Saturday, December 18, 2010

Welcome to Hell

Perhaps it was a German tourist who said "So schön hell!" ("So beautifully bright!"). Commenting to his travel companion. It may have been local wives who’d say “He’s gone to hell” when their husbands would get drunk on whiskey at the tavern. Maybe just maybe it was the hellish terrain and bug problems that plagued early explorers. No one really knows what made George Reeves tell the state “Call it Hell for all I care….everyone else does” when asked what he’d like to call his town. But on October 13th, 1841, “Hell” became the official name of the tiny burg in central, lower Michigan.
Settled by Reeves in 1838 around a mill and a general store on the banks of what is now known as Hell Creek, the tiny, blink and you’ll miss it town  has become quite legendary. (George would later add the tavern.) There’s car and bike rallies every year as well as plenty of weddings. Unofficially the population sits at 266 and about the only thing that’s changed since then is the height of the dam and the addition of electricity. Although Reeves businesses have long dried up.
Hell has only one industry now. Kitsch. They survive on the selling of all things “Hell.” Tee shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, you name it.  Letters are stamped “I’ve been thru Hell” and are singed before being postmarked.
There’s the fictitious “Damnation University” (Damn U) from which you can get a diploma. The general store is named “Hell in a Handbasket” and the local watering hole is named “The Dam Site Inn” (also for its location right in front of the dam).
Opened in 1948 the Dam Site Inn is a nice rustic place with chains hanging from the ceiling and fake pyres throughout. Recently it was purchased by Jim Mills and his partner and they’ve pretty much kept the menu the same. Most things are made in house. A notable exception is the pizza dough made by a local bakery. They roast their own beef, make their own chili and hand form their own burgers.  All of this means nothing if they don’t deliver and deliver they do.
So lets give the Devil his due as it were.
We split a (pepperoni) pizza. I had the "Smitty" Burger and Mrs. Sippi had the Hot Beef Sandwich.
Mrs. Sippi’s sandwich was great. It came with mashed potatoes and smothered in a rich, home made gravy. The beef was tender and flavourful (leftover prime rib after all) and the potatoes came skin on and had a slight fruitiness to them.
My Smitty Burger is so named for the previous owner and inventor of the “Special sauce.” The burger came medium well without even requesting it and was very juicy. I wasn’t excited about the sauce. It was an amalgam of hamburger condiments (Ketchup, mustard, onion, pickles, etc.) and truth be told, I’d just as soon have them put on, individually. All in all, a great burger though.
The pizza was really tasty. Thin crust, I kept it simple with only pepperoni. The best part was it had a great cheese taste. It also warmed up really well the next day which is always a good sign.
You can visit the Dam Site Inn at 4095 Patterson Lake Rd. in Hell, Michigan. (not to be confused with the Dam Site Inn in Pellston, Michigan)

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You can also visit them on the web.
Well that’s all for now. See you next time in the Food Court

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lots of Good, Cheap Food…

…and Dozens of Beer.

Hailing itself as “Ann Arbor’s neighbourhood bar”, Casey’s Tavern took over the historic Washtenaw Lumber warehouse and opened for business in 1986.
In 1872 the Wood and Perrin company built a warehouse across the street from the train station. They sold pork, cider, apples and wool out of the building until the 1880’s when the former Underground Railroad slave runner , Sellick Wood, turned the building into a lumber warehouse. Wood ran the buisiness along with his son Frank until 1916 when it became the Washtenaw Lumber Company. Washtenaw operated out of the building until Casey’s took over and converted it into the homey bar and grill that it is today.
Featuring home made bar fare the smallish tavern does as much in house as possible. The beef is ground for burgers and corned for corned beef in house. Such commitment shows in the personnel and food. Some of the charter employees are still there. It’s also made Casey’s a perennial winner of the “Best burger” crown in Ann Arbor. High praise. Especially when pitted against one of my all time favourites at Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.

Mrs. Sippi’s friend, The Wolverine, suggested a lunch meeting as we passed through the area on our way south. Casey’s did not disappoint. 

A collection of no less than 20 condiments are waiting for you on your table. They had some of the usual suspects such as Tabasco and Worchestershire but the honey mustard and a roasted garlic flavoured hot sauce were among our favourites.
We started with (battered) deep fried artichoke hearts. They were nicely done in an almost tempura batter. The “Dijonnaise sauce” was really nice. Kind of a cross between remoulade and thousand islands dressing. A good way to get the ball rolling.
The Wolverine took the simple tuna salad sandwich and added cheese. He had it grilled and elevated it to a terrific tuna melt.
The burgers are pretty much construct your own. We opted for the jalapeno chutney, cheddar cheese and chili. I’m not sure if the chutney even made it onto the burger but if so, it was lost. The bean laden chili was really nice although not spicy. The burger it’s self came with a nice tinge of pink to it and was moist and tasty. They may win best burger in Ann Arbor but my vote still goes to Krazy Jim. The accompanying fries were out of a bag and were okay.
The Reuben was flat out great. I loved the corned beef. Strong with allspice flavour, it was fantastic. The Swiss stood up nicely to it and the kraut added a nice secondary dimension. I started to add some mustard and then decided the sandwich didn’t need it.
You can find Casey’s across from the old train station on historic Depot Street (#304) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The old storage sheds, original to the building are still in the back parking lot.

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You can also find them on the web.
 Casey's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Well that’s all for now. See ya next time.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pizza so Thin it Only has One Side

“It’s time to build our own brand” said Gerard Williamson as the Piqua, Ohio pizza restaurant he and his family built changed names.
Formerly part of the Cassano’s chain in the Greater Dayton Area the Williamson family has spent 43 years in the pizza business. Taking over the struggling  Cassano’s franchise in Piqua, Joseph and Frances Williamson turned the business around and never looked back. Running the Water Street restaurant for over 30 years until passing it onto their kids. Frances can still be found working the restaurant and a third generation is poised to take over some day.
The new name, Beppo Uno Pizzeria and Trattoria pays homage to Joseph. Beppo is a nickname for Joseph and Uno means one. 
A smallish pasta menu accompanies the Roman style pizza. Characterized by an edgeless dough, Roman style pizza is cooked on stone to produce a crispy on the bottom but with a slight bread texture above crust. It's thin but not quite like a cracker and if made right, it should almost melt in your mouth.
The restaurant is very nice inside. A beautiful stone fireplace sets off the dining room and makes for a nice warm feel. Especially on a cold winter night.

We aren't here for the interior though, we're here to eat. So, without further adieu.

We started with an order of bread sticks. A half dozen, made to order, garlic and herb sticks of pizza dough. The were a nice start and come with either cheese or marinara sauce. We asked for and received both. The cheese sauce was pretty good and the marinara was much better. I switched back and forth as well as ate them plain. Good anyway I had them.
As was stated, the crust is very thin and quite crisp. The toppings were very plentiful and to be honest, probably too much. The over all taste was very good but I think it was a bit out of balance. The crust, sauce and cheese were certainly overwhelmed by the amount of toppings. As such, I much preferred the outer pieces since they weren’t as topping dense. Next time I’ll stick with just pepperoni or maybe add one other topping.
The couple next to us was talking about enjoying the endless pasta special they have on Tuesdays. They declined because it meant they wouldn’t be eating pizza.

You can find Beppo Uno at 414 W. Water Street in Piqua, Ohio.

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You can also find them on the webfacebook or Twitter

Beppo Uno Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Well that’s all for now. Hope to see ya soon.