Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eddie's Steak Shed (Granger, IN)

12685 Adams Rd, Granger, IN 46530-9641, T: 574-277-1076

Normally, I don't include steakhouses in my pig out spots, but the way A. and I went to town at Eddie's Steak Shed in Granger, Indiana, deserves full inclusion. That said, Eddie's is a great steakhouse, not a grease hut, and can be enjoyed to pig out as well as to dine in atmosphere.

As soon as you enter Eddie's you see the meats, just like Argentinian restaurants in Europe. However, the menu features also various other dishes, such as chicken, fish, and seafood. We went for the Michiana's Original Sirloin For Two, a 32+ oz steak which comes with salad or soup and your choice of potato. We went for salads and fries. Moreover, we had it blackened (+$1.75). The end result was a meat bonanza! The salad was basic and fresh, the fries decent, but the steak was amazingly tender, juicy, and tasty. I would rate it among the best steak I had in the US (and I ate at places like Ruth Chris, Bones in Atlanta, and St Elmo's in Indy).

VERDICT: 94/100
Eddie Steak Shed is a little treasure in the middle of Michiana. The steak is fantastic and the prices are unbelievable. Our whole meal. which included two sodas, came to $37,41, including taxes! Go there!!!

CJ's Pub (South Bend, IN)

417 N Michigan St, South Bend, IN 46601, T: 574-233-5981

When I asked a colleague with local roots where you could get the best burgers in South Bend, he unhesitatingly answered: CJ's Pub. I went there about a month ago and was very happy, so I decided to return and bring a(nother) colleague (A.) and my camera. Both from outside and inside CJ's doesn't look like much, but the food fully compensates for it.

CJ's has a huge variety of 10 oz (!) burgers, but on top of that you can by and large make whatever combination you want. We ordered a "jumbo basket" of waffle fries ($4.75) while we pondered the endless combinations of burger we could make. In the end, I decided upon the Bubba: 10 oz burger, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and spicy BBQ sauce (at $7.50). Then I added jalapenos ($0.75) and Canadian bacon ($1.75). Incidentally, the picture is A.'s burger (I forgot the combination and name).

VERDICT: 93/100
Let's start with the waffle fries, which were perfectly fried and very crispy. You really have to be careful not to eat them all, as the burger deserves your full attention (and most of your stomach). The burger itself is very tasty and huge, while the bacon is crisp, the sauce tasty and spicy. Hands down the best burgers in South Bend, if not the whole of Michiana.

Coney Island (Detroit, MI)

Lafayette Coney Island, 118 W. Lafayette St, Detroit, MI 48226, T: 313-964-8198
American Coney Island, 114 W. Lafayette St, Detroit, MI 48226, T: 586-219-0995

One of the most famous pig out spot rivalries is between two hot dog places in Detroit, Michigan. I heard about it on my favorite pig out show, Man v Food, presented by Adam Richman. The American Coney Island was founded in 1929 by a Greek immigrant, while Lafayette Coney Island was founded a couple of years later by a relative. For decades the two shops have divided Detroit over who has the best coney island hot dog. Where Adam didn't dare to proclaim a winner, my friend A. and me are less diplomatic.

We first went to Lafayette, which was quite small and very crowded. The crowd was fairly mixed although predominantly white (and that in downtown Detroit!). Clearly Lafayette is a favorite pre-game stop for Red Wings fans, as there were many in the shop. The menu is very limited: hot dogs, fries, and only a couple of other things.

We went for a Coney Island ($2.35) each and shared a fries ($1.90). The fresh sausage came on a fresh steamed bun and with a very tasty chili, hot mustard, and fresh onions. As good as chili dogs come. The fries, on the other hand, were unremarkable.

We paid and went next door, to American Coney Island, which was much larger, but almost completely empty. Maybe as a consequence of that, the staff was much more relaxed. Unlike Lafayette, American has a much larger menu, including Greek specialties and donuts.

We went for exactly the same, but this time we were given two Coney Islands each (the prices per hot dog were exactly the same). The bun and sausage were less fresh and the chili had much less taste. On top of that, the mustard was almost tasteless. The fries, on the other hand, were crispier.

