Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sticky Lips BBQ in Henrietta, NY

Sticky Lips BBQ Juke Joint ( ) in Henrietta, NY is, hands down, the tastiest BBQ I have ever eaten.  I know, a pretty bold statement, especially after my previous exclamations about Dinosaur BBQ in the same town.  The Juke Joint has a fun and frivolous atmosphere when you enter and the focus is all about the food.  There is even a substantial band stand that features local talent on select nights.  So it's not just a juke joint in name only!  Fast service, friendly smiles, knowledgeable staff and a huge menu are the order of the day. 

Starting with an order of Fried Green Tomatoes, they were perfectly browned and the accompanying tiger sauce gently spiced up the tomatoes.  This is the one dish where I give Dinosaur BBQ the edge due to their use of panko bread crumbs for a bit more tooth.  But the advantage is ever so slight.

Main course was the Billie Holiday as listed under the All American BBQ Combo section of the menu. This is the big combo so be ready to share and enjoy leftovers.  A heaping plate full of brisket, pulled pork, 1/4 slab of ribs and 1/4 chicken arrives with a heady, smokey aroma.  BBQ sauces are on the side so you can slather to taste.  Honey glazed corn bread is the standard accompaniment, along with a choice of two sides.  Make your choice and enjoy. 

The brisket was melt in your mouth beefy heaven while the pulled pork was tender, lean and smoky pink.  I'm still trying to figure our how the ribs stayed together since they were so tender.  And the chicken had a delightful smokiness.  Each meat was able to carry it's smokiness through slathering and sides without being overpowering.  Quite a feat considering how subtle and consistent it remained.

Sticky Lips BBQ is a serious 5/5 and well worth the stop if you at all close by.  Even better, get some BBQ from both Dinosaur and Sticky Lips and do your own comparison.  Just be ready to loosen your belt!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Weber Grill, Chicago, IL

Located just two blocks west of the Magnificent Mile on State Street (between Chicago and Grand) lies the Weber Grill.  Brought to you by the same folks who manufacture the incomparable Weber line of outdoor grills, the restaurant features an open kitchen that allows you to see the fire that will soon be preparing your meal.  Being open, the adjacent seating is a bit on the busy side, so if you're there for a more intimate occasion, request to be seated in the dining room proper. 

If it can be grilled, then the Weber Grill will indeed put the fire to it.  Most dishes feature "fire roasted", "wood fired", "seared" or plain old "grilled" in their monickers.  So far, after multiple visits, I have found you just cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.  A particular favorite is the beer can chicken.  As is the brisket, and the ribs and get the idea.  I can suggest the Starter Sampler to help your decision making.  Vegetarians are not left out either with plenty of  salad, starter, black bean burger or wood fired pizza offerings.  Just don't expect them to drool along with you over the sizzle of roasting meat. 

The last visit was at the lunch hour, and since strolling around the loop was the order of the day, something lighter was in order.  As tempting as the Beer Can chicken sandwich was, I decided to try something different.  So lighter that day meant the Farm Burger.  Kind of an odd name, but what's in a name?  In this case, it is a half pound, freshly ground, beef and lamb burger.  (Lamb - I told you it was a light meal.)  Topped with apple wood smoked bacon, oven roasted tomatoes and goat cheese.  As recommended by the waiter, I ordered it one level more rare and I suggest you do the same.  Trust me on this, and skip the condiments until after your first couple of bites.  You surely will not miss them.  And also opt for the house made potato chips.  They have just the right amount of crunch to accompany the burger. 

For taste and value in Chicago, definitely a 4.5 out of  5.

Bon Femme Cafe, Valparaiso, IN

Located on the north side of Valparaiso's downtown square, Bon Femme Cafe offers an exciting mix of menu items that can please a palate looking for a break from the usual.  Small yet thorough, the selections will satisfy the most discriminating.  Al fresco dining is a summer option as well and brings a bit of Euro flavor to the that side of the square.  Also, please dress appropriately for a fine cafe.  The quality of the food and decor demands it. 

Since we had already been to Redamak's earlier and sampled a variety of wine at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival, a light dinner was in order.  Skipping appetizers, we ordered the Granny Smith Apple Salad topped with filet mignon.  This features bibb lettuce, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, the aforementioned apples dressed with a white balsamic vinaigrette.  The sliced filet on top turned the salad into a full meal.  Accompanied by the house Reisling it was quite satisfying and refreshing.  I ordered the Spicy Curry Chicken.  Sauteed with dried cherries and apricots and served over basmati rice, it offered a subtle heat and outstanding curry flavor.  There's is plenty enough to share with this entree.  The accompanying pinot noir was robust enough to hold it's own against the curry.  Again, very glad we did not order an appetizer since we left feeling quite satisfied.  Desserts such as Bananas Foster were tempting, but there was still birthday cake waiting at home.

