Helpful ReplyHot!My Annual Midwest Trip

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phlmaestro
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2019/09/14 20:18:35 (permalink)

My Annual Midwest Trip

I didn't set out to have an annual Midwest trip. It's just sort of working out that way. This is the third straight year my wife and I went somewhere in the Midwest for our major trip of the year and there is a good chance it will happen again next year.
 
This year's trip was a little different than the last couple that I reported on. Those involved flying to the western end of the Midwest and mixing sight-seeing with food. This one was a driving trip to closer portions of the region, with a dip into the northern edge of the Mid-South. The main purposes of the trip were to visit friends and eat, so there won't be as many sight-seeing photos this time around with just a few exceptions, including our annual stops at state capitol buildings. 
 
We had been thinking of a couple other possible capital-centered trips initially, but my wife asked if I'd be interested in visiting our friends in Bloomington Indiana for the first time since 2015 (I've reported on my stops in Bloomington multiple times on here). The instant the words left her mouth, I had an immediate vision of returning to Henderson, KY, to try Roadfood Fried Chicken, which was unavailable during my only other trip to that region. I didn't hesitate in agreeing to the trip to Southern Indiana and told my wife I'd be taking a side trip to the Henderson/Evansville area to eat and talk food with Louis Hatchett while she spent time with her friends from college.
 
I probably spent about six months planning the trip, which went great at first. Then I developed a bad cold and ran into some bad luck as it progressed. Still, I had four different food items on this trip that I consider to be in my personal pantheon and a few other very good items, so I'm pleased overall. Even during the second half of the trip, which was not as good as the first half (it was an eight-day trip, including the two travel days), I had something good to eat every day.
 
Anyway, to get on with the details, we headed west on the PA Turnpike and made our usual first meal stop when we drive to the Midwest or Pittsburgh: the Summit Diner in Somerset, PA, which is about 45 minutes to an hour east of Pittsburgh and just off the turnpike by a couple blocks. I love this place and consider it my favorite diner, but we've been there so many times over the past 12-14 years that my wife is tired of it. I threw out another option in a nearby town that I had found online, but as we approaches Somerset, we both felt the need to eat and decided to go the easy route, which meant returning to the diner. There were no complaints from me.





That pie list had a surprise. I don't recall seeing peach on there in recent visits and it's a flavor I've been craving a lot for the past year or so. I was excited to see it on the board.
I almost certainly got my cold from my wife, who was sitting right next to me all of that time in the car. She stuck with soup at the Summit as her cold was at its worst early in the trip.

They had a patty-melt special. I like patty melts a lot and ordered one, but asked for American instead of Swiss cheese, which I don't like. What was served to me was not a traditional patty melt, as you can see in the photos below. I wouldn't even say it's a patty melt. But I still enjoyed it very much and those hash browns were perfect. I usually order those there with a burger instead of fries because they do such a good job on the hash browns.




 
Then came the first of the four items that completely blew me away on this trip: the peach pie I mentioned above.
This was definitely one of the best pieces of fruit pie I've ever had. Both the filling and crust were just tremendous (I had it served warm).



 
 
We moved on to our first-night destination: Columbus, Ohio. The restaurant I chose for dinner has come up on here a number of times this year. I'm referring to Ding Ho, the oldest surviving Chinese restaurant in Columbus.






 
There was some thought of getting a steak here, which was on the menu, but I decided to go traditional instead. If I knew what I had in store for me later in the trip, I'm not sure if I'd have made the same decision. More on that later.
 
While I was tempted to get one of the assorted appetizer plates, I stuck with an egg roll because I knew my wife wouldn't be offering any help with my Sweet and Sour Shrimp and I wasn't taking any leftovers with me. It was somewhat funny. Our waitress asked if I wanted an egg roll or bread and butter. I said I'd have an egg roll. She went into the kitchen and returned almost immediately with my egg roll, which was good, but shy of great. The Sweet & Sour Shrimp was enjoyable even through they used small shrimp. Actually, with many places that use supposedly bigger shrimp, you get mostly breading with small shrimp inside. The shrimp at least filled the breading well in this case. My wife had roast pork with snow peas, which was served in one of the old metal serving plates I recall from my youth in Philly's Chinatown.






 
We had a very long day on the road and were ready for the hotel after Ding Ho.
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/23 20:22:23
#1
leethebard
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/14 21:05:43 (permalink)
Nice start.Looking forward to more!
 
