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The Great Hays apple-picking & LTH whistle-stop tour Part 1

The Great Hays apple-picking & LTH whistle-stop tour Part 1
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  • The Great Hays apple-picking & LTH whistle-stop tour Part 1

    Post #1 - October 1st, 2008, 12:16 pm
    Post #1 - October 1st, 2008, 12:16 pm Post #1 - October 1st, 2008, 12:16 pm
    It's apple-picking season. Our weekends in October are largely taken up with sports and family obligations, and I'd despaired of finding the time to make a pilgrimage to farm country in search of that leafy cathedral studded with red and green jewels. Somewhat unexpectedly, yesterday, (hey, they expect you to read that calendar your kid takes home from school?) we discovered we had a day free for Rosh Hashanah, and piled into the car on what was a crisp if cloudy autumn day.

    Heeding the call of Mike G, the Lion of Beverly, the voice crying out in the food desert, we opted to stop at Top Notch Beefburgers for lunch. After driving around Beverly aimlessly for about ten minutes, trying to figure out the detour around the construction at Wood St. (You need to go up to 87th to cross the train tracks, but of course the signs don't tell you that!) We saw the First Sign:
    In we went, taking in the frozen-in-time quality of the place. We sat at the counter, where you can see (and hear) the burgers being pounded out and tossed on the grill, and the orders being dinged-out for pickup with a little bell, just as they should be.
    Sparky ordered a hotdog kid's meal with an oreo shake - dogs are crisped on the griddle (he pronounced that he prefers his hotdogs "raw," but what does he know, he's eight :D ) I ordered a cube steak sandwich with nothing, and the 'spouse got the beefburger with grilled onions.
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    While I enjoyed my bites of everybody else's food, despite starkness in presentation of the cube steak sandwich, it hit all the craving points perfectly: crisp, buttered, grilled bread; (not at all stale as in most places) umami note and nice chew from the meat, and a bright tang from the pickles. It needed no sides, and, indeed, I could not have eaten them had they accompanied it. I left more satisfied with that lunch than I have by a sandwich in ages.

    From there, we made a quick stop at D's Irie Kitchen - at least, I'd planned it to be a quick stop. This is not a place to go if you've got a tight agenda for the day - my order of jerk chicken wings took somewhere between 20-30 minutes. I spent that time admiring the photos and prints of Bob Marley doing various things (lighting up a big one, playing footbol, you know) and eavesdropping on the bright young high school students who'd come in to get a snack, discussing the merits of Spanish vs Mandarin Chinese as a language course option. This place has all the trappings of the gritty (no seating or even counter space, gravel lot,) but it's a facade; it is bright and clean and spartan, and the customers and counterman pleasant.
    The wings turned out to be well worth the wait: a beautiful mahogany-brown, a bit dry from the smoking process as they should be, and heavy on the allspice and thyme. I didn't find them too spicy on their own, although the accompanying vinegar sauce was blow-your-head-off hot - one of the young ladies had ordered her chicken "mild" so I assume I may have recieved that, as well. Definitely worth a stop if you're in the area - and this also is my preferred method of jerk chicken, and also prefer the accompanying Jamaican-style white bread to the Wonder that usually comes with BBQ. I was sorry we were too full for more.

    Satiated, indeed, over-satiated, we turned our wheels South and East...(continued here)
  • Post #2 - October 1st, 2008, 12:58 pm
    Post #2 - October 1st, 2008, 12:58 pm Post #2 - October 1st, 2008, 12:58 pm
    For the final part of the whistle-stop tour, we'd planned to stop at Johnson's Blue-Top Drive-In which Sparky remembers fondly. Sadly, we arrived to find it closed, with no signage of hours or explanation. Since all the tables still have menus, I hope that this is merely a seasonal closure or a day off, but a forboding sign in the parking lot announces this "historical property" is for sale. So, where to eat? It's getting on towards 6pm, and Sparky has school tomorrow. We needed something quick, something near the highway, something we can get in and out of on a we opted for New York Bagel & Bialy, just off the Touhy exit.

