Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Grandpappy Ate Here

For anyone who's family has lived in the upper mid west, that could very well be the case. Kewpee Burgers has been in operation for nearly 90 years making it America's second oldest chain behind White Castle.

Concieved in 1920 in Flilnt, Michigan under the name Kewpee Hotel Hamburgers, Kewpee was named after the popular Kewpee doll of the era. Selling square burgers and thick, malted shakes, Kewpee went on to boast nearly 200 franchises prior to the second world war with their catchy slogan "Hamburg, pickle on top makes your heart go flippity flop". Declining sales, legal wrangling and other problems has reduced the Kewpee foot print to a mere 5 stores now. One in Racine, Wisconson , one in Lansing, Michigan and three in Lima, Ohio. (By the way, it's pronounced Lie~ma like the bean not Lee~ma like the city in Peru.)
Now, I don't like to promote chains here on my blog but I'm always willing to make an exception. In this case it's because Kewpee is a piece of history. Kewpee's square hamburgers and thick shakes may sound familiar. According to Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, as a kid he frequented Kewpee in Kalamazoo and dreamed of owning his own restaurant someday. Of course Dave would go on to make that dream come true and Kewpee's DNA can be seen in the Wendy's franchise.

Our visit to Kewpee was at the "Downtown" Lima location. It's art deco lines reminds of a style lost long ago. The striking white with red trim building still holds it's 1920's charm and is in the National Register of Historic Places.

So on to the food.

We went with the cheeseburgers (mine a double) fries, a bowl of chili and pie for desert.

The burgers are cooked on a flat top ( no wonder they're good) from beef, ground fresh every morning. Topped with American cheese and the toppings of your choice, it has a nice beef taste and is pretty cheap.

As for the rest of the items we sampled, well, they weren't up to the level of the burger.

If you're in the area and have a hankering for a burger, why not stop in for a piece of history.

The downtown Lima location can be found at 111 North Elizabeth St. Lima, Ohio.
Kewpee Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Well that's all for now.


Monday, April 5, 2010

I Hope There are no Tornadoes

We all know that mobile homes and tornadoes don't mix so lets hope that Chuck Wagon Diner can stay out of harms way. When I first heard of this place I knew I had to visit. The idea of a restaurant in a mobile home seemed hilarious to this northerner. Mobile homes being the brunt of many a joke from us folks north of the Mason/Dixon line and all.

Opened in 1975, Chuck Wagon is two "Single Wides" angled together in a sort of "L" shape.

One housing the kitchen and front of house and the other making up the dining room.

The interior decor was very much like someone's rec. room. Paneled walls adorned with awards, pictures and memorabilia. There were about a half dozen or so tables of varying sizes and every table had a pitcher of sweet tea on it.

The place was half full of people when we walked in and it was just picking up for lunch as we left.
One of the greatest parts of being there is it was like being at a family reunion. People at one table talking and people at another interjecting comments. That being over heard by people at another table who offered their two cents. Everyone knew each other and talked throughout the whole dining room. It was a very interesting and cool experience. This place is as down home friendly as it gets. It didn't take long for us to be engaged in conversation.

As much as we enjoyed it, it seems we came at exactly the wrong time. Not that there is a bad time to visit. The thing is, we just missed breakfast. They're the 4 time reigning "Best Breakfast in Fayetteville" and their BBQ, served Thursday through Saturday is award winning. Perhaps the pinnacle being 2nd place ribs at the 2009 Jack Daniels Invitational. As prestigious a BBQ competition as there is.

So how was the food you may ask??

Well, we both opted for the hamburger steak. Essentially an over grown hamburger less the bun served with grilled onions and peppers. It came with sides of mashed potatoes, green beans and a slice of toast. I thought the toast was an odd thing but it turned out to be a perfect vehicle for cleaning up the plate.

The "Steak" it's self was perfect and there were two things that made it that way. First of all, the ground beef they used was really good. Very beefy and tasty ground chuck. The second thing that made it great was they didn't mess with it. It tasted like a great hamburger. It came off the flat top and if you've been following along, you'll know I love the flat top. The grilled onions and peppers were just enough to make for a nice garnish. Not compete or dominate.
Mrs. Sippi thought next time she'd order cheese on hers. I liked it as is.

The mashed potatoes and green beans were out of this world good.
While I prefer my mashed potatoes to be mashed (which results in small bits of potato for a bit of chew) rather than whipped, the simple fact is taste trumps all. Creamy, buttery and smooth, they were great without anything on them. We liberated some gravy left over from breakfast which as it turns out, they didn't need.
The green beans were done text book southern style. Simmered to death with a hunk of smoked pig for seasoning. A good amount of salt, pork and smoke flavour beautifully seasons the beans. They're simply the best I've had. A nice amount of pot likker was left on the plate that was gladly sopped up by the toast. Just an added bonus.

