Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dixie Whopper - Dairy Bar - Whitley City, Ky

Twice a year we go down to Whitley City Kentucky  to work with the underprivileged people of McCreary County.  McCreary County Kentucky is one of the top five poorest counties in the US. Once it was a booming coal mining region, but the coal mines have closed and the state has bought much of the land leaving it poverty stricken. Work in the area is minimal and many of the jobs are more than 40 miles away. This means that most of the paycheck would go toward gas just to get to and from work. Summertime brings work crews from all over the country to help out families with much needed construction on their houses, or trailers, or cabins, or whatever type of habitation they can afford. Often times we're installing windows, or repairing a front porch. Sometimes it's putting up siding or drywall. There is much need there and every little bit helps.
We also go in December, bringing Christmas gifts to kids whose families can't afford to buy them themselves. Christmas gifts always include necessities such as clothing and shoes, but we don't forget that every kid loves to get a toy. Something they can play with. We then help host a Christmas party in one of the small communities (the Hills and Hollers are made up of small communities and not sprawling suburbs) where the gifts are distributed and everyone receives a hot meal and a chance to meet Santa Clause. We also take the opportunity to share the story about the birth of Jesus.
We look forward to all of these events, but the one thing we can't wait for it going to the Dairy Bar for dinner. The Dairy Bar is an old school '50's diner that still has curbside service. On a busy night cars will be stacked 4 deep in their parking lot with waitresses bringing out good old fashioned greasy diner food and super thick milkshakes. We pack ourselves in their small dining room (being that we usually have more than 10 people on this trip) and look over the menu that we already know so well.
"What can I get ya hon?" Everyone is "Hon" down there. Or sweetey, or dear, or honey... you get the idea. They really have a way of making you feel welcome. Some people go for the big dinners like the Manhattan, or fried shrimp. Some just get a milkshake. Did you know that they have 33 different flavors of milkshake? Everything from traditional chocolate to cotton candy. And if they don't have what you want, they'll try to make on for you. Legend has it that one of the summer team members ordered a dill pickle milkshake. They made it... and he drank it... one moment here while I block that out......... ok I'm good.
But I always look forward to their signature burger. The Dixie Whopper. Let's just look at the picture above for a moment.............................. MAN that looks good!
The Dixie Whopper uses 2 one third pounders (I think) that are cooked on a flattop grill giving them a great crust which is loaded with flavor from years of cooking on the grill. The patties are then put on a tripple split bun that is buttered and toasted on the same flattop. They then place shredded lettuce, raw onion, american cheese and a dill pickle (probably the same kind used in the milkshake). But what makes a Dixie Whopper a Dixie Whopper is the sauce. Tarter sauce. Yes that right, the same sauce you put on your fish sticks (unless you're 7 and you use ketchup). For the record it's a pretty mild tarter sauce, but it has much more flavor than plain mayo. The tarter sauce adds just a litte bit of zing to it that you don't get with mayo or ketchup. I guess it could be similar to thousand island dressing on a burger, but it has a much cleaner flavor.
What I really found though was that the bun really made the burger. I know I've said that before, but a soggy bun can really ruin the burger experience. You know how when you make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich the bread is golden brown and has the perfect crunch? That's what this bun was like. The combination of the bun, and the fresh toppings so very well complimented the creaminess of the tarter sauce.
So OK, I know. I'm blogging about a burger joint that is 9 hours away from home and most of you will never get to try it. But maybe it's a reason to go on one of the trips to help the poor of Kentucky.
Go for the burger, stay for the blessing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#1 - DMK Burger Bar - Lombard, Il

