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The Good, The Bad and The Hecky

The Good, The Bad and The Hecky
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  • The Good, The Bad and The Hecky

    Post #1 - December 13th, 2004, 7:54 pm
    Post #1 - December 13th, 2004, 7:54 pm Post #1 - December 13th, 2004, 7:54 pm
    Il Heckivo

    The new outpost of Hecky's, located in a gas station plazateria at Division and Halsted. Four of us met there, at high noon, to determine whether its fried chicken measured up to that of the original in Evanston. We also ordered assorted ribs (baby back and St. Louis style), rib tips (basically paying twice for the same meat by ordering both the St. Louis rib and the tip which had been attached to it when it was still a baby back rib), and got an assortment of sides such as baked beans, cole slaw* and steamed spinach.

    Chicken had admirable texture-- the crispy crust forming an impermeable barrier to the grease-- but was sorely lacking in the salty-peppery-garlicky-SOMETHINGY flavor that would have made it, well, tasty, to use the vernacular. Alas, that was about the best thing there; the ribs all tasted of flavor and texture shortcuts of the kind which please the 99% of people who think ribs should roughly resemble mashed potatoes on the bone, the better to soak up sauce which is, of course, the real point of barbecue. If you're the sort of freak who thinks the meat should be a toothy, smoky-tasting, discernably pork-based product, you are not going to be happy there, and I wasn't. I will leave further discussions of the oven type and so on to others, who I'm sure will have more to say....

    Il Brutto

    Took the kids for a long drive (aka nap) yesterday and found myself way up in Wheeling. Le Francais? Don Roth's? McDonald's? Saw a Hackney's and decided to try that north shore staple, famous for fabulous burgers.

    Yeah, well, so is Redamak's, and that blew. Hackney's burger didn't blow THAT bad, I could see good things about it-- very fresh beef, mainly-- but compared to a dozen bars I could walk to there was nothing distinguished about 1) the way it was cooked, 2) the way it reduced the homemade rye bread to mush in two seconds, 3) the minimal and highly generic condiments, 4) the frozen fries, 5) the by no means modest bill. So what's the big deal, north shorians? Nostalgia, as it plainly is for Redamak's, which makes Red Robin look great? I feel like airlifting Jury's burgers into Wheeling on 2 for 1 night and blowing an entire people's minds.

    Il Buono

    Whilst at Hecky's, I pointed out to my fellow gunslingers that there was that "New York Pizza" place that Monica Eng liked, Got Pizza, located just on the other side of the gas station. So immediately after our Hecky's amuse-bouche, we sauntered over to Got Pizza to try it and see if here, at last, was the answer to the second-most-asked question** on Chowhound.

    Looking like the set of a sitcom which takes place in a restaurant, Got Pizza is a shockingly tidy and clean looking spot whose kitchen is in total view of the ordering area. I had little enough hope for reheated slice pizza but a piece of pepperoni proved to be light, bubbly, fresh-tasting and, at least by my memory, quite close to the typical New York street pizza, moreso than rubbery imitations like Santullo's or the (now gone, I think) New York Pizza. I had avoided Got Pizza just because of my innate prejudice of food offered in close proximity to petroleum products, and a presumption that it was serving a Rush Street to Cabrini Green late night audience not known for culinary acumen. But Got Pizza is a little gem, well worth a visit. Again, I will leave it to someone else to tell the rest of the story, that transpired when one of the Hecky's crew walked in and saw us ordering MORE lunch....

    * Invented or at least popularized by Cole Younger, the American desperado, who insisted that his gang members eat it in order to maintain regularity during raids such as the one (conducted with the James gang and Clell Miller) on Northfield Minnesota, and thus not have their aim and reaction time adversely affected by bowel distress; hence it became the dish eaten by "Cole's law."

    ** "Where can I get New York-style pizza in Chicago?" The most asked question is, of course, "I live in New York/San Francisco/Los Angeles, can someone please validate my hipness by affirming my most recent restaurant choice?"
    Last edited by Mike G on December 13th, 2004, 8:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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  • Post #2 - December 13th, 2004, 8:02 pm
    Post #2 - December 13th, 2004, 8:02 pm Post #2 - December 13th, 2004, 8:02 pm
    Mike G wrote:Hackney's burger didn't blow THAT bad, I could see good things about it-- very fresh beef, mainly-- but compared to a dozen bars I could walk to there was nothing distinguished about 1) the way it was cooked, 2) the way it reduced the homemade rye bread to mush in two seconds, 3) the minimal and highly generic condiments, 4) the frozen fries, 5) the by no means modest bill. So what's the big deal, north shorians?


