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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Diner’ Category

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

Well another year has come and gone and Pop Culture Cuisine is officially a two years old!  This year our lives have changed dramatically in many ways, including the addition of a new family member.  We also may not have traveled as far as in the past, but Adam and I still love finding new ways to seek out culinary hot spots wherever our travels take us.  We have compiled a list of some of our favorite and not so favorite spots to share with you with links so you can read our reviews for yourself.  We STILL love food and hope to continue to share lots of great finds with you all along the way.

Signature Dish:

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1. Al’s Beef’s “Italian Beef Sandwich” – Chicago, IL

2. Kim & Scott’s Café Twist’s “Twist Your Own” – Chicago, IL

3. The Varsity’s “Chili Dog” – Atlanta, GA

 

Taste:

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1. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

 

Ambiance:

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1. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

2. Slow’s Bar-BQ – Detroit, MI

3. Lynn’s Paradise Café – Louisville, KY

 

Service:

1. Tufano’s Vernon Park TapJoe and his staff – Chicago, IL

2. KouzzinaJohn – Orlando, FL

3. Emeril’sSpencer – Orlando, FL

 

Price:

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1. The Varsity – Atlanta, GA

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. South Side Soda Shop – Goshen, IN

 

Overall Top 5:

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1. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

2. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL (A VERY close 2nd place)

3. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

4. Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

5. Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Top 5 Biggest Letdowns…Not worth the Hype:

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1. The Whale’s Rib – Deerfield Beach, FL

2. Brennan’s – New Orleans, LA

3. Camp Washington – Cincinnati, OH

4. Graeter’s – Cincinnati, OH

5. The Loveless Café – Nashville, TN

Best of the Rest…Honorable Mention:

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Most Fun Kim & Scott’s Café Twist – Chicago, IL

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Most Memorable Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

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Most Worth the Wait Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

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Most Outrageous Dish Bub’s Burgers – Carmel, IN

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Best Excursion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Orlando. FL

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Best Sandwich (Burgers Included) The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

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Best Sweet Treat Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Monday, November 21, 2011 @ 07:11 AM

075Days just seem to be flying by since Kherington was born. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week…I mean where has this fall gone?  I tell ya, having a baby changes your life in so many ways, the biggest being how my life now revolves around this tiny human, which I love, but man I can’t tell you where all the hours go most days.  Sometimes I don’t even know what day it is! I’m open 24 hours baby!

And speaking of 24 hours, there is a diner our old city of Chicago that that is open to its adoring patrons all the time too! The White Palace Grill, a famous diner known to many Chicagoans located on the south side of city has been cooking up their extensive menu since 1939; and while many other restaurants and businesses surrounding it have come and gone, its popularity among locals, visitors, and celebrities alike have allowed it to stay in business for over 70 years.  I’m sure many of you have even passed by it a few times, seen its iconic sign, and not even realized how much of a big deal it is.  I know for a fact that Adam and I used to pass it almost daily on our way to and from his office, but never decided to stop on in.  Once again, this was one of those joints we had to come back to experience on one of our many weekend visits into the city; and it just so happened this was the perfect spot to catch a great breakfast on our way out of town Valentine’s Day weekend last year. 

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We found out about the White Palace through an old episode of The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” It seemed like the perfect place to get a good breakfast and was located perfectly on our way out of town.  When you watch the clip, you realize why that good ol’ greasy breakfast diner food was exactly what we wanted…

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbjx_4hvyiY

 

Sure, it looks pretty standard, but what trust me…this place is for sure doing it right; and we knew they must be legit when we pulled up and noticed the line of people practically out the door waiting for a table.  I mean, White Palace isn’t huge, but it isn’t tiny either, so it’s a good sign with the amount of diners scattered throughout the city that patrons will wait for a specific one.  So we jumped in line.