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 10:20:42 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby phlmaestro 2019/09/15 10:22:37
phlmaestro
I almost certainly got my cold from my wife, who was sitting right next to me all of that time in the car.

That's why I make my wife ride in the trunk.
 
Summit Diner's hash browns look really good!
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1bbqboy
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 11:00:47 (permalink)
Bread & butter at a Chinese place?
That’s when you know you’ve made it to the Midwest.
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phlmaestro
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 11:30:26 (permalink)
1bbqboy
Bread & butter at a Chinese place?
That’s when you know you’ve made it to the Midwest.



That really was a classic line. It would have worked if I had gotten the steak.
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phlmaestro
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 15:17:24 (permalink)
I should have included this photo with the first post in the thread. I just happened to come across this place after dinner, I believe just around the corner from Ding Ho. We were too full and tired to consider going inside:

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TJ Jackson
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 15:25:32 (permalink)
strange - all York Steak houses I know (knew) of were inside malls....none were in their own building
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 19:54:33 (permalink)
Day two started out in Columbus, where we went to take our usual photographs of the state capitol.


 
After we finished photographing the capitol, we headed further west, to Indianapolis, and our next meal. We weren't staying in Indianapolis. Our reasons for being there were to eat lunch and photograph the Indiana capitol. Lunch came first. Anyone who has followed me over the years on here knows I love Jewish deli, so my Indianapolis lunch stop was a no-brainer. I had never been to any of the great Midwestern Jewish-style delis until I ate at Shapiro's last week.


From the corner next to Shapiro's, there is a clear view of the Colts' stadium:


 
The inside of Shapiro's is big and we lucked into walking up without any line to speak of. This was one of my two favorite new places on the trip. I absolutely loved the place and wish we had a similar cafeteria deli here. 

I was hoping they might have sugar-cream pie. I was out of luck. I went with lemon-meringue instead.







 
Shapiro's corned beef sandwich was the second item I had on the trip that really blew me away. The rye bread,, which is hand sliced, may be the best I've had. And the corned beef was outstanding. While I have a preference for hand carved corned beef, this was extremely moist and had lots of flavor.  The latkes were also very good, as was the lemon-meringue pie, which had a nice balance of tart and sweet. My wife ate the rest.
 
From Shapiro's, we stopped by the capitol to take photos.

G.W.:

 
After this, we moved on to our main destination: Bloomington, Indiana, which is only about 45 minutes south of Indy. We have close friends there and my wife went to IU.
 
Based on my several visits and plenty of online research, I don't consider Bloomington to be a good roadfood city. The restaurant scene is obviously geared to young people. They do have Hinkle's Hamburgers, which I like, but which I didn't get to on this trip. I actually didn't do all that much eating in Bloomington. 
 
But we did have our second dinner of the trip there, and it was at a second location of Bloomington's longtime most popular pizzeria: Mother Bear's Pizza. We ate at the original location, which is in or near downtown Bloomington, during a past visit and I wasn't nuts about it (eating there this time wasn't my idea; it was a group outing with friends of my wife). I admit to being an east coast pizza snob. In general, I'm not a fan of Midwestern pizza. But I wound up enjoying Mother Bear's more this time around because we tried their deep dish pizza instead of a regular pie. The deep dish comes square and has more emphasis on the sauce than the regular pizza, which is more cheese-centered. I strongly prefer the deep dish. My wife and I split one. Mother Bear's offers several types of sausage, and I went for one called Chicago chunk sausage. It was spicy and very good.



They serve my favorite root beer, which I hadn't had in a while.

Bread sticks:

The regular pies:

The deep-dish:


post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/15 20:13:37
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 20:17:42 (permalink)
That deep dish pizza looks wonderful!
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/15 21:17:25 (permalink)
...no so much the "regular" pie!
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/16 21:44:14 (permalink)
The following day, our big outing started at an apple orchard in Mooresville, a little southwest of Indianapolis. 
 
We spotted this beauty on a property near the orchard:

 
The Anderson Apple Orchard is a nice operation. They have a store with a food stand, a playground for kids, and a ton of apple trees of various kinds for pick-your-own apples. We picked a bunch, which my wife and her friend made into apple-butter.
 




Here is an Elephant Ear that one of our friends' children ordered (it's just fried dough):

Here is my "naked" fried apple pie (a good fried pie doesn't need icing):


I enjoyed it very much (McDonald's fried apple pies were a big favorite of mine when I was a kid).
 