    Can't speak exactly to Hackney's outposts, but was at the original on Harms a week or so ago.

    What's the big deal?

    That's easy - the Onion Loaf.
  • Post #3 - December 13th, 2004, 8:40 pm
    Post #3 - December 13th, 2004, 8:40 pm Post #3 - December 13th, 2004, 8:40 pm
    We've tried the Hecky's outpost twice. The tips are NOTHING special: tho' better than Stevie B's(but what isn't?). The chicken was very moist with a crispy, crunchy coating, but lacked that ultimate seasoning; salt. Sides- fries, coleslaw, mac n chese, hushpuppies, onion straws are mediocre at best; not worth the expense. If they figure out how to season the chicken we'll be back.
  • Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 11:29 pm
    Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 11:29 pm Post #4 - December 13th, 2004, 11:29 pm
    The allure of Hackney's has eluded me as well. I've been to countless bars with burgers that far surpass anything I've had at Hackney's. From Jury's to, dare I say it, Celtic Crown.

    The onion loaf is nothing special to me either. If I want a heart attack on a plate, I don't really want it to be from deep fried onion. I'll stick with heart attacks courtesey Portuguese steak houses.
    ~ The username is a long story
  • Post #5 - December 14th, 2004, 3:15 am
    Post #5 - December 14th, 2004, 3:15 am Post #5 - December 14th, 2004, 3:15 am
    unhappymeal wrote:The allure of Hackney's has eluded me as well. I've been to countless bars with burgers that far surpass anything I've had at Hackney's. From Jury's to, dare I say it, Celtic Crown.

    The onion loaf is nothing special to me either. If I want a heart attack on a plate, I don't really want it to be from deep fried onion. I'll stick with heart attacks courtesey Portuguese steak houses.


    One of the great allures to me for Hackney's is bicycling up the river trail that starts at Devon & Caldwell, then taking the turnoff just before Lake Ave, which leads you almost directly to Hackney's on Harms. (After a burger, you can keep going to the Botanic Gardens, and beyond.) And their outdoor garden area on Harms is very nice. But I guess given the season that comment isn't particularly relevant.

    Still, I've never experienced anything in that category as good as Hackney's Onion Loaf - cardiologists be dammned.
  • Post #6 - December 14th, 2004, 7:10 am
    Post #6 - December 14th, 2004, 7:10 am Post #6 - December 14th, 2004, 7:10 am
    nr706 wrote:Still, I've never experienced anything in that category as good as Hackney's Onion Loaf - cardiologists be dammned.


    They have two options on how the onion loaf is served: as a loaf or loosely fried. The loaf tends to have some undercooked near the center, which is understandable. I tend to get it loose, then add some salt at the table and go to town. I like this much better than those blooming onions things ... though I will eat a blooming onion thing when the occasion allows!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #7 - December 14th, 2004, 8:08 am
    Post #7 - December 14th, 2004, 8:08 am Post #7 - December 14th, 2004, 8:08 am
    Christopher Gordon wrote:We've tried the Hecky's outpost twice. The tips are NOTHING special: tho' better than Stevie B's(but what isn't?). The chicken was very moist with a crispy, crunchy coating, but lacked that ultimate seasoning; salt. Sides- fries, coleslaw, mac n chese, hushpuppies, onion straws are mediocre at best; not worth the expense. If they figure out how to season the chicken we'll be back.


    How does the big city Hecky's fried chicken compare to the Evanston version? I'm assuming from the comments here that it's not the same.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - December 14th, 2004, 8:17 am
    Post #8 - December 14th, 2004, 8:17 am Post #8 - December 14th, 2004, 8:17 am
    Mike,

    I don't have a pony in the NY/Chicago/New Haven race, as I've said before I like em all, thin, thick, stuffed, crisp as a cracker, dry as a herring bone or dripping with grease. If it's good pizza I eat and enjoy, irrespective of provenance. From my one small sample, I'd certainly agree with you, GOT is good pizza.

    GOT Pizza is neat, tidy and attractive. Maybe a little too much so. :)
    Image

    And the pizza by the slice is held before reheating.
    Image

    But somehow it all works.
    Image

    Thankfully GOT Pizza was tasty enough to burn the last NY style pizza from my brain. The horrid, cheese product, gooey soggy mess the NY style place on Lawrence just west of Damen sold as pizza.