Easily a 5/5 for the food alone.  Look them up at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Redamak's in New Buffalo Michigan

Wandering up along the western shore of Lake Michigan's mitten runs you right past the pleasant beachfront town of New Buffalo. A sandy landscape and vintage attractions great visitors, and when you need a summer meal, Redamak's is waiting. But only from March to October.
Established in 1975 if I recall correctly, it features a fine, simple hamburger. Order a single, double or triple as your appetite commands and dress it up. There were other options on the menu, but I honestly cannot recall what they were. Stick with their "legendary" hamburger and you will not be disappointed. Properly cooked crinkle cut french fries in a serving big enough for two are a fine accompaniment. House made fries would really put everything over the top. And steer clear of the dull curly fries.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nicholson's Pub - Cincinnati, OH

Billing itself as Cincinnati's "first and finest gastropub", Nicholson's Pub was a great find in a fine city.  Located across the Street from the Aronoff Theater, Nicholson's specializes in the theater crowd.  They even offer preorder of intermission cocktails that will be at the ready at the show's breaks.  Especially notable are custom cocktail selections for each production.  The Addams Family happened to by playing and the choices were intriguing to say the least.

Drink decisions were made from the extensive selection of cocktails.  Multiple beer options from the other side of the pond accompanied a vast array of Scotch and Whiskey.  A thorough selection of wine is also presented.

We decided to skip appetizers and head straight into the mains.  A well presented arugula salad with apple, candied walnuts, herbed goat cheese, pickled red onion with bee pollen vinaigrette for the dancer.  Black pearly pork chop with bean cassoulet and pan jus for the soccer player.  Fish and chips for the parents. 

The salad was well received although maybe not exactly to taste.  The vinaigrette was not too sweet to counter the candied walnuts.  There was also a very generous portion of cheese included, enough to share!  Unfortunately they either forgot or ran out of apples.

The pork chop was greeted with some apprehension but promptly assaulted and devoured with barely a sample offered.  This goes for the bean cassoulet as well.  Ah, another convert to funny food names.

The fish and chips were a lightly breaded haddock perfectly fried.  House-made cole slaw accompanied and presented itself with a balanced acidity.  The highlight of this dish though is the duck-fat fries.  Also available as a bar snack they are a golden delight.  Served with house-made ketchup, I think they are at their best with malt vinegar.  Certainly not to be missed!

A good thing we skipped appetizers because dessert sounded to good to pass up. A good solid cup of coffee, which is getting harder to find.  The other selections were; Sticky Toffee Pudding with toffees sauce, cardamom and vanilla custard,  Warm Apple Cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream and Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme with seasonal fruit and olive oil whipped cream.  Each selection was superb.

Easily a 4.8 out of 5 and only 4 hours away.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Skyline Chili - Cincinnati, OH

A legend in the Cincinnati area, Skyline ( ) has multiple offerings that make full use of their unique style of chili.  Not a Chicago chili, meat chili, nor Texas hot chili, I detect cinnamon and chocolate flavors.   The two classic ways to indulge are either with spaghetti as a 5-way, 4-way or 3-way and as Coney dogs.

The 5-way spaghetti has a generous portion of spaghetti covered in the famous chili, diced onions, red beans and mounded with shredded mild cheddar.  The 3 or 4 way deletes items at your discretion.

My favorite is the Cheese Coney.  A short hot dog on a steamed bun is the carrier for mustard, diced onion, chili and a heap of shredded mild cheddar.  Why it's called a Coney is beyond me, but it is damn tasty!!

If anyone knows of a location closer than Indianapolis, please tell me!

Wendy's - Multiple locations

I think the venerable Wendy's has struck gold in the fast food world.  Real meat in the burgers, along with fresh non-shredded toppings, $0.99 menu and the new fries make me think of the Jersey boardwalk.  I'm a convert.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Perlo's Italian Grill, Rochester NY

A tasty neighborhood treat located in East Rochester, NY, Perlo's is only ten years old but feels like it is much older.  And in this case that's a good thing. Walking in, the staff greets you like long lost family, and indeed many of the patrons are on a first name basis there.  The bar was occupied by a relaxed and chatty group enjoying an evening cocktail.  It's a very welcoming establishment.

But down to the business at hand.  Famished after traveling from Chicago, an appetizer was in order.  Highly recommended, the Arancini de Riso is a fun and tasty treat.  You receive three risotto rice balls with prosciutto, peas and mozzarella topped with the house marinara.  All homemade here folks, you can taste the freshness in each bite.  Accompanying it is a basket of warm, crusty bread to mop things up with.