My wife's apple slush, which she loved:

 
We were in Mooresville, so our next stop was obvious. I had been to Gray Bros. Cafeteria a couple times before, but it had been a decade or so since our last visit, so I was more than ready to go back. Their variety of quality pie was a big draw for me. I also like the cafeteria format and don't have anything comparable to either Shapiro's or Gray Bros. here. 





 

Once again, I was disappointed to see no sugar-cream pie. 
It was a Sunday, so they had prime rib. It was cooked a little too well for my taste, so I bypassed it.

I am a fan of both their porky green beans (my wife gave me some of her order) and mac-and-cheese (I ordered that myself).

We were three adults and two young children, so the trays have an unusual mix. We shared the three slices of pie.

This was my tray. The chicken was enjoyable, but I had much better to come:




 
The three pies were lemon, which was just okay (my wife described the lemon as "gummy."):

Chocolate, which was very good; nice and rich while somewhat, but not too dense:

 
And then there was the Butterscotch:

 
This rivaled the peach from the Summit Diner for the best slice of pie I had on the trip and would have to be one of my top five all-time favorite cream pies. The butterscotch was not too strong, which I think is the biggest potential problem with butterscotch pie. In this case, the flavor was more subtle and complex. All three adults at the table agreed that while the chocolate was good, this was the clear winner among our pie slices.  The butterscotch was the third item I ate on the trip that I would put on my personal list of truly memorable roadfood I've eaten.
 
 
 
 
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/16 21:49:05
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/16 22:10:08 (permalink)
What a great trip!  I like your photos and choices of places to eat. 
 
Looking forward to more!
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/17 08:31:47 (permalink)
phlmaestro
From the corner next to Shapiro's, there is a clear view of the Colts' stadium:
...
The inside of Shapiro's is big and we lucked into walking up without any line to speak of. This was one of my two favorite new places on the trip. I absolutely loved the place and wish we had a similar cafeteria deli here.

Ha ha.
 
I wish I could've joined you at Shapiro's but prior commitments dictated otherwise, and based on your experience it was my loss.  It might just become a "for the heck of it" weekend trip for me sometime!
 
phlmaestro
We spotted this beauty on a property near the orchard:


This is why I always travel with a grill and a bag of charcoal.
 
Gray Brothers' chicken looks good!
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/17 09:36:57 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
 
I wish I could've joined you at Shapiro's but prior commitments dictated otherwise, and based on your experience it was my loss.  It might just become a "for the heck of it" weekend trip for me sometime!
 



 
I would have been thrilled if you had made it, but it was a long drive for lunch!
 
I have in mind to do a side trip some year to a band of towns north of Indianapolis that all appear to have old-time burger joints, among other things. That would save you a little mileage; not to mention my likely visit to your neighborhood next year.
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/17 18:52:27 (permalink)
Glad to hear you liked Shapiro's! It's one of my favourite delis. The corned beef is my son's go to, when we get down there. Personally, I like the pastrami on rye better. It's possibly the best pastrami I've had anywhere. And their matzo ball soup? OMG! I could eat gallons of it!
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/17 20:26:48 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Root-Beer Man 2019/09/18 18:34:44
Root-Beer Man
Glad to hear you liked Shapiro's! It's one of my favourite delis. The corned beef is my son's go to, when we get down there. Personally, I like the pastrami on rye better. It's possibly the best pastrami I've had anywhere. And their matzo ball soup? OMG! I could eat gallons of it!


I consider Shapiro's and the next place I'm going to write about to be the two best new places I hit on this trip. 

I had some doubts about only getting half a corned beef sandwich. It doesn't look that big in photos compared to some of the sandwiches I've had in east coast delis, but I made the right call. It turned out to be more substantial than it looked, in addition to being very good. And I wanted to make sure it wasn't a problem for me to eat a slice of pie. I really enjoyed the latke as a side too. 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/18 20:06:52
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/17 21:49:54 (permalink)
The next morning, I went off on my own, driving about two hours south and a little west to Henderson, KY, which is right across the Ohio River from Evansville, IN.
 
My companion for the next couple days would be author, historian and local food expert, Louis Hatchett, who some of you know from his reports on the Duncan Hines thread, Louis having written a biography of Mr. Hines. 
 