I'm not a sweet tea person but Mrs. Sippi is. She put it this way, "You know that if they have pitchers of it on the tables, it's fantastic."

On a more recent trip I was able to sample the BBQ and let me tell you, it's every bit as good as the awards would suggest. It's absolutely some of the best BBQ I've ever had.

The little shack out behind the trailers houses the pits.

In this photo you'll see the pork butts for the next day.

The ribs are incredible. Very simply seasoned (not much more than salt and pepper it seems) these are all about the smoke and meat. Very juicy and tender but not falling off the bone (just as they should be). They're served dry (meaning not sauced, not desiccated) and didn't need anything to help the flavour.

The chicken had a great smokey taste and was fall apart tender. The beans were quite nice. Not my favourite but very good. These are doctored up pork and beans and it goes to show how much better the stuff in the can can be with a little love. The potato salad was flat out incredible. Probably the best I've had that wasn't made by Mrs. Sippi.

Even the sauces are made in house. The white sauce isn't as acidic as most and was very tasty. The regular sauce was of the vinegar variety found in BBQ to the east. The regular (right) was the perfect yin to the porky yang of the ribs. I was hesitant to use any sauce on them but this proved a great dance partner. I'm not big on hot BBQ sauce but this was fine (left). It actually worked well when mixed with the white sauce.

You can find Chuck Wagon Diner at 201 Oak St, Fayetteville, Tennessee.
Chuck Wagon Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Y'all come back now ya hear.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mermentau is a River in Louisiana

This restaurant appears to be closed.

Someday there will be horse shoe pits, beach volleyball and basketball courts, An arcade, two stages and plenty of outside tables. For now, the Alabama Crawfish Company and Restaurant is a small place that's really all about the food. Great food.

Open only about 6 months at the time of our visit the ACC is a pretty low profile place. A nondescript building outside. A handful of tables, a TV, a friendly staff and some very happy customers adorned the inside. They don't have a website and they don't advertise. They're doing strictly word of mouth business. Oh, and a Facebook page.
According to the couple we talked to, there Friday night (and again for lunch on Saturday), about 20 people were lined up in the parking lot. The word is getting around.
ACC serves up just about all the Cajun hits from stews to po' boys to seafood boils to the fry-o-lated arts.

The seafood boils are in season only, Thursday through Saturday. In season right now it's crawfish, (or crawdad's, which ever you prefer). They do it the right way, Cajun style. A spicy broth cooking sausage, potatoes, corn and the seafood du jour.
A good beer selection at a really good price rounds out the menu nicely. Mrs. Sippi was excited to find Abita Root beer too. One of the best root beers you'll find.

Nearly everything is made in house from recipes spirited away from Louisiana. The noatable exceptions are the fries, jalapeno poppers and the tamales. The later made by a little old man in the Mississippi delta.

Unfortunately for us, there was a kitchen snafu and the crawfish boil we so eagerly anticipated wasn't available. Some how the bugs ended up too salty and Chris (manager/minority partner) wouldn't sell them. We pushed and bugged him enough that he put together a 2lb platter for a photo op and so we could see for ourselves just how salty they were. He was right, close to inedible. I have to respect a man who'd rather "eat" $100 than to serve a second rate product.
It was kinda tough to tell but the spicing seemed to be excellent.
One thing that did stand out though was the sausage. It was a nice garlicy, smokey sausage to begin with that took on a substantial amount of heat and flavour but stood up to the salt very well. It was fantastic. Unfortunately my photography skills weren't up to the challenge and the photo is a little blurry.

So on to the rest of the food.

We ended up cutting a decent swath through their menu. Between myself, Mrs. Sippi and our niece, Madam Butterfly we ended up with fried green tomatoes (free with the purchase of two or more entrees), pistolettes, catfish, hot tamales and a shrimp po' boy.

First up, the fried green tomatoes. Not the best I've had but a solid first course. The breading is of the cornmeal variety that is used on all the fried items we had. The mermentau sauce that came with it though was awesome. It's kinda like a spicy, thinnish remoulade.

My niece had the fried catfish which came with fries and choice of two sides which turned out to be hush puppies and mustard slaw. The breading was very nice and concealed a very flaky, juicy, sweet meat. The mustard slaw was very good as was the hush puppy. The fries are from frozen but no one is there to eat fries.

