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#1
Posted September 7th 2006, 1:30pm
Every once in a while someone posts about a place saying, "I'm surprised this hasn't gotten mention here..." And the place they talk about is, indeed, worthy of discussion. So why didn't it get LTH Love before that point?

Partly the reason may just be randomness, every place has to have a first time it ever got mentioned. But for me there's a certain class of places that maybe ought to get mentioned but don't. Typically what they share is, everybody already knows about them (there's no percentage in saying, hey, if you want good breakfast, I know this little place, it's called Lou Mitchell's), they're located in the high-trafficked areas of the city from the Loop to Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville (so, again, everybody knows about them already), and they serve fairly conventional stuff (so there's no novelty factor a la eyeball tacos). As a result, nobody feels motivated to write about them, at least at length, and they just don't get the LTH Love, even when they're quite good examples of their type (a rare thing, admittedly, in Lincoln Park and environs).

So here's a thread to these places. My first choice that doesn't get the LTH Love is... Muskie's.

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Only next to Gene & Jude's could you call Muskie's menu anything other than minimalist. You can have a char burger, a char dog, a char polish, a rooster (char chicken), or a fish sandwich. You can have fries. You can have a Coke, or a milkshake. That's pretty much it.

But the thing is, it's all pretty real (I can't vouch for the fish sandwich) and it's all pretty good. They have a big gas grill and your burger goes on it fresh and comes off tasting of healthy, life-giving char. The chicken sandwich isn't one of those wan, processed patties at a fast food joint, slathered with Dijon baconnaise and ranch lettuce so it actually has some kind of flavor, it's a half slice of a chicken breast, grilled till bits of it are black and crispy and taste of chicken and fire. The only "concept" Muskie's has is a slight hint of Wisconsiness, which consists of 1) a stuffed muskie over the door) and 2) Merkt's cheddar spread (or similar) as a gooey, fluorescent orange option on the burger and rooster (and the fries, for that matter). I don't normally like that stuff but I always get it here, because the charriness of the meat is robust enough to stand up to it.

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The fries are fresh-cut and double-cooked, on those rare occasions that I actually need a milkshake Muskie's is the place that always comes to mind first. It's real, it's tasty, it's no-BS. Let's give up a little LTH Love for Muskie's.

Muskie's Hamburgers
2878 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Tel: (773) 883-1633

What place do you like that doesn't get the LTH Love?
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#2
Posted September 7th 2006, 3:59pm
I gave plenty of love to Muskie's when pregnant with my daughter....cheese fries with Merkt's cheddar. The only place that makes them as well as Paradise Pup. And a good chocolate milkshake to boot.

I was sad when the Belmont location closed - they were closer, but inferior, as they sold Pepsi products.
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#3
Posted September 7th 2006, 4:09pm
I went down to Muskies on Monday because I had a craving for a char-cheddar burger. Of course they were closed. And that's my problem with Muskies...whenever I happen to decide I want one of those delicious burgers and some excellent fries, they're closed. Does anyone know their official hours? I don't recall them being posted on the door...
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#4
Posted September 7th 2006, 4:12pm
They are closed on Sunday, and apparently, on Labor Day.
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#5
Posted September 7th 2006, 4:15pm
Muskies is pretty good - although it takes a while for them to cook a burger - thats ok though since you know your meal wasnt just sitting there waiting for your order - its cooked to order.

I sometimes even get the kiddie - char - it's still a nice sized burger and still leaves you satisfied...
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#6
Posted September 7th 2006, 4:21pm
I've been a Muskie's fan for years, although it's been awhile since my last visit. I used to be something of a regular a few years back. When Mrs. JiLS was appearing frequently at the Athenaeum and we lived in Northbrook, I would often hang around in the neighborhood and take her home after the show. The fluorescent light pouring from Muskie's was a Hopperesque beacon for those lonely, hungry perambulations.
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#7
Posted September 7th 2006, 5:19pm
I'll add my love for Muskie's. When I lived in that area, Muskie's was my go to burger place. A cooked to order cheeseburger with a little garlic powder sprinkled on top during the cooking process was (and still is) fast food burger bliss for me. I still try to go there on occasion when I'm in the area. However, I've got to say that the Shakes/Malts and fries at Top-Notch Beef Burger (another place that doesn't get its full share of LTH love) puts the ones at Muskie's to shame.

Top Notch Beefburger
2116 W. 95th St
Chicago, IL
773-445-7218
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"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#8
Posted September 7th 2006, 6:45pm
Great idea for a thread. I can think of lots of places that might qualify as being unjustly unloved, but Portillos and Wiener's circle come readily to mind. Both these places have really excellent authentic Chicago style hot dogs (and Portillos beef is pretty good too)... but are often given the cold shoulder in favor of other (lesser and more obscure) options.