VERDICTS: 89/100 and 80/100
A. and I had no doubt on who served the better Coney Island: Lafayette! Everything about the hot dog was better and we both wish we would have had two there, instead of at American. That said, any real fast foodie would check it out for her/himself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tom's Fritten (Berlin, Germany)

Tom's Fritten, Oranienburger Strasse (corner Auguststrasse), Berlin

Whenever I see a stand with fries, I have to sample them. It's a Dutch thing. In any case, In Germany they think the best fries come from the Netherlands and thus market them as such (interestingly, in the Netherlands they think the best fries come from Belgium, which is true). Tom's Fritten is a stand in an alternative part of Berlin-Mitte, which almost exclusively sells fries and a huge variety of sauces (including the classic mayo and ketchup, the unlikely avacado and guacamole, and the unique jalapeno mayo).

I order a small fries (2 euro) with German mayo (20 cents). I should have gone for Dutch mayo (20 cents extra), which isn't that good, but better than the oily mayo the Germans eat. Anyway, I'm happy I didn't go for the large fries (3 euro), as they taste pretty bad; fat and salty, as if they are baked, rather than fried.

VERDICT: 59/100
If you are looking for good fries in Berlin, Tom's Fritten will unfortunately not provide them. In fact, I prefer McDonalds fries over these.

Curry Point (Berlin, Germany)

Curry Point, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin-Mitte (Near U-Bahn Oranienburger Tor)

Currywurst is (allegedly) a Berlin invention, so as soon as I arrived in Berlin, I looked for a real Imbiss in search for the real thing. In my area, as in most other places in Germany, it is easier to find a kebab place than a regular sausage stand, but after a bit of walking I stumble upon what looks like the real deal.

A semi-alcoholic guy runs the stand, which offers little else than traditional German sausages and meats (Wurst, Schnitzel, Frikadelle). I order a currywurst, which comes with bread and is cheap (1.80 euro). However, they deep fry the sausage (rather than fry it)!!! Consequently, the sausage is tasteless, while the bread is reheated. The curry sauce is decent though.

VERDICT: 55/100
Although the Currywurst was cheap, and the sauce tasty, the overall deal is very poor. So, avoid this place, you can do much better pretty much everywhere in Berlin!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zante's Fast Food & Submarines (Hammond, IN)

3619 169th St, Hammond, IN 46323, T: 219-844-0222

Zante's is a greasy diner/family restaurant in Hammond, Indiana, just south of Chicago. It offers pretty much anything a non-licensed cook can prepare. It seems to claim Greek roots, but I'm not certain about that.

I had a Chicago dog, which comes with fries (at $3.29). The sausage was quite tiny, but I love the spicy peppers. The fries were pretty decent too. Who knows, their gyros might actually be good (will have to sample next time).

VERDICT: 80/100
Zante's offer decent food for very decent prices.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gene and Jude’s (River Grove, IL)

2720 River Road, River Grove, IL 60171, T: 708-452-7634

Gene and Jude’s Red Hot Stand is a grease spot in a suburb of Chicago, housed in an old run-down shack at a parking lot. Allegedly, it sells more Vienna dogs than any other place in the country. Then again, it sells only hot dogs, fries, and… tamales (don’t ask).

I had a double dog with fries for the 1950s price of $2.55. The hot dog comes with two sausages, onions, mustard and small spicy peppers, while the fries are heaped onto the dog. The hot dog tastes great, the sausages are very snappy, while the fries are almost of Belgian quality! Hmmm, if only they had the mayonnaise.

VERDICT: 97/100
In terms of hot dogs and fries, you can hardly get better than this. Although it is out of the way, do stop by whenever you are in the Chicago area!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvey's (Windsor, Canada)

3095 Dougall Ave, Windsor, ON N9E 1S3, T: 519-972-4862

Harvey's is the prime Canadian-owned burger chain with 286 locations in Canada (which makes it only the fourth biggest burger chain in Canada). I had actually had my first Harvey's experience in Prague, Czech Republic, somewhere in the mid-1990s (they closed it not much later). Harvey's is known for its fresh-grilled burgers and for the fact that it let's you choose which condiments you want on them.

I went for the Double Original Hamburger (added bacon), "frings" (a combo of fries and onion rings), and a soda for a toal of $ 8.78 (Canadian). The burger was thick and juicy, but missed that extra taste. The fries and onion rings were ok, nothing more, nothing less.