Entrees ordered were two of the specials.  The Crusted Tilapia was delicately sauteed and bedded over field greens..  To call the the other Ravioli would be an injustice.  It was an outrageous dish with house made Italian sausage ravioli accompanied with broiled shrimp. Served with the house marinara, the ravioli were precisely al dente and balanced the shrimp nicely.

There was plenty to take for another light meal, or not too much to finish if one so desired.  Perfect portions and nice pricing to match.  If you find yourself in the area, Perlo's ( sure beats the hell out of the garden of olives.  4.5/5

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Round the Clock - Schererville, IN

Just west of the intersection of routes 30 and 41 sites Round the Clock diner.  A staple in NW Indiana for decades it seemed just the place to stop for a nibble before catching a Friday night movie.  Unbeknownst to me, we arrived just in time for the senior special.  Fortunately, I have not yet qualified for that dubious honor, but be forewarned that close in parking with your special blue permit is at a premium! 

Since we were in the mood for just a sandwich, the turkey, Swiss and bacon combos seemed just right.  A club for my date and a panini for me.  Surprisingly, fresh baked rolls arrived with the menu and we also had a choice of soup or salad.  Since it was a cold evening, soups were ordered.  One cream of potato and one tomato basil.  Nice and hot with plenty of crackers, and thankfully not overly salty.  Sandwiches were delivered timely with a side of seasoned french fries.  Generous but not ridiculous portions were the order of the day, followed unexpectedly by a choice of dessert.  A slim slice of creamy cheese cake topped everything off and we were out the door with time to spare to catch the movie.  And all for about $20.  That's tough to beat!!  For a diner outside of NJ, call it 4/5.

Taste of Poland - Dyer, IN

How very interesting, a buffet with a plethora of Polish food here in NW Indiana.  Dropped by there with a group of teenage boys and another Dad and we all left quite full.  The hot buffet was quite substantial and included sausage, kraut, pierogies, and potato pancakes to name a few.  Multiple cold salads and sides rounded off one side of the buffet line, while a dessert extravaganza lined the other.  I have to say the sausage and kraut were both quite nice, although I prefer my pierogies fried rather than boiled.  Overall, it is your own fault if you left there hungry.  $12 for the buffet seemed fair considering the multiple options, and the staff was very attentive.

I suppose in some ways I came away underwhelmed, but in retrospect I think it's because of one thing.  I don't really think of Polish fare as something unique or special.  Having grown up in Buffalo, NY, we just called it food since the ingredients and cooking styles were so ingrained in us.  I'd give it 3/5 for now, but maybe 3.5 for the desserts.  I hope they stick around.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tandoor Cuisine of India - Schererville, IN

 Now that's a lunch buffet!  The whole family went today and were pleasantly surprised, especially since the interior is much nicer than the exterior suggests.  Great variety on lunch buffet and the dishes vary often enough to keep things interesting.  The naan bread is served hot and there is even a garlic variety.  Personally I prefer the non garlic since it does not compete with the various flavors.  The waiters were quite friendly and conversational, and also knew the details of the dishes to provide guidance to the Indian cuisine novice.  Try the Maharaja pilsner, it's light and refreshing and does not compete with the seasonings.

Tandoor chicken, chicken makhani, and a bunch of others I cannot remember were all tasty.  Sorry I have no idea what "authentic" Indian may or may not taste like but I rate this as darn good food, authentic or not. 4/5 stars.

If you are looking for something different and have not tried Indian give it a go.  It may not appeal to the meat and potatoes eater but if you want an explosion of spices and flavor have fun.  And no, Indian is not necessarily spicy hot!  I think Monday night has the buffet as well. 

Definitely putting this on a more frequent rota.

Three Floyds menu -

Menu does change frequently!  Burger, fish n chips, scotch egg, bone marrow seem to be standard.  And the French fries are fantastic!!!!! 