    I'm looking forward to a return visit to GOT, without the Hecky of Chicago soggy, tasteless BBQ warm up.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    GOT Pizza
    1234 N Halsted
    Chicago, IL
    312-640-2000

    GOT Pizza
    719 South State Street
    Chicago, IL
    312-957-1111
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #9 - December 14th, 2004, 8:21 am
    Post #9 - December 14th, 2004, 8:21 am Post #9 - December 14th, 2004, 8:21 am
    MikeG wrote:Again, I will leave it to someone else to tell the rest of the story, that transpired when one of the Hecky's crew walked in and saw us ordering MORE lunch....


    Ok, where is the promised story!
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #10 - December 14th, 2004, 8:29 am
    Post #10 - December 14th, 2004, 8:29 am Post #10 - December 14th, 2004, 8:29 am
    I was gonna comment on Hackney's, but since Wiv posted those pizza pics, I'll say something on that first.

    Pizza by the slice: The one huge problem with PBS in Chicago is that the pies waiting for the slice are usually kept in some kinda warming tank. I've mentioned this before. Thus, when Noo Yawkers complain about the PBS, I think they are mostly complaining about the way the pizza gets after being subject to the glare of one very hot light bulb. This GOT place, at least they are not frizzing out their pizza before you order it. Still, I got to say, from my eye, that slice of pepperoni had that distinct, shredded/not fully melted look I associate with frozen pizza. I hope it tastes better. In other words, VI's strictly visual judgement: plus for no heat lamp but looks like Kraft.

    OK, Hackney's: Here's the thing. Hackney's, like McDonalds and a lot of things in life WAS better. I am sure Hackney's faces the same conundrum of a 1,000 other burger places, high and low, keeping the burger price in a range of what people expect for such a meal. In other words (again), if you cannot raise the price, lower the quality of beef. I ate at Hackney's in Printer's Row during the summer, and I can vouch that the burger missed some of its joyful beefiness of old. More important, Hackney's used to wickedly fry their burgers, and I mean fry as in submerge those puppies in oil not fry as in Mickey D fry. It produced a lucious patty, with a slight crust, yet with all the juices well sealed inside. It was a great burger. Was, of course being the operative word. If you had one of those deep fried things in the day, you know. If you did not. Well, you post.

    Rob
  • Post #11 - December 14th, 2004, 8:48 am
    Post #11 - December 14th, 2004, 8:48 am Post #11 - December 14th, 2004, 8:48 am
    Vital Information wrote:Still, I got to say, from my eye, that slice of pepperoni had that distinct, shredded/not fully melted look I associate with frozen pizza. I hope it tastes better. In other words, VI's strictly visual judgement: plus for no heat lamp but looks like Kraft

    Rob,

    Interesting visual impression of taste. Mike and I, who ate/tasted the pizza thought it pretty good. As far as not fully melted, the pizza was so hot that I was burning my fingers just holding the slice.
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #12 - December 14th, 2004, 9:01 am
    Post #12 - December 14th, 2004, 9:01 am Post #12 - December 14th, 2004, 9:01 am
    For what its worth, the new shot does not make the pizza at all look like frozen.
  • Post #13 - December 14th, 2004, 9:36 am
    Post #13 - December 14th, 2004, 9:36 am Post #13 - December 14th, 2004, 9:36 am
    I don't know where the "Kraft" comment comes in, it doesn't look anything like any Kraft product I know of. When I think of a company like Kraft making pizza, or Fresketta, it's in the imitation Domino's style of lots of bready crust, which is obviously a completely different style from the 1940s-1950s New York thin crust style (which even the original thin Pizza Hut pizza still bears some resemblance to). So I did not, at all, think Kraft when I saw the very thin, lukewarm slices sitting there.

    What I did think was that the crust looked rather nice, thin and bubbly, but that the cold ingredients were unlikely to reheat any better than average. To my surprise, this turned out to be probably the closest slice I've ever had to fresh. (And it's not because the pepperoni happened to be especially fresh relative to the other pizzas sitting there.) I don't know what they do (apart from, as noted, NOT having one of those hot lamp pizza dehydrators), but given how clean and open the whole establishment is, I'm prepared to believe that in general they take their pizza a little more seriously than the average slice joint and have some better practices for making it.