I've given the backstory on our first stop on here before, but will rehash it to add context. I visited Louis and ate in the same region back in 2015. Henderson had been home to what was known as Bon Ton Chicken, which some on here consider to be the best fried chicken in the land. Unfortunately, Bon Ton Mini Mart went out of business months before my previous visit and the chicken wasn't available. We ate at Mr. D's https://roadfood.com/restaurants/mr-ds/ instead and I considered that to be the best fried chicken I've eaten until this trip. But at some point after I visited, another restaurant called Brown Bag Burgers obtained the recipe for Bon Ton Chicken and put it on their menu, renamed as Roadfood Fried Chicken (misspelled as Road Food on the menu). As far as food goes, that chicken was first and foremost on my mind when I found out we were going to visit our friends in Indiana. The time had finally arrived and I was hoping not to be disappointed. Louis had warned me that there had been times he had eaten there when it wasn't made the proper way. 
 





 
It turned out there was no need to worry. Louis told me on the way to Brown Bag Burgers that the chicken was just fine when he had it recently. I thought it was a lot better than "just fine." 
That's a small cheeseburger - wrapped in paper - next to a drumstick and thigh. We both asked for a small burger instead of sides with the chicken.

 
 
I ate the drum stick first, and my first bite was one of my great eating moments. Before I could experience any of the chicken's flavor, biting into the crust was a revalation. I have never bitten into crust that had that kind of almost brittle quality. The meat was incredibly soft. And there was spice, hot spice, but not too hot. Then I discovered that the two pieces weren't evenly seasoned (and/or brined?). The thigh was a lot hotter; very hot; but shy of painfully so. This was incredible fried chicken; clearly the best I've ever had by a wide margin (I've only had fried chicken in regions that are good at it a handful of times, but it was easy to tell this chicken was unbelievably good). 


 
I also enjoyed the burger. The meat had a very nice flavor. And I have a weakness for flat or smashed burgers that I've detailed in the past. 

 
They had several uncut meringue-topped pies on a counter, but for a change, I didn't order any. I knew I didn't have that long before my next major meal and I needed to save some appetite.
 
The Roadfood Chicken is obviously the fourth of the four items I had on the trip that topped my list. But I still had other highlights to come. They were just not quite at the level of those other four.
 
After leaving Brown Bag Burgers, we went past the former Bon Ton Mini Mart location before heading south for our next couple stops.

 
Our first stop south of Henderson was Bell's Drugs in Sebree, KY, for a freshly made orange ade. I had one when I was last in the area, but it was right on the way to our next meal stop and I'm always a sucker for a drug store counter.



That's Louis in the mirror above.


 
From Bell's, we moved on to our next meal stop, which was my one barbecue restaurant of the trip; Dave's Sticky Pig in Madisonville, KY.  Louis told me about Dave's some months back in glowing terms, telling me I had to try their ribs. I had no problem with that.



Smoker room:

I had baked beans and green beans with a quarter-rack of pork ribs. Both sides had loads of pork meat and were outstanding; definitely a cut above standard barbecue sides.  Louis had green beans and potato salad with his quarter-rack.



 
My standard for pork ribs is Arthur Bryant's, from a couple years ago. These weren't quite in that league, but they were very good nonetheless. The meat was extremely soft and came off the bone easily, making it more practical to eat it with a fork. I didn't see the cherry wood out back until we were leaving and had trouble determining what kind of smoke it was while eating the ribs. I knew it didn't taste like hickory or oak, but I liked it.
 
 
I mentioned at the beginning of this report that the first half of the trip went better than the second half. I was basically at the halfway point or perhaps just slightly beyond it now. The first problem was that as good as the fried chicken was, the heat from it really got my sinuses going just as my cold was kicking into high gear. The next day or so was very uncomfortable. The only meal that was impacted was the first one of the following day. I generally sleep relatively late on these trips, have some juice and a little snack in the room for breakfast, then have two big meals and sometimes a third stop for something sweet during the course of the day. I have a small appetite by roadfood standards, but try to make each meal count for a lot. 
 
Relatively close to the start of the trip, after discussing it online with Louis, I decided I wanted to drive to the Main Café in New Harmony, IN, for a mid to late morning breakfast with some pie. ( https://roadfood.com/restaurants/main-cafe/ )
But when the morning came, I was just too worn out from the cold, which kept me up much of the night, and felt the need to tell Louis I was going to get some more rest and skip the Main Café in favor of lunch somewhere closer to Henderson. The Main Café closes very early.
We settled on a burger place that Louis had told me about shortly before the trip. It's a mini chain with three locations in Evansville and Louis believed a few others spread out in other parts of the country.