 One of the things I am enjoying about my burger quest is that I'm able to enjoy it with friends. I mentioned recently that a few of us have formed a "burger club". This concept has worked out so well that now they go burgering without me. But that's OK. It's good to continue the burger education process no matter who you are with. The guys recently stumbled upon DMK Burger Bar. One guy has actually been a fan for a while, but they opened a new restaurant out here in the burbs not too long ago. Len has been there so many times that the wait staff now knows him by name and knows what the likes.
So finally getting a break from work we were able to set up a time to get me to burger up. Meeting up with Len and Chris and bringing our wives (most of us) we headed out for a fantastic lunch. DMK is all about craft burgers, homemade sides and micro-brew beers. As a matter of fact, the Buds and Millers of this world are completely excluded from the menu.
They have a complex listing of side items including french fries covered in bleu cheese and bacon and another with Wisconsin cheddar and scallions. Macaroni and cheese with gruyere, smoked bacon and charred balsamic red onions, and they even serve deviled eggs... but on to the burgers.
They have 9 red meat burgers on their menu. 8 are beef and one is bison. The bison (#5) has pickled red onion, fresh goat cheese and a blueberry BBQ sauce. A favorite of our friend the doctor. Melissa loves mushroom and swiss burgers. She opted for #6. It has marinated portobello mushrooms, blue brie cheese, griddled scallions and dijonnaise mustard. Personally I'm looking foreword to trying the #2. It has chili rubbed onion strings, Amish bleu cheese and homemade spicy chipotle ketchup. That's right homemade ketchup. Yup!
But for this meal I opted for the #1. You know where I'm going with this. It's a BBQ sauce, smoked bacon, aged cheddar and charred balsamic red onion burger. I love that bacon & BBQ sauce combo.
DMK uses a 5oz. grass fed beef patty and homemade fresh baked buns. The freshness of the burger and it's ingredients really stood out. I've got to say that everything about this burger was perfect. The bun was so stinkin' fresh with a good toasting. It was soft, but held up very well. The onions were devine. So much flavor from the balsamic marinade, and the bacon was smoky and salty. I read a few reviews where the customers complained about the size of the burger. I guess a third of a pound can seem a bit small, but it shouldn't be about the size of the burger. Go to Fudruckers if you want a big burger. This place is about the quality, and it doesn't disappoint. It was cooked to a medium well (i think) with those awesome crispy bits around the edges. The meat itself probably had more flavor than any other burger I've had.
But the kicker for this burger was the BBQ sauce. It was smoky, as BBQ sauce should be, and a little bit sweet with just a little bit of tanginess. But the part that stood out was that I could swear that I was eating BBQ ribs with that sauce. I don't know if they use pork fat in the sauce, or if they simmer ribs in it before they put it on the bun, but the sauce stands alone. If they made a milkshake with this sauce, I would drink it. (that's not a challenge)
So we missed the company of our friend Todd that day, but it was nice to be with the friends that could make it. I'm looking foreword to going here again but with the whole group this time
I'm gonna say that you've got to try this place. Great food, good drinks, and wonderful service in a comfortable setting. Go ahead and try whatever looks good, and then go again and try something else. That's what I'm gonna do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Western Burger - Poag Mahone's - Chicago, Il