    So: don't just look, swing by, pull out a couple of bucks and taste.

    Re Hackney's: well, I can see why they probably gave up on deep frying a burger-- though a place whose top seller is an onion loaf has a somewhat tenuous commitment to healthy eating-- but as far as the price goes, I paid more for less beef than I would at Jury's, say. And enough to have expected, oh, pickles, something more interesting than French's mustard, a more interesting job of frying that produced a solid brown crust, etc. Maybe Hackney's was better once. Maybe it's better on Harms to this day. Or maybe it never was all that great and the world has long since passed it by, memories tasting better than the reality.
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  • Post #14 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am
    Post #14 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am Post #14 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am
    First let me start by expressing my total disappointment with the majority of BBQ available to the general public in Chicago. Hecky's on Halsted is simply another data point. Frankly, there is not one positive thing I can say about the BBQ at Hecky's Chicago.

    I want to point out that Hecky's on Halsted (Chicago) is a franchise of Hecky's in Evanston. Halsted uses different cooking equipment, techniques, and pales in comparison to Hecky's in Evanston. This is not to say that Hecky's in Evanston has top tier Chicago style BBQ, but Hecky's is, at least, in the game, whereas Halsted street is simply oven cooked mushy, mealy, soft, no smoke flavor in the meat, not even evocative of BBQ, trough food for the masses.

    Hecky's signage says "it's the sauce" and to a certain extent I'd agree, that is if the sauce didn't contain liq*id sm*ke, which, at least to my taste, taints everything it touches with an unsettling factory run-off flavor. Hecky's rub, which they use liberally on pretty much everything, is flavorful, though there is a little too much sugar for my taste and a hint of msg brightness lurking in the background.

    We ordered our BBQ dry, almost unheard of at either Hecky's, though that's the best way to judge flavor of the meat, especially when the BBQ place is 'cheating' by adding li*uid sm*ke to the sauce.

    Hecky's of Chicago Saint Louis Style (Half slab)
    (Warning: Image may be less delicious than it appears.)
    Image

    Hecky's of Chicago's hot link had surprisingly good flavor, but was not BBQ, more like a tasty oven baked hot link. The tips were (very) fatty, mushy with no smoke flavor. Fries are good, with a nice shake of dry rub.
    Image


    What was pretty good was Hecky's of Chicago's fried chicken, a milder, slightly overcooked, less flavorful version of Hecky's in Evanston.
    Hecky's of Chicago's Fried Chicken
    Image

    Frankly, Hecky's of Chicago's fried chicken pales in comparison to Hecky's in Evanston. Evanston, which is the original, not a franchise, fried chicken is spicy, juicy, fresh and hot as sin from the fryer.

    Hecky's in Evanston's Fried Chicken (for comparison)
    Image

    My suggestion, you want BBQ go to Lem's, Barbara Ann's or Honey One. Better yet, buy a smoker, practice a bit and cook your own.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Hecky's of Chicago
    1234 N Halsted
    Chicago, IL
    312-377-7427

    Hecky's in Evanston
    1902 Green Bay Rd
    Evanston, IL 60201
    847-492-1182
    http://www.heckys.com/
    Last edited by G Wiv on December 14th, 2004, 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am
    Post #15 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am Post #15 - December 14th, 2004, 9:51 am
    Is this Got Pizza related to the Got Pizza on State and Polk? I sampled a slice there a couple months back and was underwhelmed--pepperoni, I believe it was. Worse, as I recall, than the okay slice I got for the first time at Santullo's recently.
  • Post #16 - December 14th, 2004, 10:01 am
    Post #16 - December 14th, 2004, 10:01 am Post #16 - December 14th, 2004, 10:01 am
    Aaron Deacon wrote:Is this Got Pizza related to the Got Pizza on State and Polk?

    Aaron

    Acording to the menu I have in front of me the two GOT's are related. Maybe I should have added YMMV :)
    (your milage may vary)

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #17 - December 14th, 2004, 10:37 am
    Post #17 - December 14th, 2004, 10:37 am Post #17 - December 14th, 2004, 10:37 am
    Having tasted it before its picture was posted, I can corroborate the deliciousness of the slice purchased at Got yesterday--and the miserable barbecue consumed earlier. But my inner relativist won't quit mingeing that saltines soaked in V8 would have seemed delicious after the meat jello we guzzled. Unlike Hecky's, Got does nothing but pizza. I'm looking forward to returning to Got, under more controlled laboratory conditions.