Single cheeseburger, all-beef hot dog, vanilla shake and soda (my tray):

Louis had fries and skipped the shake:



While G.D. Ritzy's setting lacked the charm I expected to find at the Main Cafe, this was actually a high quality roadfood meal. I'd rate the burger just slightly lower than the one at Brown Bag Burgers, but it also had a nice flavor. And the hot dog was nice and firm, the way I like it. The vanilla shake was also well-done; neither too thick nor thin and with good flavor. 
 
After we left Ritzy's, Louis took me a little ways north of Evansville to see a restaurant he had mentioned to me. It's set in the midst of nothing but cornfields. 




We were also near the oldest restaurant in Indiana, which we stopped by for a look (they weren't open yet and it was too soon to eat a big meal again anyway). The Log Inn was initially a stagecoach stop. Lincoln ate there.


 
 
On our way back, Louis showed me the restaurant where we planned to eat dinner. It's in Evansville, just across the river from Henderson.

Notice Santa on the sign. They have a Santa theme.
 
A few hours later, we returned for dinner and found the parking lot still empty and this on the door:

This was right in the middle of that vacation period. There was no need for a reservation on a Tuesday, so we just assumed we could show up and eat.
 
Anyway, we had to quickly come up with an alternative for dinner. We briefly considered the Log Inn, but it was getting dark and we both have issues with driving at night (Louis can do it where he knows the area well and I can't do it at all). So we decided we needed to stay right in Evansville or Henderson and settled on one of the more popular places to get a steak in Evansville, which Louis said he sometimes takes people to; Smitty's Italian Steakhouse in downtown Evansville.



They also had Chicken Vesuvio and something spelled a little differently than Shrimp de Jonghe, but which appeared to be the same thing, on the menu. I considered the shrimp, but we both ordered a 12-ounce ribeye in their standard butter-seasoning. They came with bread and butter, salads, and a side. I had creamed spinach and Louis ordered peas, which he said always taste very fresh at Smitty's. I actually didn't like the spinach. It tasted like it had a lot of cheese in it. That's not how I prefer my creamed spinach.


 
 

The steak had a nice flavor. But I was still very disappointed about missing out on the House of Como. The photos of their steaks that I've seen really had me eager to eat there. 
There was one major problem with Smitty's. Their scheduled closing time the night we were there was 10 p.m. We waited about 20 minutes for a table and it was loud when we first got there. There was a large party not too far away that was drawing most of our server's attention. When that party left, it was only about 8:15. We were still eating our meal. The staff of the restaurant went into full cleanup mode. There were people sweeping and clanking dishes as they cleared tables all around us for what seemed like a long time. It was just a very uncomfortable setting in which to be eating or even sitting and talking. Our server explained that much of the staff leaves early when it's not busy. I don't think that's a good excuse for putting customers in that situation.
 
That was the last of my meals before heading back in the direction of Bloomington the next day. There was talk of ice cream after dinner, but the cold was further eating into my appetite.  
 
As much as I enjoyed my meal at G.D. Ritzy's, the planned day I had of the Main Café and the House of Como, which I thought would be among the trip highlights, completely fell through. Perhaps I'll make up for it on a later trip like I did with the Roadfood Chicken. I was as interested in the setting and appearance of the two places as much as the food; even more so with the Main Café. We don't have places like that around here. The photo on here reminds me a bit of Skeeter's in Wytheville, VA, albeit with different types of wall hangings. 
 
I want to express my appreciation to Louis for being so generous with his time and knowledge on the local history and food scene; as well as turning me on to some great food. 
 
 
 
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/23 20:34:48
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 08:47:37 (permalink)
I'm no fan of creamed vegetables to begin with, but adding cheese just seems weird (and I'll add cheese to a lot of things).  OTOH, that ribeye looks like it's right up my alley!
 
It sounds to me like the Smitty's staff might not've doing anything too far out of the ordinary as table resets and general cleanup happen continuously; the degree to which the dining room staff is seen and heard is inversely proportional to the number of customers present.  It would be a different story if they were going through the closing process 90 minutes early, though.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2019/09/18 08:49:25
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phlmaestro
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 09:30:42 (permalink)
As my wife knows, I tend to be very conscious of arriving at a restaurant too close to closing time. I generally refuse to do it if it's less than an hour, and that's precisely because I know how uncomfortable I get when the staff is cleaning up around me and appears eager to get out.
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 10:14:51 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby phlmaestro 2019/09/18 10:55:40
I'm glad you finally got to try the Roadfood Chicken.  It's truly one of a kind.  (But Mr. D's is, too;  both versions of fried chicken are out of the ordinary of what you will normally find.)
 