 I'll get right to the point on this one. This was one stinking good burger! WOW!
So here's the story. Melissa recently took a new job down in the city and I was checking out the location on google maps. One of the nice things about google maps is that they show restaurants and banks and atm's and all kinds of things on their map. I saw that Poag Mahone's was about a block away from her new place. So with my usual curiosity I went to their website  to check out the menu. I could tell right away that this was my kind of joint. I figured that this would be a good place for her and I to do lunch someday, but to my surprise she wanted to go downtown and find her new building. An opportunity for dinner and a date.
So we took off walking to the train station in the early evening and caught the 6:40 to Chicago. The primary reason for this trip was to time it so that she could set her alarm clock for the right time. We needed to know the rail time and walking time, I had a stopwatch going for the majority of the trip.
I couldn't tell you the last time I was in the city in the evening. It's like sunsets were made just to light up the buildings and the river.
So we took our hike down Jackson for a few blocks and before we knew it we were there. Now it was time for a burger, but I didn't see the place where I thought it was. Now that is the disadvantage to Google maps. It doesn't always show the exact location of a place. We stopped in the building where I thought it was and talked to the guys at the desk. I figured I would start with a little small talk and complimented them on the super cold AC in the lobby. Well it turned out that one of the guys was the head engineer for that building. He saw that as a compliment. Nice. So it turns out the restaurant was around the corner and he offered to walk us there. On the way he explained to us the meaning of the name "Poag Mahone's". He said it was Gaelic for "Kiss my ass"! I was pretty sure at this point that I would like it there.
The restaurant is right there on Wells and every time the "EL" goes by you can feel the old wooden booth seats rattle. Kinda fun. This place draws a typical Chicago businessman, after hours crowd. The guys at the table were loud and obnoxious and they even cheered when their food came out, but thats the kind of atmosphere that makes a place like this. We put in our order and waited anxiously for our burgers.
So now the Burger.
They use 100% US grass fed beef and hand pack a half pounder. All burgers come with coleslaw (which was cool and creamy) and a very crunchy pickle spear. Melissa got a burger with mushrooms, grilled onions and thousand island dressing, while I went for my favorite. The Western Burger. This burger has cheddar cheese, sweet and rich BBQ sauce, and crispy onion strings on top. (you've heard it from me before, but I love this combo) A piece of lettuce and a slice of tomato also come with every burger. I ordered the burger medium well and thats how they cooked it. It had a nice crust on it, and was still very juicy. TONS of flavor! The BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and stuck to everything while the onion strings added a nice bit of saltiness.  The bun was firm and toasted. It never showed a sign of getting soggy.
The price here is just right ($$). the only thing I didn't like were the fries. They're promoted as being "crispy" but were just average. That though shouldn't be enough not to go. Just don't get them.
As I said when I started, This was one stinking good burger. I would go back in a heartbeat, and with Melissa working nearby, I just might.

Friday, June 3, 2011

BBQ Bacon Burger - Falco's - Burr Ridge, Il

OK, I know, It's been a while. But it's been a busy month. Work has been crazy and I've been busy moving... but that doesn't mean that I haven't had time for a burger or two. I just haven't had time to write about them.
So my birthday was back on May 7th and being the birthday boy, I get to choose where we go for dinner. So I chose Falco's Pizzeria in Burr Ridge. Falco's has a great pizza with an awesomely flaky crust. If you order a hot dog, you automatically get fries with it.  They have a garlic bread with spinach and mozzarella cheese on it. I'm drooling, Hang on...
Now that I have that cleaned up, I can continue.
We went with my parents, my brothers family and my aunt and uncle's family. Unfortunately my in-laws couldn't make it.
Falco's is a fun place to eat. They have a very open atmosphere with big screen plasmas on the walls, always showing a few different games at the same time. They have all kinds of sports memorabilia and vintage albums (with covers) all over the walls. The owners are friendly and have a great sense of humor. At one point the owner was bring out a burger and he asked who had ordered the anchovy burger. We all kinda got quiet and thought "do they really have an anchovy burger? Gross!" He was all straight faced, but then quickly cracked a smile and started laughing.
So since I'm all about the burger, I decided to try the BBQ Bacon Burger. Now as I've said before, the BBQ bacon style of burger is my favorite. If we were to go out together and get a burger, you could probably order for me knowing that that is my favorite. This was a good one.  They start with a 1/2 slab of ground beef and grill it. The grilling gives it a strong charred taste. Reminiscent of outdoor, backyard grilling. They use a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce and then add mustard. You'd think that BBQ sauce and Yellow mustard wouldn't work, but they do. The mustard adds some bite to the sweet BBQ sauce. They give it a slice of American cheese, and then add a perfectly cooked smoked bacon chopped into large pieces. Finally you get lettuce, tomato and red onion (another favorite) to put on top. This is all placed on a soft sesame seed bun.
I think I had to use about eight napkins for this burger, but it was worth it. I do highly recommend this burger, but don't feel restricted to the burger only. Go ahead and try the sandwiches or the pizza. Even the salads are good.
So then, being that it was my birthday, my wife went and got me a desert. I highly recommend, can not express how delicious it is, get out and go try the chocolate chip cannoli. YUM!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Mexico Bison Burger - Ted's Montana Grill - Bolingbrook, IL