January 11, 2012
small plate
mussels mustard beurre blanc, pickled asian pear, celery, rosemary.                                                     12
house cured meats foie gras, smoked ham, red eye ham.                                                                       12
smoked octopus black pepper oyster sauce, mushrooms, butterball potatoes, pickled garlic.               10
chicken liver crostini cured egg yolk, parsley.                                                                                             10
butternut squash soup hazelnut yogurt, pickled squash, anise.                                                               8
crab cake grapefruit puree, sea beans, purple carrots.                                                                              9  
ginger spiced pork meatballs romesco sauce, fried kale.                                                                          10  

smoked whitefish brandade, pickled cherries, parsley, garlic chips.                                                        10
slow roasted beef bone marrow quince chutney, picholine olives, harvest bread.                                  10

scotched egg pork & chicken sausage, horseradish mayonnaise.                                                            5
red romaine salad carrot and ginger dressing, candied sesame seeds, red onion, pancetta chips.      8
french fries choice of housemade mustard, horseradish mayonnaise, or chipotle mayonnaise.          6
housemade snacks: parmesan dusted chicharrón or bbq beef jerky.                                                      7
macaroni and cheese smoked turkey, american cheese, pickled onions, bread crumbs.                      10
smoked fish plate  sumac cured sturgeon, pickled mackerel, trout, lumpfish roe.                                 12
cheese plate  marieke foenegreek-raw cow, kentucky rose-raw cow, robiola rocchetta-blend.             10

pairing            1 arctic panzer wolf     citrus salad                                                                                      8
                        2 region riot                chicharrón
                        3 robert the bruce      bbq beef jerky

large plate
burger pretzel bun, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, french fries.                                                         10
(add white cheddar, swiss, goat, gorgonzola, bacon, fried egg or grilled mushrooms, $1 each)
chicken sandwich sauerkraut, buttermilk dill, malt vinegar chips.                                                          10
fish and chips tilapia, french fries, tartar, lemon.                                                                                       12
braised lamb bucatini  piquillo pepper, parmesan reggiano, black pepper.                                              12
pork dashi  bacon, housemade ramen, kimchi, soy marinated egg.                                                        14
beef carbonnade chive spaetzle, arugula, radish.                                                                                      15      
halibut a la plancha, sunchoke, citrus salad, jalapeño, sorrel                                                                   14
3 floyds cassoulet braised pork, confit duck leg, venison sausage, parsley bread crumbs.                    15

cinnamon crème brulee  orange chutney.                                                                                                  6
asian pear cobbler alpha klaus butter cream.                                                                                            6

Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, IN, a gladiator bar??

One of my personal favorites, Three Floyds Brewing has the most exotic menu I have encountered in quite some time.  I'll post the most recent menu separately.  Two visits in this review exhibits a varying character of the establishment.

First visit was on a Saturday at lunch time.  5 of us dance dads took time between performances to get some lunch.  Be fore warned, get there early for weekends and dinner.  Opening at noon, there was a healthy line formed by 20 minutes to the hour.  Quite a gruff greeting by the doorman admonishing all to not enter without his permission.  A surly bloke to say the least. 

Drinks came quickly after being seated.  I had a Hessian Smog, one of the many unique beers they offer.  Don't go expecting anything from the big three, however PBR is available, possibly as a nod to it's intro at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.

Food also came quickly considering how quickly the place filled up.  Three gents had the burger in various guises, one the fish and chips and I had the 3 Floyds cassoulet.  Braised pork, confit duck leg, venison sausage, parsley bread crumbs.  Great hearty flavor, the white beans perfectly al dente and the variety of meats complemented each other.  Particularly pleasing was the venison sausage, finely ground, well seasoned and lean to counter the pork and duck.

Unfortunately, one of our group committed what must be a most egregious faux pas at Floyds.  He had the temerity to ask if the Blackhawks game was available for viewing in the dining room.  An old pre-standard-def gladiator flick was playing at the time.  We were firmly told by one of the staff (not our waiter), "NO, this is NOT a sports bar!" as he turned heel and strode away.  He could have politely declined and almost lost our table prior to the meals arriving.  Since there was still a line waiting to enter, I think the success of Three Floyds has made them some what snooty and upset that "The Masses" have discovered their eclectic little secret.  

So be advised that on Saturdays Three Floyds is a Gladiator Bar!

In contrast, lunch during the week was sensational.  Sitting at the bar with soccer (not a sports bar?) on one screen and Asian martial arts on another was quite convivial.  Starting with a Behemoth barley wine, we also sampled several other of the seasonal beer offerings.  This visit I had the braised lamb bucatini with piquillo pepper, parmesan reggiano and black pepper.  The home made bucatini were delicious, the sauce bold yet delicate and the lamb seared to perfection.  I think the lamb and sauce would be killer as a pizza too.  Had a barrel aged Black Sun stout for dessert too.  I have yet to try a real dessert there, but hopefully the asian pear cobbler is still available next visit.  

To sum up Three Floyds, do drop by during the week for lunch to get an accurate assessment, but take your chances on evening and weekends due to VERY limited seating and militant doorman guy.

