Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ivanhoe Drive In (Upland, IN)

979 South Main Street, Upland, IN 46989-9131, T: 765-998-7261

I had been unlucky three times this hot Sunday afternoon to find a non-chain pig out spot before I found Ivanhoe Drive In, which was not just open, it was swamped. Though located in the tiny town of Upland, Indiana, there were roughly 100 people seated and lined up outside to get their hands on one (or more) of the 100 different shakes and sundaes Ivanhoe makes.

I ordered a Big Panther ($3.49) and a regular Bananaberry shake ($3.55). The Big Panther comes on a Wendy's bun with two well grilled and crispy patties, lettuce, thick slices of tomato and cucumber, and a 'special sauce' (normally it also comes with American cheese). VERY tasty! The Bananaberry is a fresh strawberry shake with chunks of banana... not too sweet and full of fresh fruit.

VERDICT: 92/100
While eating at Ivanhoe's I started to understand why 100+ people had descended upon this pig out spot in a small Indiana town. On a hot day, Ivanhoe provides hundreds of cool escapes. However, their burgers are worth the trip too. I'll certainly return this summer and might adjust the verdict (upward) after having tasted some sundaes.

Dutch Uncle Donuts (Coldwater, MI)

58 E Chicago St, Coldwater, MI 49036, T: 517-278-8965

Dutch Uncle Donuts is an old-school donut place in the quaint historic downtown of Coldwater, Michigan. As I drove up, it looked closed, but a woman was still there, cleaning the floor 'cause the boss lady said so'.

I ordered two donuts for $1.70 (total): one vanilla-chocolate glazed and one apple-crumble. They tasted as good, fresh regular donuts. Or, in the words of my wife, 'as Dunkin Donuts on a good day'. I wish I had also gotten an apple fritter.

VERDICT: 84/100
Honest, affordable donuts in an authentic setting. Not top, but beats Dunkin Donuts.

World Cup Grill (Pontiac, MI)

867 South Blvd, Pontiac, MI 48341, T: 248-648-7000 (inside Ultimate Soccer Arenas)

While attending a game between the Michigan Bucks and the Dayton Dutch Lions I stumbled upon such a good snack that I have to include it here. The World Soccer Grill is inside the Ultimate Soccer Arenas, a huge indoor soccer facility, open 7 days a week.

Starved at half time, I made my way to the World Cup Grill, which features mostly freshly made pizzas and sandwiches. I ordered "The Striker" ($5.99), three sliders with grilled onions and fries, and a soda ($1.75). The sliders were remarkably good; they came on toasted buns, with thin tasty burgers, and grilled onions. At the condiments stand ketchup, mustard and relish were available. The large portion of fries were crispy and tasty.

VERDICT: 86/100
There are few places were you can get such good stadium food as at the World Cup Grill in the Ultimate Soccer Arenas. In fact, the World Cup Grill is probably one of the better pig out places in Pontiac proper.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Christy's Hamburgers (Cottleville, MO)

3957 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, Cottleville, MO 63376, T: 636-926-2222

I had just seen a game of the St. Louis Lions, around the corner, where they had virtually nothing to eat, so my hungry eye fell on Christy's as I was getting ready for my 3.5 hour drive back. It had just opened and, as it turns out, is part of a new, and so far very modest, chain with two other restaurants in Columbus and Starkville, Mississippi. They seem 'inspired' by the Five Guys chain.

Christy's Hamburgers has a limited menu, based mostly on its Big Christy (1/2 lb) and Double Christy (1 lb) burgers. I ordered a Big Christy basket with spicy fries and a sod ($9.15). It was quite a lot of money, but when the burger arrived, I knew why. The Big Christy is a beast! The burger itself is thick and crunchy outside. And the great thing is, they have a 'fixings bar' where you can put whatever sauce and other condiments on it. I had already added fried onions and took mayo, bbq sauce, lettuce, and jalapenos from the fixings bar. The final results was close to perfect (I should not have gone for the fried onions and mayo). The spicy fries were crisp, but had too much coating for my liking.

VERDICT: 93/100
There is no doubt that Christy's makes "simply the best burgers around". Even in places with more variety on offer, I doubt Christy's would often loose a comparison. Its burgers are huge, crispy and juicy and you can top them with whatever you feel like. I wish I had a Christy's closer by.

Waka Dog (Mishawaka, IN)

114 Lincolnway E, Mishawaka, IN 46544, T: 574-252-4627

Wake Dog is a small place in downtown Mishawaka, Indiana -- they also have a small stand in from of the South Bend Court House during the summer. In addition to broad variety of hot dogs, including the 1/2 lb. Waka Dog, they have a broad range of typical snack bar items, ranging from burgers to chili fries and from onion rings to pork tenderloins.

I ordered a chili dog ($3.29), a Carolina pulled pork sandwich basket ($6.99), and a medium soft drink ($1.29). The chili dog was basic, though the bun wasn't steamed. The pulled pork sandwich looked gross. It was as if the meat was raw and rotten. That said, I did force myself to have a bite and it didn't taste bad. In fact, it was quite tender. I had several more bites and it was definitely tender, and the slaw added flavor. That said, there was no bbq sauce on it, nor available at the table. The fries were regular coated and crispy fried.

VERDICT: 78/100
I feel a bit conflicted, as the pulled pork sandwich didn't taste bad, it just looked gross. Still, presentation is also part of the eating experience. Overall, Waka Dog didn't impress.

Ft. Wayne's Famous Coney Dogs (Fort Wayne, IN)

Ft. Wayne's Famous Coney Dogs, 131 W Main St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802, T: 260-424-2997

I know what you are thinking... coney dogs in Fort Wayne, Indiana? Really? And famous ones at that? I shared your sepsis, but I was in Fort Wayne anyway, so I made a quick stop at Ft. Wayne's Famous Coney Dogs.

I ordered a coney dog ($1.25) and a cup of chili ($2.50). The coney dog came on a steamed bun with mustard, fresh onions, and meaty chili. It was ok, but far from remarkable. The chili was much more interesting: it was more a kind of meat sauce soup; no beans, no strong taste, but still intriguingly tasteful.

VERDICT: 82/100
Let me make this clear: Ft.Wayne's coney dogs might be famous in Fort Wayne and surroundings, it is not ,and will never be, anywhere else. It is a decent hot dog place with a unique chili, which shouldn't be tasty but it.

Initially I wrongly referred to this place as Dawson's Famous Coney Dogs.
Thanks to my readers for pointing out the mistake! My bad!