So apparently I have developed a small following of burger fans through this burger blog. Fortunately they are close friends of mine and not just some random burger stalker. After my most recent post I started receiving requests to "Burger Up". So Phone calls were made, Facebook messages were sent, and texts were beamed through the air to determine a place and time. We finally decided on Ted's Montana Grill in Bolingbrook. Ted's has quite a variety of burger designs and offers them in either beef or bison. During this lunch we talked a bit about this blog and how I should procede with it. We're thinking about adding a rating scale. We're not quite sure yet as the criteria for each level of rating, or how to express the rating, but watch for it. It should be coming soon.
The nice thing about going with friends is that we can all try something different and then discuss our own preferences. One person ordered the Chili burger (knife and fork burger all the way). Another got the "Spikebox", looking for a little heat. One person got the "Kitchen Sink". That had a little of everything, but I ordered the New Mexico Burger. ( I'm really trying to broaden my pallet with the toppings) The New Mexico Burger is a hand packed, in this case bison patty served with monterey jack cheese, anaheim peppers and guacamole. This is then placed on a kaiser bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and red onion. This seemed to be a good combination, however I couldn't really taste the anaheim pepper. The guacamole was very good, fresh and buttery, but very chunky. It seemed good for the burger, but I would want it smoother if I was eating it with chips. (but I'm not eating it with chips so what does it really matter) I don't think you can ever go wrong with jack cheese. It melts so smoothly and has a wonderful mild taste that I think complements any burger. The bison patty though really stood out in this burger. It is a bit richer and sweeter than beef, and is leaner. Because of that I order bison at medium. It was very juicy and tender, and not overly dense. (being that it is a handpacked burger) I could taste salt and pepper on it, and also Ted's secret seasoning. Shhhh. it's a secret. Don't tell. This patty was flat top cooked and therefore had a great crust seared onto it. What I really noticed was how fresh everything was. Ted's grinds there meat daily and cooks to order. By the look of the guac, I believe it was made when they put the order in, and the tomato tasted like it was fresh off the vine.
As a group we had mixed feelings about our orders. Some were a bit disappointed, I think some were confused (the Kitchen Sink) and I thought mine was good. We were all able to agree however that we left with our stomachs full. All in all though, it was a good time with great friends.... and a decent burger.

Monday, April 18, 2011


 So what do you want on your burger? That there is the million dollar question. Well not really a million bucks, but it is quite important to the burger experience. With out condiments and toppings it's just meat on bread. Not very original. But it's usually how you dress it that makes it unique. Yeah some restaurants have a high quality burger patty, or a fancy bun, but put some cheese and ketchup on it and you've got a whole new thing there.
It seems that tradition would have us putting ketchup, mustard, american cheese, dill pickle, tomato and onion on our burgers... but that's just the beginning. Some people like mayo, or miracle whip. Others would zing it up with A1 sauce. Makes it kinda "steaky". Melissa loves the mushroom and swiss burger (which sucks for me because I don't like swiss cheese so I can't finish her burger for her). I've become a big fan of the "western" style or BBQ burger. Cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce and grilled onions. Mmmmmm. Add bacon and fried onion strings and I'm at a loss for words.
The hamburger is a canvas and we are the artists. The pallet of condiments and toppings are endless. Just about anything in your fridge can go on the burger (just about). I mean, the Big Mac has "special sauce". It's essentially thousand island dressing. How about a Hawaiian burger. Spam, pineapple and teriyaki sauce.
The hamburger is a work of art just waiting to be created by you and me. Have fun with it.  Enjoy your creation and don't be afraid to tell others about your masterpiece.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cheezy Beef Burger-Roundheads-Downers Grove, Il