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This morning, a stack of pancakes was all that would do and maybe a side of sausage since I like to eat the two together. Plus, a little breakfast protein staying power is always good.  Adam perused the menu for awhile, not entirely sure what sounded good, until he settled on the corned beef hash, a waffle, and ham with scrambled eggs.  Might sound random, but it was what he wanted, and he is always on the lookout for the perfect hash. Can we say eyes bigger than tummy…

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Our food arrived quickly and we dug right in. The pancakes were spot on…, light, fluffy, buttery, with just a hint of sweetness, you almost didn’t need maple syrup. Coupled with bites of ham (I decided against the sausage when Adam ordered the left side of the menu and said I could share), I was in pure breakfast heaven.  Adam could not say enough great things about his hash. He has had some bad batches from some diners, so when he finds one he likes, he is always excited.  I tried a bite just to say I did…and to be honest…it tasted like dog food to me.  But then again, I always think hash tastes that way, so I’m not sure I would know a good one if I tried it.  He said the waffle was just ok…, pretty boring, but agreed my pancakes were perfect.  And the ham…, also very good, great flavor and not overcooked, exactly how you would want a nice slab of breakfast ham to be. 

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That morning, this was exactly the sort of meal I was craving. It was simple and delicious and hit the spot!  While we both love places that try new twists on old favorites or are maybe a bit more gourmet and fancy, sometimes you just want a great rendition of what you already know and love.  The White Palace Grill certainly lived up to its expectations and I would for sure visit again.

SIGNATURE DISH: Like most other diners, the signature aspect of White Palace Grill is that they do it all! They boast a VERY extensive menu with just about every classic dish you can think of.

TASTE: The dishes we ordered weren’t really anything out of the ordinary, but they were pretty good; and although not everything was the best ever, we really liked the pancakes, ham and hash. However, it’s breakfast, which is usually the most basic of tastes…so you’ll have to check it out for yourself. One thing I will say, though, it that is tasted very fresh and home-made.

AMBIANCE: The décor isn’t anything fancy, rather just your classic booths, tables, bar seating that any other diner might have.  The bar is pretty fun in that you can see all the cooking going on.  Back where we sat was a really cool mural featuring all sorts of famous Chicagoans from Michael Jordan to Oprah.  Overall, it is just a fun atmosphere in an up and coming neighborhood.

PRICE: Their prices are slightly steeper than many other diners I have been to, however, I wasn’t shocked by the prices being that we were in the city.  While I might typically pay $5 or less for a stack of pancakes around here, they were more like $6.50 there; and their omelets and other similar dishes are more like $7.50.  So while maybe a bit more expensive for breakfast, not outrageous and the portions were huge so we still took some home.

SERVICE: Our waitress was very spunky, took our order and got our food to us quickly…always a must for a diner.  And while I wouldn’t say unfriendly, she was definitely a no nonsense kind of girl.  That being said, she was also trying to deal with a rather large party in our section who seemed to have a lot going on and making her job not easy, so I attribute maybe a slight ‘tude to that, because she was perfectly nice to us when we asked if we could get her e-mail to send this post.

Overall, The White Palace Grill rounded out a very lovely Valentine’s Day weekend in the city and was worth the wait. 3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies’

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

044We love traveling around the country trying to visit as many PCC worthy places as we can. It IS our passion after all, and we’ve managed to visit quite a long list of places. Still, this doesn’t come CLOSE to the list of places on our “want to” list, which is most likely due to the insane amount of food television we watch. But what can I say…it’s SO addicting, as all my fellow foodies will agree.

That being said, due to our busier schedule and my present preggo-condition, traveling hasn’t been on the forefront of our plans these days…well at least not any far travels. So it’s nice when we find a place that is nearby, and better yet in our home town. Now Elkhart and its surrounding cities are hardly what I would call trend setting. That is not to say I don’t love where we live, but we are definitely no Chicago, LA, or New York, or even any mid-tier city for that matter, and that is especially true when it comes to food. So it makes it even more exciting when Guy Fieri decides to pay a visit to a restaurant that is only 10 minutes away from our house…Yay!

