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Katie Davis

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Archive for the ‘Onion Rings’ Category

Thursday, April 26, 2012 @ 08:04 AM

005While I often poke fun at my new home state, Indiana has truly become a place I am proud to call home; and I’m really enjoying learning many of the little quirks that are unique to this part of the country. But if you are like me and didn’t grow up here, there’s probably a lot of “traditions” that would be new to you, including a culinary staple in these parts…the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.

This particular sandwich is something that people from around here RAVE about and I for the life of me had never heard of it until moving here. I mean it really isn’t anything all that complicated…, a piece of pork, pounded EXTREMELY thin, battered, fried, and placed upon a bun; and as simple as they seem, everybody has their own way of dressing them up from mustard, to pickles, and cheese. And while they are on almost every diner menu in the state, there are certainly places that do them better, most certainly bigger (some so large it is comical!), and ultimately more notably than others. One such place, and this week’s PCC feature, is Edward’s Drive-In, a popular root beer stand on the outskirts of Indianapolis.

We first saw Edward’s on an episode of Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food,” and seeing it featured like that coupled with Adam’s love for the sandwich, I knew I would be trying this soon.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKf50teTiy4

 

The thing is, we have plenty of places in town that serve their version of the sandwich…and some are downright yummy! (nod to Miles Lab in Elkhart) Still, none of the local favorites have been featured in popular culture, so I guessed that Edward’s must be legit. So, on a trip down to Louisville just after our daughter was born, we figured a drive-in was the way to go (with her asleep in the car) and opted to hit up perhaps the Hoosier state’s most famous tenderloin spot.

While Edward’s is like your typical drive-in (something I also found are more popular in Indiana than anywhere else I’ve ever lived), they also have a restaurant you can dine in. Still, we opted to eat outside in the car for experience sake and with the baby it was a lot easier.

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Having seen how large these tenderloins were, we decided splitting one and an order of onion rings would be a smarter choice and it ended up being the perfect amount, even more than enough. This thing was no joke…the bun looked ridiculous on this huge piece of meat! However, with the first bite I knew this was not really my cup of tea. While I wouldn’t say it was bad, it was just really bland to me, and nowhere near as good as one of our local favorites version of the sandwich (once again a nod to Miles Lab…whose thicker peppery seasoned version has become what I measure all others by). Adam explained that that is typically how traditional tenderloins are…, very very thin and mostly relying on the flavor of the pork.

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I realized then and there that this “traditional” version is not my favorite. I ate a few bites of my half, but instead honed in on what were truly delicious…, their onion rings. Perfectly crispy yet with one bite the coating didn’t all pull off, and a nice sweet flavor from the onions and batter made these truly delicious; and as much as I love onion rings, I’d come close to saying they were some of the best I’ve ever had!

Adam, who’s had a few tenderloins in his day, said he enjoyed it, but admitted it was far from the best he had ever had. He agreed it wasn’t bad, just didn’t rank up there as the BEST (so far we both reserve that for Miles Lab version). However, we both also agreed that the onion rings were pretty fantastic and would order them again in a heartbeat!

SIGNATURE DISH: While like any drive-in Edward’s has many other basic American classics, their pork tenderloin sandwich is the big attraction and true to its Indiana heritage.

TASTE: While we both agreed it was edible, and Adam enjoyed it more than I did (he’s a true-blue Hoosier), neither of us were sold on this being the best. We are certain there are better versions of this, so for one featured in popular culture as being a standout in this category, we just weren’t all that impressed.

AMBIANCE: This was another area I was a little bit disappointed with. Edward’s is in a very industrial section of town and it just wasn’t as nostalgic as many of the local drive-ins I’ve come to enjoy. It seemed to have gone through an update within the last few years, so it just felt too new for me. I know that sounds nuts, but part of the thing I love about going to a drive-in is it feels old timey, like something you did 40-50 years ago and that is the feeling you want to get when you visit.

PRICE: For at sandwich as huge as this one, costing less than $5 is a deal! And their sides are all less than $2, so we were able to split a meal for around $7…, quite a deal if you ask me.

SERVICE: While I wasn’t necessarily sold on the flavor, we received really great service; fast and very friendly.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with my first “traditional” tenderloin experience and can’t believe this is the best my new state has to offer. Even my Hoosier husband agreed that this sandwich was not his favorite; so with that I give Edward’s Drive-In 2 ‘Little Piggies’

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Monday, March 21, 2011 @ 08:03 AM

124Last week we hit 65 degrees in Northern Indiana, and if you are a mid-westerner like me, you know how joyful that was.  This winter has been particularly harsh and I was hoping the warmth was around to stay, even though my husband (being a local) said it was sure to get cold again and even snow at least one more time. Alas…although I hate to admit it…he was right, and this past weekend has been freezing and even started to flurry a little.