Maybe La Pasadita should be in here too.
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#9
Posted September 7th 2006, 8:32pm
I ate at Muskies for many years. I just don't get down there anymore. It's probably been 10 years now. But at that time, they sold really good Buffalo Wings. They went great with the excellent fries. When they started selling them there weren't many other places that did. But it sounds like they are no longer on the menu.
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#10
Posted September 7th 2006, 8:46pm
stevez wrote:However, I've got to say that the Shakes/Malts and fries at Top-Notch Beef Burger (another place that doesn't get its full share of LTH love) puts the ones at Muskie's to shame.

Top Notch Beefburger
2116 W. 95th St
Chicago, IL
773-445-7218


Great idea for a thread, Ive never been to Muskie's and now probably
will someday :-)

However, I *have* been to Top Notch... and I'll second the sentiment,
IMHO the best fries and shakes around. Ive been several times to
Paradise Pup - the burger is better at PP IMHO, but the fries and
shakes (almost every time, with one or two exceptions) at Top Notch
were..well.. top notch.

My only problem with Top Notch is that it *is* on 95th street - a bit
distant from the north burbs :-) (There are actually 3 Top Notch
spots IIRC, but none of them is north of 95th street). If anyone has
any "no LTH love, but fries and shakes at Top Notch level" contenders
anywhere neare the northside, please dont hesitate to speak up :-)

c8w
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#11
Posted September 7th 2006, 10:21pm
By the way, I gave Top Notch some LTH Love here.

Have to get back for a shake one of these days.
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#12
Posted September 7th 2006, 11:08pm
Mike G wrote:By the way, I gave Top Notch some LTH Love here.

Have to get back for a shake one of these days.


Yes you did, but I'm as guilty as the next LTHer for not posting a full report including pictures and talking about the place more. The problem for me is that I don't get to that neighborhood all that often. I picked up some melons at Baylor'sjust before Labor Day and made it a point to stop in for a burger, fries and a malt. I had forgotten about how good the fries and malt were. The burger was certainly "top notch", but the sides were the stars.
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Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#13
Posted September 8th 2006, 5:55am
kafein wrote:I gave plenty of love to Muskie's when pregnant with my daughter....cheese fries with Merkt's cheddar. The only place that makes them as well as Paradise Pup. And a good chocolate milkshake to boot.

I was sad when the Belmont location closed - they were closer, but inferior, as they sold Pepsi products.

Man, good *riddance* to the supposed "Muskie's" on Belmont---it was giving the real Muskie's a bad name. Frozen fries, nacho cheese "sauce", horrid-looking pizza slices waiting to greet you at the counter..it was terrible and the precise opposite of the Muskie concept: too many menu items reduced to lowest common denominator, open too many hours...plus they were the funkiest looking bathrooms aroud. Feh.

The real Muskie's is a gem and may it never change.
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#14
Posted September 8th 2006, 7:20am
Early on the Belmont Muskie's was identical to the other but it went downhill with what appeared to be separate ownership and eventually there was a placard up at the Lincoln one saying they were the only true Muskie's, do not confuse them with any inferior imitation, etc.
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#15
Posted September 8th 2006, 9:53am
Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.
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#16
Posted September 8th 2006, 10:02am
TonyC wrote:Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.


Does this apply to the 1/4 lb patty, as well?
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#17
Posted September 8th 2006, 10:05am
kafein wrote:...cheese fries with Merkt's cheddar. The only place that makes them as well as Paradise Pup.


Weiner's Circle uses the Merkt's cheddar too.

Yum!

Weiner Circle
2622 N. Clark St
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#18
Posted September 8th 2006, 10:29am
gleam wrote:
TonyC wrote:Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.


Does this apply to the 1/4 lb patty, as well?


Not in my book. The 1/4 lb cheeseburger (choice of cheese) with grilled onions and mayo served automatically on the side is quite good...surpassed only by Paradise Pup.
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"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#19
Posted September 8th 2006, 12:29pm
TonyC wrote:Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.

Top Notch, boiled beef? Not in my book.

Top Notch Beef Burger
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Enjoy,
Gary
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#20
Posted September 8th 2006, 1:29pm
Couldn't agree more about Muskies (the original). It was obvious that things were moving in the wrong direction when the Belmont restaurant changed hands and started serving tacos and Gyros (seeing these together on any menu is always a bad sign). The Lincoln ave. original remains true to it's roots.

Other places which seem appropriate for inclusion in this discussion include... 1)Francis' deli on Clark. This has been around forever, having started off as a steam table restaurant (ala Manny's) in the 1960's. Tho not as soulful as it used to be, they still serve a good corned beef sandwich and a truly great Reuben (I think the best in the city), as well as good shakes and a decent lox plate. And....2) The Bagel. Also probably too often overlooked. Still the best lox/onions and eggs around, really good house made gefilte fish (sweet style), excellent kreplach and the only northside place to serve dishes like kasha varnickes and cholent. Deserves more respect in this deli poor city.
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#21
Posted September 8th 2006, 2:07pm
TonyC wrote:Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.