South Side Soda Shop began as a soda fountain in the 1940’s in Goshen, IN. In 1986 it was reopened as a 50’s style diner that has been serving good home cooked meals to its patrons ever since. Voted “Best Chili in Michiana” 7 times, it is easy to see how they certainly take pride in the food they are churning out; and this is not your regular ol’ diner. What makes the soda shop so special is their unique and gourmet menu items that you would not typically find nor expect at a diner. I mean…they serve turtle soup and a variety of seafood dishes that are big local favorites and are hardly what you would expect here. It was this uniqueness that brought Guy and his “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” crew out for a visit in 2007.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=withX9C85A0

We’ve known that the show had visited this spot for a while now, and we have even been there a few times since. Still, it took us a few years to actually feature it; and now that we’ve been back in Elkhart for more than a year, we decided it was time to give it an adequate showcase. So on a free Saturday a little bit back, Adam and I arranged a whole day of fun things to do, including a lunch pit stop at the South Side Soda Shop.

When you first approach the restaurant you are immediately taken back in time by the nostalgic old 50’s soda shop look. While not a large restaurant, we have never had an issue getting a booth or table relatively quickly; and a fun little bonus is they have trivial pursuit cards on the tables to test yourself while you wait for your order…neat huh?

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We perused the menu for a little while, although having been here before, it didn’t take long to decide on what we would be ordering: a crab cake appetizer, bowl of chili for me, a cup of turtle soup and the very unique New England Cheeseburger (quarter pound burger with cheddar cheese all served on a grilled English muffin) for Adam, and a basket of their delicious curly fries to share; and in true diner fashion, it wasn’t long before it was all brought to the table. Let me tell you….it was quite a spread.

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Another fun treat at the soda shop is how they serve their chili to you. It comes in a large ice cream sundae dish, over noodles, and covered in cheese. Can you say “YES PLEASE!” We shared bites of the crab cake, which we decided was a bit too fishy for our tastes, but it came with a sauce that was very yummy. Adam loved his burger, and as usual I had fun trying to get all that my chili sundae had to offer in one bite! We also enjoyed the curly fries just as much as we usually do, but I made sure not to go overboard so I could enjoy the rest of our meal…although I admit that was a little hard….dem fries o’ so good!

What I love so much about the South Side Soda Shop is how it makes no qualms about being a traditional diner and people love it for that. However, while it has those favorite dishes you know and love from the past, they are also not afraid to add some interesting menu twists to keep the customers coming back and that is what makes it great!

SIGNATURE DISH: As a soda shop or diner, they have many dishes you know, love, and expect to see on their menu. However, I would say their chili is definitely a hit, and having won best chili 7 times, I’d say that is the standout dish. Also, they are well known for their seafood dishes and the turtle soup is a local favorite. Finally, as a soda shop, you can’t go wrong with the burgers and fries….fresh cut extremely yummy curly fries at that!

TASTE: If chili isn’t your thing, don’t worry. They have plenty of other wonderful creations on their menu. Turtle soup, which is definitely unique to our area, is a favorite of Adam’s and I happen to also think their burger and fries are pretty darn good!

AMBIANCE: If you loved going to an old school diner or soda shop as a kid, this will for sure bring back memories. If you have never been to one, this is definitely one to visit. The great nostalgic feel alone I feel is worth it. I love the soda fountain, counter, and old booths. Even the accessories just make it feel as if you have stepped back in time a little bit. It’s a fun comfortable place to be.

PRICE: What is so great about South Side is not only are you getting a great meal, often gourmet, but you are not paying a lot of money for it. They understand the idea of pleasing their customer and offering great food at a great value.

SERVICE: Every time I have been, I have had a sweet waitress who is more than willing to help you decide on what to order or give up great advice on the best thing on their menu. The food comes out quick, hot, and delicious. What more can you ask for?

I know many of you likely won’t be planning a vacation to Elkhart or Goshen anytime soon, but if you are just passing through, the South Side Soda Shop is a must visit. Also, if you want a place to crash, we are always in the mood for visitors! (You read that hunny?) 😉 So I happily give South Side Soda Shop 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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