Still, my mind remains fixed on those nice days last week which let me know that Spring & Summer are just around the corner. I can’t help but let my mind wander and I start daydream about those lovely events that mark the warm months, particularly as it pertains to the foods I start to crave once again.  There is something about warmer weather that begins that yearly itch of wanting to head out to baseball games and family barbecues.  I just crave those American past-times and that #1 food I associate with them…HOT DOGS!

Now I know for some, hotdogs are an item that you turn your nose up at. I mean…what ARE THEY exactly?  To be honest…I’m really not sure either, but I choose to look beyond that, and figure in my relatively healthy life, I’ve decided I can fit in a hotdog every now and then. Heck….I think everyone needs a little hotdog in their life every once in awhile. Smile I don’t care what you say…, they taste good so don’t even try to tell yourself they don’t! LOL

Hot dogs have been around for ages and seem to be making quite the comeback amongst trendy foodies out there, with all sorts of spots centered around fancy artisan encased meats.  In fact, hot dogs are so synonymous with our culture, the Travel Channel dedicated a whole program to featuring the best and most unique dogs out there on their "Food Heavens" series, "Hot Dog Paradise." That would be one of the places where we first noticed this next famous eatery.

The Varsity, located in the heart of Atlanta, GA, has been serving up thousands a day at their large drive-in since 1928.  What makes them so unique is really how large of a place this truly is! They are the largest hot dog stand in the country and cover an entire city block of downtown Atlanta.  It all started when, fed up with the unpalatable cafeteria food, a young Georgia Tech student decided to start up his own restaurant down the street, and with that…The Varsity was born.  It is so popular nowadays, that on any given day you better be prepared to know what you want as you move through the line until you reach the front to hear “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” loud and clear from every cashier down the mega line…and you best be prepared to place that order and quick, because they have to feed A LOT of people…Some 600 cars outside and 800 inside to be exact.  Also, this isn’t just a place where you can say "hotdog" and get what you want. No Sir. There is a lingo at The Varsity and you must read in correctly!

Yeah…they ain’t lyin’ when they say this place is big! We actually drove right by it when we passed through Atlanta on our way to Florida and it was easily noticeable from the freeway.  We knew we would be coming back through and figured it would be a perfect lunch stop on the Saturday we were headed home.  Well, we were right in thinking that…and evidently weren’t the only ones. It seems that everyone headed to the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest football game that afternoon had the same idea, so let’s just say they aren’t kidding when 30,000 people might pass through there on a game day. But we didn’t let that deter us.  We just drove around until we found a spot and headed on in to survey the scene.

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This place is NUTS! I couldn’t believe how many people were crowded in that building and around the car hop stations. But what was so odd was it didn’t appear to be moving slow.  They really move through the crowds quickly. Still, with that many people, we figured the best option would be to have Adam order and I would go stake out a seat.  So we looked over the menu so I could let him know what sounded good, and although they do have burgers and other sandwiches like a drive-in would, we wanted to stick to what they were known for… their dogs, particularly the chili dog.  So Adam went ahead and ordered us two 2-dog combos, 2 chili-cheese dogs (one with mustard), a slaw dog, and a chili-cheese slaw dog.  And for our sides we opted for both the fries and onion rings. Hey…this meal wasn’t going to be healthy in any way, so we might as well enjoy it.

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We each dug in and tried bites of each, but oddly enough the ones each of us thought we would like the best was actually the opposite.  I thought I would really enjoy the chili but wasn’t a huge fan, while Adam thought he would like the slaw and instead preferred the chili.  He also both really liked the chili-cheese slaw dog…one of the most interesting dogs we’ve ever had. I highly recommend it. We also both agreed the fries and onion rings were particularly good, but let’s be real…those are always up my alley.  We had no problem finishing off our meal in record time!  However, after we were done we realized one thing we had forgotten to order was their famous Varsity Orange…, a creamy slushy type drink that tastes just like a dreamsicle.  So we grabbed one to go and boy was it refreshing! It really hit the spot after such a heavy meal.

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I realize those pictures don’t do it justice, but I’m sure you get the idea.  For how many people were in and around the restaurant, I think we were maybe inside for a grand total of 30-45 minutes.  I could hardly believe how quickly we moved through, so I guess they truly still operate at a fast food level, even though they still accommodate a ton of people.  And what is also so lovely is just how nostalgic the whole experience felt. It is rare that places have remained true to their original building, location, or décor, and even more rare is finding an old time drive-in that is still in operation; and this one is not only still running, but they can hardly breathe they have so many people coming through.