VERDICT: 77/100
Harvey's is a very decent burger chain, somewhere in between the cheap (McDonalds and Burger King) and the expensive ones (Carl Jr.). Definitely worth a try when you are up in Canada.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

POP Burger (New York, NY)

14 58th St, New York, NY, T: 212-991-6644
(60 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011-4901, T: 212-414-8686)

POP Burger is probably the trendiest burger place you'll ever find. In 2005 I stumbled upon the original POP Burger by accident. It is in the Meatpacking District, close to the West Village, but I was never able to find it again (I also forgot the name). Recently, I found the second location, equally trendy, though in upper Manhattan.

The famous POP Burgers come by the two for $6.75: they are small and simple, but also thick and juicy. We also ordered the Invisible Burger ($8.75), a huge vegetarian burger made of perfectly seasoned and fried portobella mushrooms. M. still raves about it! In addition, we had a side of french fries, which were also battered and crunchy (bit like the BK fries). I am not a big fan of battered fries, but M really liked them.

VERDICT: 93/100
POP Burger is a must visit in New York. Open till late, it provides fantastic little burgers and other snacks. And if you are a vegetarian, you won't easily find a better veggie burger then here. In fact, M. gave them a 99, near perfect!

Food Cart (Toronto, Canada)

Front St W, Toronto, Canada (in front of the Convention Centre)

Unfortunately, I have forgotten the name of this food cart, which is right next to the Dog 'n Roll. In fact, it is also owned by Hungarians, and carries the same menu and deals: burgers, sausages, and hot dogs, separate or as combos.

I (again) went for a burger combo at 5 bucks Canadian. Compared to the Dog 'n Roll, the fries were less tasty, but the burger was better. The condiments were roughly the same, though this cart had mayo.

VERDICT: 84/100
Another good foo cart, but without any truly amazing item. The fries were tasty, but not as tasty as Dog 'n Roll, whereas the burger was better, but not great.

Alexandros (Toronto, Canada)

5 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2H1, Canada‎, T: 416-367-0633
(there are 3 other location in downtown Toronto)

Getting back to my hotel around 1.30 AM, Alexandros was one of the places still open. It lis a small gyros joint that looks like a bunker.

I went for a pita gyros, which costs $6 (Canadian), not particularly cheap. The pita was nice and thick, covered with thick pieces of spiced meat, tomato, and tzatziki sauce. Although the meat was tasty, it was too dry and of inferior quality. Still, at least it was not the usual greasy tasteless gyros you get in most places in the US.

VERDICT: 68/100
Alexandros is a good place to get a heavy dose of grease when you are on a bender. If you are just after a tasty gyros, I would probably look further.

Dog 'n Roll (Toronto, Canada)

Front St W, Toronto, Canada (in front of the Convention Centre)

Fast foodies will love Toronto, as the city center is full of food carts that offer food greasy food for a good price. On Front Street, the carts seem to be owned by Hungarians. Most carts offer fairly similar food: burgers, sausages, hot dogs, fries.

I had a burger combo, i.e. a burger, fries and a can of soda for 5 bucks Canadian. The burger was made of pretty inferior meat, but I liked the choice of condiments, particularly the very spicy peppers. However, the big surprise were the fries: they were awesome! Thick cut fresh potatos, crisply fried... if only they had Belgian mayonnaise.

VERDICT: 87/100
Dog 'n Roll is a food cart as I like them... greasy and tasty! Next time I would probably go for the sausage, but the one thing I won't change are the fries. Yum!

Big Boy (Davison, MI)

9497 Lapeer Rd, Davison, MI 48423-1754, T: 810-653-3359

Big Boy is a chain of roughly 455 old-school diners in the US and Canada. It does breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is pretty standard, if a bit more elaborate than most diners, including a salad bar.

I went for the Super Bad Boy combination, i.e. with fries and slaw. The fries are crunchy, while the slaw is fresh but tasteless. The burger is juicy, but the meat is chewy. Also, it comes with only lettuce and some kind of 1000 island sauce on it.

VERDICT: 76/100
The Big Boy chain is quintessentially American, but as such decent but unremarkable.

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!