Mrs. Sippi ordered the pistolettes. A pistolette is a french roll, hollowed out and stuffed with crawfish etouffee. It's then breaded and deep fried. It came out blisteringly hot and we had to leave it quite a while to cool off. Once we dug in it was very nice. I'd like to see a little more stuffing and a bit less bread but all in all, very enjoyable. The choice of sides here was onion rings, hand battered and good as well as sweet corn. The sweet corn was well, sweet corn. Not much more to be said.

My shrimp po' boy was excellent. The shrimp was still very crunchy, juicy and delishious under the breading. On nice french bread with lettuce, tomato and some of the mermentau sauce. It too came with fries.

I've never had hot tamales and as such, I can't tell you how good these were other than I really enjoyed them. At first I didn't think they were too hot but the heat really grew on me. Nice and meaty with a good corn taste. I added a little cheese on top too.

The mustard slaw was good. It does a nice job adding colour and being a palate cleanser.

You can find the Alabama Crawfish Company and Restaurant at 3175, Hwy 72 East, Huntsville, Alabama.

Become a Facebook friend here.

Well that's all from the food court today. Time to unbutton my shorts and sit on the couch.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Say "Hi" to the Colonel for Me.

For many people, Interstate75 serves as the main conduit from the north to Florida. This wasn’t always the case though. In by gone days, state highways would ferry people from one part of the country to the next. The advent of the Interstate system meant a lot of small towns were bypassed and business dried up

This was true of the Sanders family business in Corbin, Kentucky. A restaurant and motor hotel were thriving businesses on the Dixie Highway. Sanders, ever the entrepreneur was already working to franchise his chicken to restaurants. In 1955 when I - 75 opened, he sold his business to pay off debts and was broke. (Honourary) Colonel Sanders would hit the road, taking his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices to the people. Selling restaurateurs what he called, “Kentucky Fried Chicken” became a full time job for him.

The original Sanders family business is long gone, replaced by replicas and a museum. If you’re on 75 in the southern part of Kentucky, take exit 29 and visit. See a mock-up of the kitchen where the recipe was born. Have your picture taken with the statue of the Colonel. Read the historic plaque.

Then get back in your car and head to the south end of town and eat at The Root Beer Stand.

For decades The Root Beer Stand in Corbin has been serving up hot dogs, burgers, chuck wagons and the ubiquitous south eastern Kentucky chili bun. The later being a chili dog without the dog. They also make their own root beer. It wasn't as intense as what I'm used to. It did have a nice aftertaste that reminded me of molasses. You can purchase by the gallon to go.
The Root Beer Stand is a way of life in Corbin. So popular it doesn’t need a sign. People just know it’s the place. The non descript brown building that kinda looks like an Old A & W. It has plastic Pepsi menu boards all over the outside. It’s is a relic of a bygone era. Were it not for the gravel parking lot, waitresses on roller skates would not look out of place. Nor would Fonzie, Ritchie, Ralph and Potsy. A waitress comes to your car window and takes your order. She returns with a tray of food and hangs it on said window.

It’s also busy, really busy. Fortunately it’s a model of efficiency. We were there for a little over a half hour and there were probably 40 cars there.

Most importantly, it’s a seasonal operation. Don’t show up in the middle of winter or you’ll go wanting. They run from roughly the middle of March to the middle of October.
And now, the food.
I had the Dixie Burger, a chili bun and a root beer float. We split fries. Mrs. Sippi had a foot long Coney. Like she didn't get enough Coney action yesterday. She had a Pepsi float.
The Dixie burger was really good. A home made 1/4lb burger with home made sauce that was sorta like bbq, onions and pickles.

The chili bun was excellent and kinda neat. It's not quite a Sloppy Joe but it was similar and on a hot dog bun. It comes loaded with a finely ground beef chili that is rather thick. So much so that it maintained structural integrity during consumption. This too (Like American Coney Island) had no noticeable spice. It was pretty well balanced although it did have a slight garlic kick. I quite liked it.

Mrs. Sippi's Coney dog was similar to ACI but not as good. Close, but not quite. It too was a Vienna style weiner loaded with chili. The crinkle cut fries were good but mostly because of the nostalgia. I rarely see crinkle cut fries anymore.

The floats were great. I can't tell you the last time I had a root beer float so it was such a nice change. I can imagine it would be a real treat to hang out with a float on a nice warm summer night. Especially if you had a convertible.

You can find The Root Beer Stand at 129 18th Street in Corbin Kentucky.
The Root Beer Stand on Urbanspoon
Well that's all for now. Hope to see you again.