As for the House of Como, we will try again next time you come down this way.  I'd suggest coming in the latter half of September, though.  They usually close for a week sometime after Labor Day.  I had never thought about this until the day after we attempted to go there.  And by the time you get here, there will be another restaurant in nearby Owensboro, KY that will rival the steaks at the Como: Malone's, which is a very small chain (3 stores) out of Lexington, KY.
 
Oh, by the way, the Como has a Christmas theme inside.  And that Santa Claus has been on their roof since 1960.  Originally it was a roadhouse built during the 1930s.
 
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 13:53:07 (permalink)
Once again thanks to Louis Hatchett for his time and advice. (Mrs. MFL was not up for the drive this year.) We loved House of Como but The Road Food fried chicken at Brown Bag Burger sets a standard that not even Willie Mae's Scotch House, Dooky Chase, Gus's, or the Blue and White surpass. Those five are my gold standards. Now I have to eat at Stroud's some day.
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phlmaestro
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 14:10:03 (permalink)
I ate at Stroud's two years ago and have a definite preference for Brown Bag Burgers' chicken. Of course, anyone who prefers their chicken without heat would likely feel otherwise.
 
 
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TJ Jackson
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 16:20:17 (permalink)
just making sure here, as I had never heard that BonTon was all that spicy - their default chicken is on the rather hot (spice heat) side of things? 
 
or is this a case where one can order spicy or mild, and you specifically opted for spicy?
 
never been there, hoping to get there one day -- but I am kinda wimpy in terms of my tolerance for spice heat.  I can handle a 3 out of 10 dish at a typical indian, thai, or chinese carryout joint
post edited by TJ Jackson - 2019/09/18 16:26:25
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 16:30:26 (permalink)
TJ Jackson
just making sure here, as I had never heard that BonTon was all that spicy - their default chicken is on the rather hot (spice heat) side of things? 
 
or is this a case where one can order spicy or mild, and you specifically opted for spicy?
 
never been there, hoping to get there one day -- but I am kinda wimpy in terms of my tolerance for spice heat.  I can handle a 3 out of 10 dish at a typical indian, thai, or chinese carryout joint



It was always my understanding that BonTon and now Roadfood Chicken is spicy-hot. I probably expected it to be a little hotter than the drumstick, but not quite as hot as the thigh. 
 
I actually didn't mind the uneven spice level. The variety was nice.
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TJ Jackson
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 16:33:03 (permalink)
can you equate the heat level to my max comfort level?
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 16:37:37 (permalink)
TJ Jackson
can you equate the heat level to my max comfort level?




It's hard because it apparently varies by piece, but I think you'd have a problem with it based on your Indian food statement
 
I would say the drumstick was around a three or four and the thigh like a seven or even an eight.
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 17:04:43 (permalink)
wow
 
I am so glad I had this conversation
 
Is it more or less the same in this respect at Mr D's?
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 17:13:41 (permalink)
TJ Jackson
wow
 
I am so glad I had this conversation
 
Is it more or less the same in this respect at Mr D's?




I don't remember how hot Mr. D's chicken was. I just recall liking it very much.
 
But I believe Louis mentioned in passing while I was with him this time that Mr. D's chicken is spicier than Roadfood Chicken. Perhaps he'll see this and can confirm that.
 
Edit:  On further thought, I actually think that if that if the chicken I had at Mr. D's in 2015 was as spicy as the thigh I had last week at Brown Bag Burgers, I'd remember that. But it was probably spicier than the drumstick from last week. Again, Louis can comment on that.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/18 20:11:59
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 21:17:35 (permalink)
I left late the next morning to drive back to Bloomington. I wanted to get a burger and shake for lunch and had a choice of the New White Steamer in Washington, IN, or Hinkle's in Bloomington. I had been to Hinkle's twice and NWS only once, but that once was more recent than either of my Hinkle's visits. I wound up going with the New White Steamer because I figured I'd get very hungry if I waited until Bloomington to eat. I also was happy to have a driving break in the middle of my ride. 
 