I have to agree with you, although I've only been to the other Top Notch on 95th Street (the one closer to Cicero). I've been going there since high school, and I really have never thought their burgers were anything special.
Shakes, fries, sure. Burgers? *shrug*
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#22
Posted September 8th 2006, 2:54pm
kuhdo wrote:2) The Bagel. Also probably too often overlooked. Still the best lox/onions and eggs around, really good house made gefilte fish (sweet style), excellent kreplach and the only northside place to serve dishes like kasha varnickes and cholent. Deserves more respect in this deli poor city.

(Raises hand in an "I'll second that" gesture.)
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#23
Posted September 8th 2006, 2:55pm
TonyC wrote:Top Notch's shake/fries may be great but... it doesn't get love because you can't love a burger joint when the burgers taste like boiled meat loaf.


Not my experience. Maybe you should order a burger next time rather than ordering meat loaf.
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#24
Posted September 8th 2006, 3:11pm
I've always been a little perplexed by the lack of love for Triple Crown (211 W. 22d Place -- Chinatown). Maybe because it was the first "real" Chinese food I ever had, but I feel like this place is always solid and sometimes great. The black pepper short ribs are like savory candy and the pea pod tips are my all-time favorite vegetable. I know there was an LTH event there some time ago and the reviews were just ehhh. It could just be me. Not to make the monkey dance, but I like the Crown better than LTH itself.
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#25
Posted September 8th 2006, 3:56pm
Top Notch had a location in Tinley Park, at 159th and Harlem, but driving past recently, I noticed the sign was gone. It has morphed into some kind of pancake restaurant. Too bad, because we really liked their burgers.

Suzy
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#26
Posted September 8th 2006, 4:19pm
edk-- I've mentioned before that the 3Xcrown in the DiHo plaza serves a very respectable dim sum on weekends (and maybe otherwise). So I believe you.
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#27
Posted September 8th 2006, 9:20pm
I'm excited to find this site as I have always looked for good sites on Chicago restaurants. This is exactly what I've been looking for.

It's great to see Muskie's getting some love. I've been a fan for more than ten years (probably more like fifteen) and was especially pleased when a couple of friends of mine bought the place (the real one on Lincoln) several years back. Previous posters are right, too. They use good quality fresh meat, Merkt's cheese and hand-cut fries. Other than Jury's on Lincoln for a patty melt, they are my favorite burger in the area. I mean how many fast food joints cook a burger to temperature (and accurately usually at that).

And I hope it's not a breach of protocol, but I'll let Donnie (the co-owner) know you guys are saying nice things about his place. So if you have any specific things you'd like to see him change or improve like the hours (which I have also been burned by when I've had those cravings myself) don't hold back.

Dave
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#28
Posted September 9th 2006, 10:47pm
kuhdo wrote:Other places which seem appropriate for inclusion in this discussion include... 1)Francis' deli on Clark. This has been around forever, having started off as a steam table restaurant (ala Manny's) in the 1960's. Tho not as soulful as it used to be, they still serve a good corned beef sandwich and a truly great Reuben (I think the best in the city), as well as good shakes and a decent lox plate. And....2) The Bagel. Also probably too often overlooked. Still the best lox/onions and eggs around, really good house made gefilte fish (sweet style), excellent kreplach and the only northside place to serve dishes like kasha varnickes and cholent. Deserves more respect in this deli poor city.


I heartily agree with you about Francis' Deli. I've recently become addicted to turkey Reuben sandwiches, and they do a great one. (Their latkes are pretty good, too.) My dining companions have enjoyed their egg dishes, but complained about the brisket last time we were there. (Rhetorical question: Does anyone make brisket as good as mom?)

I've lived in Lakeview for about 15 years, and The Bagel on Broadway has never impressed me. I was thrilled when it first came to the neighborhood, because I used to go out of my way to eat at the Skokie location when I lived on the North Shore. But this one just doesn't do it for me...and I wish it did. I can't put my finger on it, but I give it another shot every year or two, and I'm just left feeling as if it could do better.
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#29
Posted September 10th 2006, 12:56am
Que Rico
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#30
Posted September 10th 2006, 1:31am
My local neighborhood Greek diner. :) Nothing special and the food is average.

I do enjoy a good hot beef sandwich though and the bake their own beef. Sometimes the slices are not the same thickness but I kinda like that. A touch of tomato in the gravy works well too.

The cream soups are a touch salty but they are thick and take a cracker well. The cream of mushroom has some nice mushroom slices in it.

They will put the sunnyside up egg on top of the corned beef hash, request some onion in your hash browns and put a touch of salt on the rye toast.

You probably have a diner in your neighborhood like this, the one I am talking about is ...

George's Restaurant
145 S Oak Park Ave
Oak Park
(708) 848-4949
GNR

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