    Correct if I'm wrong Gary, but is the pair of slices not the Hecky girl's lunch? We're looking at several different slices right?
  • Post #18 - December 14th, 2004, 11:11 am
    Post #18 - December 14th, 2004, 11:11 am Post #18 - December 14th, 2004, 11:11 am
    Mike G wrote:Maybe it's better on Harms to this day.

    Mike,

    I'm a fan of Hackney's on Harms, med rare burger on black bread, fried and raw, blue cheese and a half loaf of onions. Heart healthy and low cal. :)

    I find a difference between the original Hackney's on Harm's and the others. Not only for the comfortable roadhouse atmosphere, but also for the food. Harm's has a more limited menu and does the burger quite well. I also find the bar a pleasant place to have a drink.

    In the same neighborhood Meier's Tavern does a good burger, with the added benefit of tater tots. Though I have not been to Meyer's in 3-4 years.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Glenview
    1241 Harms Rd.
    Glenview, IL 60025
    847-724-5577

    Meier's Tavern
    235 E Lake
    Glenview, IL
    847-724-0477
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #19 - December 14th, 2004, 11:23 am
    Post #19 - December 14th, 2004, 11:23 am Post #19 - December 14th, 2004, 11:23 am
    I agree that the Hackney's on Harms is better than the other locations with the possible exception of the Lake Street location, which is right down the road from Harms. As Wiv has pointed out, only the Harms location has the "road house feel", but I find myself at Lake street more often than not. The Printer's Row location, in particular, is a poor representation of what a Hackney's burger and onion loaf should be.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #20 - December 14th, 2004, 11:25 am
    Post #20 - December 14th, 2004, 11:25 am Post #20 - December 14th, 2004, 11:25 am
    m'th'su wrote:Correct if I'm wrong Gary, but is the pair of slices not the Hecky girl's lunch? We're looking at several different slices right?

    Mike,

    You are Correct Sir, said in my best Ed Mc voice. Though I'd venture to say the difference is negligible at best. As the four of us, including Merrill Powers, started in on the slice before I took a picture I imposed on the Hecky employee to hold off a moment on her lunch.

    Both slices came off the same pie, were cooked the same way, within moments of each other, and appeared exactly the same.

    Given the fact that Hecky's of Chicago has many (many) offerings on the menu it's funny that employees are already eating lunch next door. Though she may have simply been in the mood for pizza and, at least, she didn't hit the gas station for a turkey sandwich mummified in plastic.

    Speaking of turkey, the turkey wrap sandwiches we saw being served at Hecky's of Chicago looked pretty darn good. But who goes to a BBQ joint for a turkey wrap.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - December 14th, 2004, 12:01 pm
    Post #21 - December 14th, 2004, 12:01 pm Post #21 - December 14th, 2004, 12:01 pm
    Mike, a very informative and provocative post. I know that you sometimes use hyperbole for its comedic effect, not unlike a giant melon-squishing mallet or floppy shoes. You also have the deadpan down, like the times you wrote in poker-faced style that Pizza Hut is actually pretty good. So I took some of your more outrageous comments in the light-hearted way they must have been intended. My comments follow.

    Re:

    (1) L'Hecchiffo, Buc d'Etto, Da Ettore, whatever: A franchised location of Hecky's in a gas station, of course.

    (2) Redamak's "blows": You're nuts. If a roadhouse that hand-grinds its own fatty meat, refuses to use "California condiments" like lettuce and tomato, and makes a perfect 1930's burger, dripping with fat, grilled onions, and runny Velveeta "blows" then here are some other places that blow: Kevin's, Top Notch, Diner Grill, and In N Out Burger. You compare the white tablecloth, Chicago pub, fatburger, meatloaf-on-a-bun Jury burger (which I like fine) to these other places? Apples and ladders. Now the Hackney comp is at least internally consistent. But I'm with those who like it. The Printers Row Hackney burger, medium rare, with a .5L of Stiegl and some onion loaf, that's good eating.