I may have been the first person to write about the Steamer on here after I visited it in 2015. I feel a bit of an attachment to it for that reason, in addition to having reviewed it for this site. It also happens to have one of the more classic old-fashioned burger joint atmospheres that I've experienced, with a fairly long counter, booths, what appears to be a very well used flat top grill and a couple big wall menus, one of which takes a dig at Cubs fans; the owner being a Cardinals fan. 
 
A view of Main Street in Washington, IN from the corner across from NWS:

As I got out of my car near this corner, I heard a guy who was getting out of a car across from me say to his companion, "I can smell them already," as they walked in the direction of the New White Steamer. 

Someone on Facebook pointed out that they "borrowed" the phrase on this sign from White Castle:



 
My chocolate malt was fairly, but not very chocolatey. I wouldn't have liked it if it was much more chocolatey. I get black & white shakes in my area rather than chocolate shakes, the former being made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup and the latter with chocolate ice cream and sometimes chocolate syrup. It could have been just a little thicker, but I wouldn't describe it as being too thin. It just wasn't real thick. I enjoyed it.

 
They smash fried onions into their very thin burger patties. As I mentioned the last time I went there, I don't believe they season the meat. It tastes a little bland if you don't put salt and pepper on it. I knew that in advance this time and put it on, along with some ketchup and mustard after taking the photos.


 
Louis has eaten here separately from me and isn't not a fan of their burgers. I agree that the meat, taken on its own, isn't among the best tasting I've had. But the combination of the fried onions and the crispy, lacy quality of the meat, especially the edges, still makes it a very enjoyable burger for me. I'd be happy to eat there more often.
 
My next meal was dinner that evening in Bloomington with my wife and her friend. We didn't have anything planned and the couple places I could find that might have some roadfood appeal (Hinkle's wasn't an option for my dining companions) didn't have evening hours. My wife looked through some menus and there was a surprisingly good-looking one with nice variety from an Irish Pub in downtown Bloomington called the Irish Lion. We decided to go there.


We shared an order of the Blarney Puffballs.

 
My wife's friend had Celtic stew (I accidentally deleted the photo):

I had the lamb chops:

 
Here are the Blarney Puffballs:


My wife's Shepard's Pie:

My lamb chops:

 
The chops were pretty good; nothing special. I thought they were a little lacking in lamb flavor. I don't mind a little gaminess. Those carrots were very sweet and good. The potatoes had a nice, crispy outside.
 
 
As I said, there isn't much food in Bloomington that excites me and the places that interested me closed after lunch. 
 
On the bright side, we took a walk to another part of downtown Bloomington after dinner to meet the rest of our friend's family for ice cream at a place called The Chocolate Moose.




The Chocolate Moose moved to its current location in recent years. For many years before that, they were a more classic-looking stand. They have photos of the old place up on the wall.

 
I had planned on getting a vanilla soft serve cone dipped in twinkle coat nuts, which I was curious about. But then I noticed when we were inside that they had a flavor of regular ice cream called Lemon Custard. I love lemon ice cream when it's well done. This was pretty good, but not great.

Our friend's strawberry shake:

 
That was the end of our dining in Bloomington. The next morning, we started the drive back east. We passed by this place and my wife stopped in to grab something to drink.


I had my first tenderloin there during my initial visit to Indiana, probably 13 or 14 years ago, when it was called Gnaw Bone Food & Fuel. I think it's closed and opened a couple times since then.
 
For our late breakfast or lunch stop, I gave a couple options to my wife and let her pick based on which fits in best with the direction we wanted to drive in. She is our navigator. She chose Storie's Restaurant in Greensburg, IN.
 
One of the first things you notice when getting out of your car near Storie's is that the tower on the town court house has a tree going through or around it.



 
 
Storie's is right in the heart of downtown Greensburg, across from the court house. The fence is due to construction being done on that block.


 
It's pretty big and it was full when we got there.

There is a counter with seating up front. This is taken from the rear. The counter where the servers pick up the food was right to the left, across and slightly over from where we were sitting.

Again, no sugar-cream pie! And I initially discovered this place in a piece someone posted on here about the best places in Indiana to get sugar-cream pie.  I was shut out in that regard on the trip. If I make it to Chicago next year, I will have to get a slice at Hoosier Mama to make up for the lack of one in Indiana.


They also had a wide array of sandwiches. I had actually been hoping to get breakfast food, but they stopped serving it at 11 and it took longer to get there than I had expected. So I do what I so often do: ordered a burger.