    I ordered the two sandwiches they had available in the evening: Turkey Pastrami and Corned Beef. Both were excellent, hit the spot after the pounds of apples we'd all been consuming all day. I also picked up a dozen mini-bagels Sparky and I enjoyed for breakfast this morning (well, not the entire dozen.)



    NYB&B is spartan, immaculate, and glaringly bright on a dark autumn evening; I half-expected the counterman to be sporting a halo and wings, so white were his whites.

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    We ate heartily in the car as we sped homeward in the darkening night, our day of food from farm to counter concluded. Fin

    Top-Notch Beefburgers Inc.
    2116 W 95th St
    Chicago, IL 60643
    Phone: (773) 445-7218

    D's Irie Kitchen
    11137 S Vincennes Ave
    Chicago, IL 60643
    (773) 881-7702

    County Line Orchard

    200 County Line Road
    Hobart, IN 46342

    Johnsen's Blue Top Drive -In
    8801 Indianapolis Blvd
    Highland, IN 46322
    (219) 838-1233

    New York Bagel & Bialy Corp
    4714 W Touhy Ave
    (between Keating Ave & Kilpatrick Ave)
    Lincolnwood, IL 60712
    (847) 677-9388
  • Post #3 - October 2nd, 2008, 2:25 pm
    Post #3 - October 2nd, 2008, 2:25 pm Post #3 - October 2nd, 2008, 2:25 pm
    Today, I decided to find ways to explore our friend the Pig. I made my way down Western Avenue, and almost passed up Moon's Sandwich shop, quickly swinging around the block and back again under the benevolent gaze of a couple of underqualified junkyard dogs. It's easy to park next to the post office, and lunch was in full swing when I got there around 12:30 or so - I opened the door and was hit slap in the face with the captivating smell of spicy smoked sausages.

    By full swing, I mean literally, in the sense of dancing counterpeople; the music is loud and frequently during my short meal the staff sang along. I loved Moon's for the atmosphere done disservice by so many "Urban Comedies." While I was handled a little more demurely than the obvious regulars, the staff (and there are a lot of people working in a very small space at Moon's) mitigate their obvious strong work ethic with a healthy dose of joy, irreverence, and sense of community. I had breakfast for lunch: scrambled eggs per Stevez, with grits and sausage patties. Butter is applied liberally here: I noticed that the pancakes, after flipping, immediately recive a slab of butter so that they're served with the butter melting into them. It was the same with my grits: two chunks of butter immediately made themselves at home in the white creamy mass - I think there's a guy whose sole job is to stick butter and cheese on and into things. I have to say, I didn't find the scrambled eggs particularly special (which is not to say they weren't good - but I never order them at a restaurant, so I'm comparing to the ones I make at home) but the sausage patties piqued my interest: they were clearly sliced off a log of sausage, but grilled until the entire exterior had a hard crunch, and the interior was well-spiced and flavorful (and a tiny bit gristly, the way I like it.) I don't know when, but I'll be back.

    I then turned east and headed towards Peoria Packing house - and walked in to what is decidedly a cathedral of meat. The space inside is a good bit smaller than it appears in the photographs, but it's packed (again, literally) nose to tail with meat and meat products. One row was comprised of whole sides of pig: shoulders, butts, hams, bellies, ribs, and loins - I picked up a half-loin ($1.49/lb) and took it to the counter for processing. I asked for stuffing chops, and the butcher who was helping me pointed out that I had both rib chops and blade chops, and suggested the blade chops be cut a bit thinner. He was also able to immediately convert my finger measurement into inches for the guys at the saw. Next to the processing area are bins with all the pork nasty bits: I picked up a bag of pork ears for $1.79/lb; there were tongues, livers, kidneys, hocks and feet - snouts were advertised but the bin was empty. Despite the imminent return of Bossy, I also couldn't resist the whole oxtail, which was $3.99/lb. They cut it into beautiful pieces, one tail should be enough for a luscious stew and leftovers to keep us warm in the upcoming chilly months. Peoria Packing is a testament to our place on the food chain, at which I and my well-spent dollars remain, happily, at the top.

    I did a cursory check of the lunch counter, looks like they sell mostly Vienna and Sara Lee products but there was a Mortadella that looked interesting. Obviously not the reason to come here, but might be an option for a quickie if you get there after Moon's is closed.