    (3) Got Pizza. (Belmont and Lincoln location opening soon.): I'm respectfully with VI on this, until I taste otherwise, which I will only do because you and Gary vouch for it. The photos don't make it look like NY/NJ/Philly pizza at all. Hand tossing must not happen at Got Pizza, and that's a problem. Not just because hand tossing is cool, difficult, and authentic but because it (like hand-patting a tortilla) makes all the difference in the world. It permits the dough to diminish from thick and puffy at the edges to very thin and crispy in the middle. It gives elasticity. I don't see that. I see a consistent doughy slice. Compare Rich4's Folia pics. Got Pizza looks a lot like Pizza Broker in the Loop; right stuff, slightly wrong execution. Until someone starts making the so-simple-its-apparently-impossible (again, like tortillas) NY/NJ/PA slice, which involves hand-tossing simple dough made in small batches as you go, you'll find me eating the perfectly delicious but different Chicago thin, square cut with sausage, thanks. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Got Pizza is it. It's not rocket science, heck, the NYers have managed to bring such places down to FL (more to follow on this). Surely it can be done. Oh, and it looks like the oven might not be hot enough at Got. Sure, the cheese was hot, but the crust, she no look right.
  • Post #22 - December 14th, 2004, 12:29 pm
    Post #22 - December 14th, 2004, 12:29 pm Post #22 - December 14th, 2004, 12:29 pm
    JeffB wrote:Sure, the cheese was hot, but the crust, she no look right.

    Jeff,

    Please note that the last time I ate NY style pizza in NY I was so completely inebriated that a flattened twinky with parmesan and crushed red pepper would have tasted good. This is by way of saying I have no idea if GOT is authentic NY style, only that IMHO it tasted pretty darn good.

    Here's a better angle on the crust.
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #23 - December 14th, 2004, 12:50 pm
    Post #23 - December 14th, 2004, 12:50 pm Post #23 - December 14th, 2004, 12:50 pm
    Note that I compared Got Pizza to the average piece you get on the street in NY. Apart, possibly, from John's in the village, I don't think I've ever eaten at a topflight NYC pizza place, so I am comparing Got to the dozens of "Original Ray's" type places all over Manhattan which, I think, mostly don't toss their pizzas either. Got looks pretty good next to them, next to Santullo's or the late and largely unlamented NY Pizza; I make no claims as to how it looks next to DiFara's or [insert your favorite here].

    Redamak's, well, I wanted to like it. But I don't think it was a 30s style burger, too big a patty for the overall blending of flavors effect, and, well, we all just sat there and went, "Ennh." Blows is probably too strong-- as if it had truly blown, I'd be able to remember more about it and go into greater detail.
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  • Post #24 - December 14th, 2004, 1:31 pm
    Post #24 - December 14th, 2004, 1:31 pm Post #24 - December 14th, 2004, 1:31 pm
    I've heard that the purpose of tossing dough is to return elasticity to frozen or otherwise pre-made dough. Fresh dough needs no tossing.

    Is this incorrect?
  • Post #25 - December 14th, 2004, 2:15 pm
    Post #25 - December 14th, 2004, 2:15 pm Post #25 - December 14th, 2004, 2:15 pm
    Well, I would be surprised if there are many pizza makers going to the trouble to hand toss dough that has been frozen. I'm no food scientist, but it seems to me that pulling and stretching an elastic medium like pizza dough would have a different effect on the final product than simply pressing or flattening the dough though a commercial roller (which many pizzarie use) or pushing with your fingertips. Someone with more scientific knowledge could set this straight. Until then, I'm also going on hearsay plus personal observation at home, at family's pizza places, and in Italy, NY, PA, etc.

    But the elasticity issue is just part of the problem. As I emphasized above, another important thing that happens with hand tossing is based on physics and is easily observable. The middle gets relatively thinner and the edges get/stay relatively a little thicker as the whole pie gets thinner in general and wider. The taper of the dough matches the taper of the pizza wedge in a geometrically elegant way.

    Frozen dough is a different issue. It's just too easy to make the dough by batches, especially if you have a large stand mixer and a warming rack under the oven where the dough can rise. So why not do it?
  • Post #26 - December 14th, 2004, 2:22 pm
    Post #26 - December 14th, 2004, 2:22 pm Post #26 - December 14th, 2004, 2:22 pm
    JeffB wrote:Well, I would be surprised if there are many pizza makers going to the trouble to hand toss dough that has been frozen. I'm no food scientist, but it seems to me that pulling and stretching an elastic medium like pizza dough would have a different effect on the final product than simply pressing or flattening the dough though a commercial roller (which many pizzarie use) or pushing with your fingertips. Someone with more scientific knowledge could set this straight.