While that's not a bad photo of a burger, unfortunately, this was by far the worst burger I had on the trip. It was way overcooked and dry. I think it was probably made from a frozen patty. If it wasn't, they really left it on way too long. The onion rings were good.
My wife ordered the baked ham plate lunch with sweet potatoes and cole slaw. She enjoyed the ham, as did I (she shared it with me) and sweet potatoes, but wasn't crazy about the cole slaw.


 
Storie's partially redeemed itself after that lousy burger with a very good piece of pie. I hadn't had banana yet on the trip, so that's what I ordered.


I would say this was a notch below the banana pie I had last year at the Coffee Cup in Iowa, but it was still outstanding; one of the best pieces of banana-cream pie I've had. The crust was excellent in its own right.
 
That was the end of our eating in Indiana. We passed right through Ohio without stopping for food. We had friends to visit in Pittsburgh, where we were spending the last two nights of the trip.  There was no dining out to report on the first night, after our arrival. But we did eat out a couple times the following day in and near Pittsburgh. I'll finish up the report with those and our final stop on the way home in the next installment. Then, Friday morning, I'm heading right back out to the far northeastern reaches of the Midewest. That would be Cleveland. A friend and I are driving out there to see the Phillies play the Indians Saturday evening and will be coming right back home Sunday. The place I wanted to eat at most, Slyman's, isn't open on the weekend, so I'm out of luck in that regard. But I hope to have more pie on the road. The person I'm going with is doing the driving and wishes to stay downtown and not take the car out of the garage until we go home. We'll walk everywhere (which I need after this last trip). That will limit my dining options. But if I have any more pie or anything else that would fit in here, I'll tack it on to the end of this report.
 
In late October, I've got a weekend roadtrip to Buffalo to see the Eagles play the Bills. That should lead to a shorter trip report; maybe just a single installment. But I'm looking forward to trying beef on weck and some of that Buffalo ice cream. I've also discovered while researching options for a lunch stop while heading up to Buffalo that there is pie aplenty in north-central Pennsylvania. Who knew?
 
 
 
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/09/18 21:37:28
#29
Louis
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Re: My Annual Midwest Trip 2019/09/18 22:04:22 (permalink)
Both Brown Bag and Mr. D's recipes have been served in Henderson, Kentucky at one time or another since the mid-1930s.  (I can go into the history if you want to read it.  I may have done so on other roadfood.com threads over the last 19 years.)
 
Both Mr. D's and Brown Bag/Bon Ton chicken have distinctive flavors.
 
Mr. D's recipe is spicier than that served at the Brown Bag; it has more heat.
 
The Brown Bag/Bon Ton recipe is not as spicy and has more flavor.  I think I would say that the Brown Bag's version of the chicken is sort of a salty/spice taste, whereas Mr. D's is more spice.  It's a complex recipe that is hard to pigeon-hole.
 
They are both rather delicate recipes to prepare.  I don't think the distinctive taste could be mass-produced by a chain.  If the chicken is marinated too long in the (for want of a better word) brine solution that gives it its distinctive flavor, the chicken can become too intense to eat.  24 hours is the rule.  36 hours is too much.
 
(One time, about 15 years ago, the Bon Ton tried to apply the same brine solution to catfish; it was so salty that it was inedible.   The catfish absorbed the brine solution like a sponge.  It was an experiment that failed miserably.  Chicken seems to be the right substance for the brine solution to work.)
 
I think the reason phlmaestro had uneven pieces of heat in his chicken is because someone back in the kitchen did not stir the solution as often as they should have.
 
I have been in both the Bon Ton and the Brown Bag over the last 20 years and have been surprised a couple of times when the chicken tasted like ordinary fried chicken; when I inquired, I was told that someone forgot to stir the brine solution.
 
On the other hand, if left too long in the brine solution, the chicken can become too intense.
 
Anyway, that is the secret to keeping the recipe consistent in quality: Keep it stirred constantly and don't keep it in the brine solution too little or too much.
 
Mr. D's had this problem when it first opened in the early 1990s, but when the Bon Ton recipe eclipsed it in popularity about ten years later, I noticed that Mr. D's chicken began to be more consistent.
 
I think the best thing for TJ to do is come down here and try both types of chicken.  You can always spit it out if you don't like it.  There are all kinds of good things to eat down this way, like Peak Bros. Bar-B-Q and steaks at the House of Como.  So the trip won't be wasted.
 
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