3.5/5 stars for the surly guy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bulldog Brewery in Whiting Indiana

Lunch at the Bulldog Brewery in Whiting (  was one I have been looking forward to since I read about their opening in local rag about a month ago.  It is nicely located in downtown Whiting; the interior features exposed old wood ceiling timbers and the use of existing interior brickwork to emphasize the historical value of the area.  Apparently owned by three local gents, the decor is hopefully a work in progress that will develop over time.  It would be nice to see a lot of local flair inside like an old neighborhood tap instead of a typical generic makeover.

That said, the big reason to go was for the craft brewed beer.  And hopefully a nice meal too.  11 Mile Lager, Industrial Harbor IPA and Roby Red Ale were available and sampled.  Not bad, but I would call them unambitious or safe.  I was really hoping for bolder flavors.  The lager should appeal to those not willing to stray far from BudMiller territory.  The IPA was weakly hopped. The red needed more malt for richness.  Downtime Wheat and 1890 Stout were unavailable at this time.  A few other craft brews were also available, Dragon's Milk comes to mind (and not to be missed).  Also a range of standard beer, wine and spirits are available. 

Rob the bartender was a great host and provided an array of samples to help us decide on our final selection.

We ordered soup and a 1/2 sandwich for a light lunch. Portion sizes were appropriate and just enough to prevent an afternoon nap.  The soup was a beer cheese made with the house lager.  Pretty substantial and extremely thick, it could almost be used as a dip.  It was very cheesy, those residing behind the Cheddar Curtain would certainly appreciate it. 

The sandwich was an Italian panini loaded with a nice variety of meats and veggies.  A fairly tasty combination, but curiously served on naan bread.  Not bad but missing the crustiness you associate with "Italian".  And given the rarity of crusty bread here in NWI, not altogether surprising.  Apparently the in house pizzas are made on the same naan bread.  While it's an interesting idea, it seems like a bit of a convenient shortcut, even for pub grub. Kind of like passing off Boboli as homemade. 

Presentation was a bit on the plain side, since the sandwich was dwarfed by a mountain of potato chips on an oval plate.  May I suggest home made potato chips?  Not sure if condiments are available since none were in plain view. 

Overall, a satisfactory lunch, but the house beers could use some boldness.  Since one of the owners if home brewer who has won at some contests he should consider bringing those recipes to the Bulldog.  Another owner is a professional cook who needs to bring some flair and excitement to the menu.  While not disappointing, I have to give it 3/5 as a work in progress and plan on a revisit later in the year.  Good luck gents. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Station 21 in Crown Point, IN

Finally got over to Station 21 in Crown Point.  We had heard good things about it from the kids, so finally made it a point to visit.  I presume the Station 21 monicker references firefighters somehow, but I may be wrong.  Plenty of sports references, especially Notre Dame, adorn the establishment.  And a plethora of televisions are seen from every angle.  Even table side screens are at the booths.  We were led to the upstairs dining area and seated at a comfortable booth.  Overall feel was typical American sports bar.

The menu is hearty 'Merican pub grub with something for most everyone.  Thankfully not an enormous selection so I had high hopes for the meal.  Personally I would rather a restaurant focus on a few items well than across the board mediocrity.  Drinks were ordered, a house Reisling that got no complaints and a Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing Co.  A generally solid pour, but the tap was in need of cleaning since I got that old beer taste right off.  Biggest complaint was the menu is a bit tough to read (black print on grey background) in the ambient light, so older eyes bring your reading specs.

We selected two soups to start, the Loaded Potato Soup with bacon and chive and the Firehouse Chili.  ($3 and $4) Both were quite tasty, the potato had plenty of body without being mealy or oily.  The chili was loaded with meat and just enough spice to be fun. The soups could have been warmer though, and this was brought to our waiters attention.  The main course was recommended to us by the waiter as a consistent crowd pleaser, and he is spot on.  Mac 'n Pork ($9) is a great variation on a classic.  Creamy cheese blend with bits of bacon and generous bits of pulled pork put it over the top.  Again, could have been served a touch warmer.

Overall, a good belly filling meal without pretense.  I am likely to return to try an entree since the menu offers great value.  3.5/5

Dining reviews to start 2012

Hello friends and Happy New Year!

Time to start kicking out some dining reviews to begin 2012.  I've decided to go in search of good food for 2012 and see how which grub stands out here in Northwest Indiana, henceforth known as NWI for those of you out of town.  Alas, for some reason I just cannot call it "Da Region".  Too Ditka I guess.  My hope is to focus on NWI with an occasional foray into nearby Illinois or Michigan.  A few gems from the past stand out in my mind but they will have to get revisited to make this blog.

I'll take any and all suggestions you may have with one caveat; no chains are allowed unless they are strictly regional.