw is fresh and creamy.

VERDICT: 86/100
Hog Heaven provides really good BBQ, but unfortunately only one, way too sweet, sauce. If they add at least one spicy BBQ sauce, I'll certainly come back.

Essie's Original Hot Dog Shop (Pittsburgh, PA)

3901 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, T: 412-621-1185

Essie's Original Hot Dog Shop, better known as The Original Hot Dog Shop, The O, and The Dirty O, is a true greasy pig out spot in the University of Pittsburgh area of the city. The shop actually counts three counters: one for pizza and booze, one for burgers and fries, and one for hot dogs and fries. On a Saturday evening, as I visit, it is busy with a colorful and diverse crowd.

I order an original hot dog with mustard and relish and small "O" fries, which makes it a combo with drinks for just $6.70. The hot dog is very tasty. Unlike the regular American sausages, which are fairly soft, this sausage is very crispy (like German sausages). The fries are thick and potato-ie, but get soggie fast. Still, they are tasty and addictive.

VERDICT: 86/100
Essie's Original Hot Dog Shop is a real inner city grease spot with good tasty food. Great for a night out at whatever hour!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Primanti Bros (Pittsburgh, PA)

46 18th Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, T: 412-263-2142
(there are 16 other restaurants, mostly in the Pittsburgh area but also 2 in Florida)

Primanti Bros is an institution in Pittsburgh; and, at least since Man vs Food, in the whole USA. It is famous for its huge sandwiches, which all come with cheese, coleslaw, and fries in them. I went to the original restaurant, in Pitssburgh's famous Strip, and was served by the one and only "Toni", who was much nicer than on tv (despite the madly shouting owner; or pretending boss).

I have a pastrami sandwich ($6.29), which looks BIG, but actually is much less heavy and filling than it looks. The main reason is that two-thirds of the sandwhich is bread... very fresh and airy white bread. The amount of meat is actually quite disappointing. I'm also not impressed by the taste of the allegedly famous fries. Overall, the sandwich tastes ok. I mostly enjoy the (Pittsburgh-style , i.e. no mayo) coleslaw.

VERDICT: 76/100
Primanti Bros doesn't necessarily provide anything particularly tasty, it just stuffs everything together in one sandwich. While it is an experience, at least the original store is, it is a bit confusing to me why this is so.

The Sandwich-Man (Harrisburg, PA)

111 N 2nd St Frnt, Harrisburg, PA, T: 717-236-7171

The Sandwich-Man is a sandwich shop in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which mainly seems to function as an excuse to drink booze. They have a broad selection of beers in the fridge, which you can only consume in the shop if you also buy a sandwich. As I enter, there is a short line of students and alcoholics, which moves very slowly.

I have a Reuben on Rye ($5.25) and a Hamburger ($3.25). It takes more then 10 minutes for them to prepare my sandwiches, and the Reuben first comes with cheese (although I had asked for one without cheese). The burger is drenched in mayo, but tastes quite good: like a good backyard-bbq burger. The Reuben sandwich is also very tasty and is covered with smooth corned beef.

VERDICT: 80/100
The Sandwich-Man offers good sandwiches, a remarkable choice of beers, and a very colorful mixed crowd.

Pat's King of Steaks (Philadelphia, PA)

1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA, T: 215-468-1546

Allegedly the inventor of the (Philly) cheesesteak, Pat's King of Steaks is as much a tourist attraction as a pig out spot (as is mortal competitor Geno's across the street). At one counter they sell the steak sandwiches, at the other the fries and drinks.

I went for a plain steak sandwich with fresh onion and added (at the condiment counter) some really hot peppers and some really hot sauce ($7). The sandwich was very fresh: great bread and tender steak. The taste was good, but not remarkable. The side of fries ($3) was unremarkable.

VERDICT: 75/100
Leaving aside the history and linked touristic value, Pat's is fairly expensive yet average quality cheesesteak place.