    Although to me, NY style pizza is not the holy grail, although I'm not opposed to eating a good slice on occasion, like today when I will be stopping at Got Pizza for a slice and some gas (that's petrolium gasoline, not the other kind). Let me point out that Nick & Vito's uses hand made, not frozen dough, but puts it through one of the above mentioned roller machines. They are able to turn out an excellent product that way, so hand tossing is not necessarily the secret.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #27 - December 14th, 2004, 2:44 pm
    Post #27 - December 14th, 2004, 2:44 pm Post #27 - December 14th, 2004, 2:44 pm
    The overall dissing of Chi. BBQ culture and the mention of the same group of culprits (Hecky's, Lem's, etc.) promts me to ask: Has anyone tried Merle's in Evanston?

    I haven't -- nor am I much of a Q-hound. I've had some Leon's way back in the day, and some Carson's, and a bit of this and that in between, but I have no working knowledge of TX vs. Chi. vs. Memphis and St. Louis etc. So, I 'm looking for more expert, or at least experienced opinion.

    I have at least one friend who swears by Merle's. A glance at their menu seemed to suggest that they do various regional preparations and want their customers to know that they know - and care about - the difference. All of which made me wonder why their name had never come up in any of these discussions as far as I can remember.

    Anyone been there?
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #28 - December 14th, 2004, 2:52 pm
    Post #28 - December 14th, 2004, 2:52 pm Post #28 - December 14th, 2004, 2:52 pm
    mrbarolo wrote:Anyone been there?


    Many times, and I like it. I wouldn't say I swear by it, but I like it.

    The theme of Merles is "texas", and not knowing what Texas baby-backs are supposed to taste like, I can't comment on their authenticity. They do offer a a nice array of rib options (baby-back, St. Louis, beef) and none of them approach the "loose-meat" aspect that so many find distasteful.

    The best thing about Merle's is that they embrace the option of un-sauced ribs with a dry rub. So many places (like Hecky's) belive that it's "all about the sauce", which I find a little crazy. Anyone who tells me that they have great sauce must have crappy meat. I enjoy the fact that all the ribs at Merle's are offered dry, coated in their decent rub.

    I usually go for the 1/2 baby back, 1/2 st. louis rib plate.

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #29 - December 14th, 2004, 3:45 pm
    Post #29 - December 14th, 2004, 3:45 pm Post #29 - December 14th, 2004, 3:45 pm
    eatchicago wrote:The best thing about Merle's is that they embrace the option of un-sauced ribs with a dry rub. So many places (like Hecky's) belive that it's "all about the sauce", which I find a little crazy. Anyone who tells me that they have great sauce must have crappy meat. I enjoy the fact that all the ribs at Merle's are offered dry, coated in their decent rub.

    Like most, I'm untrained in the art of DIY low-and-slow. But the Evanston Hecky's, as of two weeks ago, was more than willing to supply its ribs without sauce, and the meat showed a very substantial smoke ring. Unfortunately, since one person in our group ordered the fried chicken, the other three of us had lukewarm, steamed meat after it sat in the styrofoam for 20 minutes, so I can't judge its texture. (If you go as a group and someone wants chicken, I'd suggest the others hold off on ordering until the chicken fan's been served.)
  • Post #30 - December 14th, 2004, 4:18 pm
    Post #30 - December 14th, 2004, 4:18 pm Post #30 - December 14th, 2004, 4:18 pm
    mrbarolo wrote:Has anyone tried Merle's in Evanston?


    I was there last Saturday night (after seeing Kinsey - so you can guess where my mind was ...) and got seated in the famous Elvis booth - famous because the restaurant was closed for a while after a fire started in that booth a few years ago. Merle's is one of the Clean Plate Club restaurants - basically modeled after Rich Melman's empire, just not quite so successful. The group also includes Davis St. Fishmarket and Pete Miller's Steakhouse, and (formerly) Tommy Nevin's Pub (I believe they sold off the latter, but they developed the concept).

    Oh, I guess I should comment on Merle's food. Excellent. Reliable. Been there many times. They do Texas BBQ as well as anyplace I've been in Texas (we refer to the beef ribs as "dinosaur ribs" - they're that big) and they also do Carolina pulled pork as well as anywhere around here - with the possible exception of the original Russell's in Elmwood Park (although I haven't been there lately, and I've heard though non-reliable sources that it's gone downhill lately).

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