 My primary reason for doing this blog is to share my thoughts on the hamburger. There are so many unique burgers out there I just felt that I needed to share them with everyone.
 This burger is no different. This is the Cheezy Beef Burger from Roundheads Pizza Pub in Downers Grove Illinois. Roundheads is a little sports bar at Woodward and 63rd st. They've got great service and a comfy atmosphere, plus they have like 20 TV's going with sports on. If you don't like watching the Sox, ask them to change the channel. They're always willing to accommodate. Whatever your sporting pleasure is, they'll put it on for you. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the owner is always there working alongside his staff.
But lets get to the burger. The Cheezy Beef Burger is a 1/2 pounder topped with Italian beef and smothered with a cheddar cheese sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. You can get sauteed sweet peppers or hot giardiniera on it as well. It's served on a soft bun. Almost too soft as it soaked up the juice from the Italian beef. The hamburger patty was cooked perfectly and was super juicy. The beef was fall apart tender and full of that wonderful Italian beef flavor. Unfortunately the overall flavor profile was somewhat flat. The taste of the burger and the beef kinda merged together and I found it difficult to taste the difference between them. (still tasted good though) The sweet peppers were a good change in texture, but they had a funny flavor to them. It was like I could taste the pan they sauteed them in. I'll try the giardiniera next time. I had saved some red sauce from the cheese sticks we had and added that to the second half of the burger. This was a hit! The red sauce is the key. It changed the flavor profile dramatically. I could now taste the beef separate from the burger and it softened the odd taste of the peppers. All of the flavors suddenly stood out on their own.
All together this was a pretty good burger, maybe not the best I've had, but I would get it again.
It comes with fries, a small side of cole slaw and baked beans.
I would say give this one a shot, but get a side of the red sauce on the side. I think you will be happy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Uncle Joe Burger - Uncle Bub's - Westmont, Il

So here we go. I wanted to kick off Joey's Burger Blog with just the right one so I went with the Uncle Joe Burger from Uncle Bub's BBQ in Westmont. Uncle Bub's has been in Westmont now for 14 years and have really incorporated themselves into the neighborhood. They are fully active in the community and really have that family atmosphere that is often overlooked in restaurants. They specialize in slow smoked pulled pork and St. Louis style ribs. But their menu goes way beyond that. They also have some great sides like natural cut fries and deep fried macaroni and cheese balls. But let's talk about the burger.
When they opened they had a bacon cheeseburger (and still do) which was a great burger, but no Uncle Joe burger. My parents had made a trip to Kentucky and had a burger down there that had smoked pulled pork and BBQ sauce on it. Upon arriving back home they went to Uncle Bub's and ordered one as a a special request. It quickly became a hit. So much in fact that it became a regular on the menu and became their top selling burger. For giving them the idea Uncle Bub's decided to name it after my dad. That's why it's called the Uncle Joe Burger. 
This is a 1/2 pounder cooked the way you like (I like mine medium well) with your choice of cheese. They then add a heaping pile of pulled pork and pour on a little BBQ sauce. (You can add more of their homemade sauce at the table) You get lettuce, tomato, and homemade pickles and it's served on a soft burger bun. 
You can always get extra of their homemade pickles from a small pickle and pepper bar.
This is such an amazing combination. The smoky, slightly salty pulled pork together with the little bit of char on the grilled burger is mouthwatering. Add some cheddar and grilled onions and then some more BBQ sauce and you have the perfect hamburger. Even at medium well this burger was juicy enough to have it run down my arm. 
It's not healthy, that's for sure. You can get their garden burger if you want that. But holy cow this is one good burger.