SIGNATURE DISH: “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs! Although this is an old time drive-in that serves up all sorts of dishes, they are truly known for their hot dogs and the variety of ways from naked, to chili, to cole slawed; and their chili is so popular, in fact, that it can be purchased in cans for your own use at home.

TASTE: Adam and I were both quite impressed with these dogs.  Both having had a lot of dogs in our day, it is sometimes hard to distinguish what really makes a dog stand out above the rest.  But as dogs go, these were truly good as far as taste, bun texture, and condiments.  They just cook up a fantastic no frills dog; and it is no wonder they have been in business for 75 years.

AMBIANCE: I really loved the entire experience of The Varsity, most of all for its old time feel and originality.  You would be hard pressed to find a lot of original drive-ins still open, much less ones that take up an entire city block, but this one is still going strong.  And not really having made seemingly too many modern changes I think is what gives this place such charm.

SERVICE: They seriously are not lying when they say you better know what you want, because trying to get 30,000 patrons through on any given day is work!  Still…, they do it and are nice, just with a very don’t mess around attitude, which for an impatient hungry patron like me is always appreciated. Winking smile And better yet, although the service is fast, the food is as good as if they took their sweet time….always nice.

PRICE: This is another thing I liked.  They have clearly raised their prices over the years, but not so much that they are offensive.  At $6.99 for a 2-dog combo plus your choice of fries or rings, and a drink…, I would say that is a great deal.  Often Adam and I overspend in wanting to try as much as possible, but here we were able to try all that we wanted for under $20, which I consider a deal!

So even though we were just passing through and only stayed a short time, I really enjoyed my experience at The Varsity.  This was a meal we were able to get quickly and still get back on the road in a decent amount of time, while still being able to do something fun and adventurous, rather than just your old McDonalds quick-trip.  And the bonus…we really enjoyed our meal, and I would say that if we are ever driving through Atlanta again, we would likely have to make a little pit stop.  "What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get?… 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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Thursday, August 19, 2010 @ 01:08 PM

045Summer is winding down, but I don’t know about you I am seriously looking forward to fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer; the trips, the barbecues, and just hanging out in the sun.  However, having moved back up to the Midwest I am truly looking forward to “having” a fall and enjoying the leaves change, crisp sweater weather, and enjoying some apple picking.  But enough about the weather, I know you all don’t come and read my weekly features to here me blab about the seasons changing, but instead want to hear about a new spot to try or maybe not try for that matter.  But speaking of seasons, this next spot is not good in just one season or another.  Rather, its customers will line up around the block, in rain, snow or shine it seems, making it truly a legend in its own right.  (especially cause it can get downright nasty, weather wise, in this city!)  Opened in 1960, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, located right in Harvard Square, has been dishing up a wide array of creative burger choices to its patrons ever since.  Started by the Bartley family, Billy their son, has been behind the grill since the age of 12 and according to an episode of Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives he would want to be doing nothing else.  He truly is the gas that keeps the fire continually burning and it would have to burning to keep up with their huge demand, see for yourself.

Source: “Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Bartley’s Burger Cottage” [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYofuw_g0Js&feature=search.

The burgers look intense don’t they?  Well I have to admit that I did not actually see this clip before my visit to Mr. Bartley’s.  I know, I know, the horror, I did not do my full out research before a trip.  But truth be told I had already heard from several people (thanks Chad and Christina:) ) that this place was a must visit.  And since my bf Emily, whom I was visiting, had never been, it was the perfect opportunity.  Since Mr. Bartley’s is located near Harvard, I figured it would also give me a chance to be a typical Boston tourist and walk around its beautiful grounds as well, I mean one has to work up an appetite of course.  On day one, Emily and I set out on a long walk from her place over to Harvard Square and preceded to walk around the cute shops and campus.  It was not long before my stomach started growling and I knew it was about time for lunch.  Emily told me how she had heard how crazy packed this place can get, we were not surprised to turn the corner and find this. 

051 046 As you can see, people do not mess around when it comes to their burger for lunch.  And if you notice that man in the blue shirt seated next to the line, that is Mr. Bartley himself, acrotchety old man, but we’ll get to that.  Emily and I hopped in line and preceded to look over 30 burger options on the menu.  Emily and I had decided that we wanted to split one, since our friends had both mentioned how massive they were.  At 7 oz. of meat a burger, I have no doubt!  So we decided upon the “Tom Brady,” a good ol’ cheeseburger complete with guacamole and red onion.

