Sunday, July 17, 2011

Duke's Drive-In (Bridgeview, IL)

8115 S Harlem Street, Bridgeview, IL, T: 708-599-0576

Duke's Drive-In looks as if it has been around since the 1920s. but was 'only' opened (by Duke himself) in 1975. It is famous for its Italian Beef sandwich and its old car show -- particularly in the weekends. We visited on a hot summer Saturday, just before a Chicago Fire game.

I ordered an Italian Beef sandwich ($4.65) and a Chili Dog with Fries ($3.25). The beef is cooked, trimmed and sliced (very thin) every day. It is piled on a fresh hoagie and then dipped in au jus. The result is the most tender and tasty beef sandwich I ever had. Ask for some peppers and gardinera for an extra kick! The chili dog included a thin snappy sausage, a huge load of very tomato-y chili, and a huge pickle on a soft bun. Not the best chili dog ever, but very tasty. The fires were thin and crispy; kind of McDonalds style.

VERDICT: 91/100
Duke's should be visited for its outstanding Italian Beef sandwiches (and amazing old cars). The rest of the food is good, but not as remarkable as the beef (and cars).

Ugarit Mediterranean Meals (Portland, OR)

SW 10th Ave & Alder St, Portland, OR, T: 503-327-4664

Ugarit Mediterranean Meals is one of the most beautiful food carts in Portland, as a busy crossroads of the northern part of downtown. It is run by a very nice old(er) man, who I assume comes from either Turkey or the Balkans. He serves classic Balkan/Middle Eastern foods, most notable gyros sandwiches.

I ordered a Halal Lamb Gyros ($7), which was quite sizable. Unfortunately, the bread tasted old, the lam was dry and had a stale taste, while the tzatziki tasted simply gross. I really wanted to like it, but threw it away after two (difficult) bites.

VERDICT: 30/100
I am willing to accept that I just had a one-off bad experience, but given the large choice of food carts in Portland, including various gyros/shawarma places, I doubt I will ever go back to Ugarit.

Flavour Spot (Portland, OR)

SW 3rd Ave & Ash St, Portland, OR 97204.

Flavour Spot is the self-acclaimed "home of the Dutch taco: America's waffle sandwich." They have three carts in the Portland area. I went to the little red cart in the old town, just between (the new) Voodoo Doughnut and Stumptown Coffee.

Flavour Spot sells coffee and many different types of 7" waffles. My favorite is the no.1: sausage and maple. It consists of two thick and spicy pork patties in a soggy waffle smeared with organic maple spread. The end result: heaven!

VERDICT: 93/100
Flavour Spot offers the perfect brunch sandwich/waffle. Only this waffle could survive the competition of Voodoo Doughnut's maple bacon bar.

Brunch Box (Portland, OR)

SW 5th Ave & Stark St, Portland, OR 97204, T: 503-477-3286

Brunch Box is situated on a square with many other food carts. It specializes in burgers, but also has some breakfast buns.

I got the Burgermeister: two all beef patties, grilled onions, lettuce and pickles, smothered in 1000 island dressing on a three-piece bun. The end result looks like a Big Mac and tastes only a bit better. The patties are thin and a bit dry, while the sauce is fairly tasteless.

VERDICT: 79/100
A decent burger, but not worth $7, definitely not coming from a food cart.

Marathon Taverna (Portland, OR)

1735 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, T: 503-224-1341

Marathon Taverna has a couple of signs up: "Food Cocktails Lottery" and "Sport Bar and Grill." The latter describes this odd place better, though doesn't capture it all. It is a dark seedy but huge bar with many tvs and various pool billiards. Before Timbers games it caters to the soccer fans, but normally the crowd is more local and, uhm, less affluent. They are attracted by low prices and long hours; it's open 7 days a week from 7 to 2:30 AM!

As they don't offer breakfasts on Timbers Game Days, we had to resort to burgers (poor us). My friend ordered Chili Burger ($7), an open faced burger with a 1/3lb patty with chili, cheese and diced onions. I had a Cross Country Burger ($7.50): 1/3lb patty, egg, bacon, ham, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickle, bun with mayo and burger sauce. Both burgers tasted quite good, even at 11 AM! I added (wrinkled) fries to my burger (+$2), which were very crispy.

The next morning I went back for the "Deuces:" 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, and 2 slices of toast (white, wheat or sourdough). I also got a 12oz OJ ($2). It wasn't the best breakfast ever, but it is sure as hell was the best breakfast for $4 ever!

VERDICT: 85/100
The Marathon Taverna is the perfectly eatery for Timbers fan on a budget: tasty and cheap!

Zip's Cafe (Cincinnati, OH)

1036 Delta Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45208, T: 513-871-9876

Zip's Cafe is a Cincinnati institution, situated in the cute Mount Loukout area of the city. It is famous for its burgers, which it has been serving for over 80 years. Inside it is a dark, old-school German-style pub, with a train running all around the ceiling.

M. got a Zip Burger with cheese ($5.25), while I got a Girth Burger ($7.50), onion rings ($3.25), and a bowl of Zip's "famous" chili ($4). The chili was Cinci-style, a bit watery and tomato-y, but the slices of fresh jalapeno made it. The onion rings were very thick and freshly and thickly layered and fried crispy. The Girth Burger was a Zip Burger with a Mettwurst (sausage) split in two. Very tasty, although not amazing.

VERDICT: 89/100
Zip's Cafe is a unique and very cozy place, which serves distinct and tasty, if not amazing, burgers.

Bluegrass Brewing Company (Louisville, KY)

636 East Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1004, T: 502-584-2739

We stumbled upon this Bluegrass Brewing Company restaurant by accident, on a warm summer day. Turns out BBC has a couple of locations in the larger Louisville area and is highly regarded for its various home-brewed beers. My wife was appreciative of the beers too, which are actually brewed on location!

BBC has a large menu with mostly burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas. I ordered a Bison Burger ($11.99) with bacon ($0.75) and haystack onion straws ($0.50) and homemade chips. I also asked for some BBQ sauce and jalapenos, to give it some extra kick. The burger was grilled a bit too long, which made it dry; this could only partly be compensated by the tasty BBQ sauce. The chips were mixed: some were cold and soggy, others were warm and crispy.

VERDICT: 82/100
The burger was quite good, but not special (yet quite pricey). As others have argued, BBC is great for beers, decent for food.