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It was at this point that Mr. Bartley sat down and I must admit I was a little confused and just thought it was some nice old man needing a break.  However, next thing I know he has this pad out and is asking me what I want.  It was then we realized he was taking orders to sort of move the whole process along.  But let’s just say you had better know what you want when he sits down or he will completely skip over you.  We quickly went with that “Tom Brady” and a side of their famous onion rings instead of fries.  Then he turned and asked Emily what she wanted, she was in the middle of saying we were going to split the burger when he snappily replied “no splitting, must order at least something.”  So Emily ordered a chocolate frappe and asked if that was sufficient, he kind of looked annoyed but said that was fine.  It was then that a table happened to be opening out on the patio and we both decided to jump on it and be a little colder than having to wait for a seat any longer.  But at this point I was still a little shocked at the encounter we had just had with Mr. Bartley, but Emily was not all the surprised, she said it was typical no nonsense Boston behavior.  After we were comfortably seated, we were presented with our chocolate frappe to enjoy while we waited for our burger. 

052053Not really sure what to expect with a frappe or even what it was when she ordered one, I quickly learned a little Boston etiquette.  It looked like a typical milkshake, but Emily informed me, that although she is not sure why, milkshakes all around Boston are referred to as frappes.  And asking for a milkshake just isn’t kosher, so for today I called it a frappe, and that frappe was mighty good.  Perfectly creamy and chocolaty and delicious.  It wasn’t long before “Tom Brady’ arrived and man did he look too good to eat.  And I am glad we decided upon the onion rings, because just look at how mouthwateringly awesome they were!

055 056 Splitting this burger was a great idea, because between it and the huge pile of onion rings, there was no way I could have eaten more.  And these burgers are not wimpy either, they are thick and juicy, not dry and a great bun to burger ratio.  Unfortunately we both agreed that the guacamole that comes on the “Tom Brady” was not our favorite, so I likely would not order him again, however given this restaurants massive amount of burger choices I am sure I could find another I may have like better.  Now the onion rings were a different story, these babies as you saw in the video, are too die for.  Cut perfectly and not overly breaded or fried, but rather just a great combination of sweet and salty, that you can grab a fist full and stuff in your mouth.

057 We clearly hated them :).  I would go back to visit just for these onion rings alone, but I wouldn’t mind trying another burger creation as well.  I mentioned that we were unable to eat inside, but I was able to snap a few pictures when we went inside to get some cash.  I also learned that Boston restaurants do not always have public restrooms of any kind due to their size, this one was one of them unfortunately.  It just ain’t big enough, but people don’t seem to mind!

058 059 SIGNATURE DISH: It is clear from their name that they do one thing best, Burgers!  But these aren’t just any ol’ burger, with over 30 varieties and options they have truly taken burger to another level.  And with fun creative names that complement the ingredients it is fun to order up any of their signature choices.

TASTE:  I have already featured a lot of burger places in the short life of my blog, some better than others and I must say that as burgers go this ranks pretty high.  I did not particularly like the additions our burger came with, namely their guacamole, but the burger itself was quite delicious.  Any large patty is often hard to cook without it getting dry on the outside.  But at Bartley’s their use of a flat top grill truly aides the flavor of their burgers, by giving the outside a wonderful crust, while the inside remains moist and juicy.  I would not say its the best burger I have ever had, but this place has so many fun additions, I would love the chance to take Adam to visit their and try and new creation.

AMBIANCE: This was one area I felt was a bit lacking, but this was due to a mistake that I made.  I will admit I chose the patio spot in hopes of getting our food out quicker, I was hungry!  But in doing so, we missed out on getting to sit inside amongst the true bustling atmosphere.  So if almost felt like I was just eating this really good burger anywhere, instead of having the food and experience melt together.  But next time I would just wait it out to get a full true experience.

PRICE:  I felt their prices were very decent, especially since we split our meal.  Their burgers range from about $7 – 10 depending on the ingredients which is fairly typical and reasonable if you ask me.  Substitutions for different fries or onion rings is also extra so you may want to keep that in mind too.  However, again because we split our meal, I believe we only paid maybe $10 – 15 a piece total, not bad if you ask me.

SERVICE:  This was one area I felt was kind of lacking.  This had nothing to do with how fast we got our food, but rather just the attitude I got from our waitress.  She was nice, but just not very friendly or welcoming.  The other thing I did not enjoy was how brash Mr. Bartley was.  Now I am not trying to sound like a baby, but maybe I was just not cut out for the Boston attitude.  I understand that this is his establishment and he makes the rules, I just felt a little nicer customer treatment could likely go along way.  However, I say that and with a line continuously around the corner, his attitude does not seem to be hurting anything.

I had a fun experience at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and really enjoyed the food, so much so that I hope to return someday so Adam can see for himself.  So with that I give Mr. Bartley’s 3 1/2 Little Piggies.

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