Friday, August 23, 2013

Lee's on 14th

Don't worry, we are still alive. We still eat food, but it's usually microwaved or served in a white paper bag. Our weights our down, but our cholesterol and BP are through the roof. Truthfully, Richie has been to a lot of delicious food places lately, but refuses to write a blog, so I had to wait until we actually went somewhere together.

Holes in the wall (hole in the walls?) aren't easy to visit when your child is a picky eater who despises high chairs. So we finally decided to leave her in the car while we ate and got lunch at Lee's on 14th. (Is she joking?)


Photo from Road Tips       < Check out his blog!

Lee's used to be a little joint called the Waffle House, but not affiliated with the amazing chain. It reopened with new owners and the new name in 2010. They are only open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. You pretty much have to be old or jobless to eat there.

The place is very small but well lit and clean. It can get a little warm in there with all of the cooking going on, but a fan created a nice tropical breeze. We sat at the counter and perused their one page lunch menu.

It is a typical diner menu with grilled sandwich baskets, a couple of cold options, and fries for the side. Richie, of course, had to conquer the cheeseburger basket. Their single burgers are 11 ounces of beef, so only the truly brave and noble should try the double. Being neither, he opted for the single.

 I ordered the grilled tenderloin with a side of cheese fries. I am on a mission to find the best grilled tenderloin in the QCA. Stay tuned.

The cook is in full view of the counter, so we sat mesmerized while he prepared our meals. Let me set the scene for you.
A young rugged man wearing a black t shirt and cargo shorts emerged from the steam carrying a giant burger patty and slapped it hard on the grill. Then he grabbed my loin, gently laid it out, and covered it with a press. Getting hot yet?
Next he snatched a bag of crinkle cut french fries from the freezer and cast them into the sizzling fryer. I spent the next five minutes eye stalking my pork and thoroughly creeping out the cook. Nonetheless, our food was promptly delivered to the counter and to our mouths.

My tenderloin was BIG. I finished about 3/4 of it, sans bun. It was juicy and topped with God's gift to the sandwich... pickles. The crinkle cut fries were cooked perfectly, a delicious potato pillow wrapped in a crispy case. The melted cheese was the golden icing on the cake.

Richie describes his colossal burger as juicy and flavorful, despite only being comprised of beef, salt, and pepper. The bun was also it should have been... I saw the cook slather about half a stick of butter on that thing. 

It was so huge, he was barely able to finish.

I'm sure that, on a better day, he could conquer the double. Like maybe on a day he exercises. J/K! Richie doesn't exercise.

Lee's on 14th is definitely where all the cool cats hang out during the day. The food is good, price is fair, atmosphere is homey, and service is stellar. My tenderloin was filling and satisfying, but I still think 11th Street's was a God send. Burger aficianados should definitely check out this cracker box short order diner, as it is in the running for best burger in the QC (according to Richie).

CLICK HERE for another review from Road Tips and HERE for a similar tenderloin quest.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bandana's Bar-B-Q

After running a race in Marion, I was famished and craving something filling, so we stopped at Bandana's Bar-B-Q in Coralville.  I was unaware this was a chain until I googled them today, but apparently they have about 30 restaurants sprinkled throughout the Midwest.  Bandana's first opened in Missouri in 1996.  They use a real wood pit smoker that is smokin 24 hours a day.  The meats smoke for 11-14 hours before they're ready for their adoring fans. 

The decor has a fake rustic feel, like eating in a really clean poorly lit barn.  I was craving a diet Coke, but the server informed me they only had Pepsi products and sweet tea.  .  I had water.
The menu is quite extensive and includes calorie counts on each platter. Seems like a good way to lose business. The barbecue nacho appetizer was enticing until I peeked at the gluttonous calorie count. Yikes. Of course men don't worry about such things, I doubt it even registered with Richie. I don't know who thought "Wet Bandana" was a good name for a barbecue plate, it sounds like a term straight from Urban Dictionary, but I ordered one anyway. It's a jumble of turkey and chicken steeped in spicy sauce.
The lunch plate came with one side, so I chose my favorite green legumes. Richie struggled with his choice and eventually decided upon the pulled pork sandwich, cloaked with coleslaw, and a side of baked beans.
Scarlett chose to eat crayons and two Tootsie Pops, but we also ordered Beans and Weenies for her amusement. See? Amusing.
Apparently it was too cute to eat.

 My food was eaten in such haste, I barely remember my nose running from the spicy barbecue sauce slathered on top. The turkey was juicy and the chicken was pretty moist as well. The green beans needed more meat. Literally. I want mine coated with bacon grease.

 Richie fell in love with the vinegar based Carolina-style sauce that had quite a zip to it, but determined the pork was a tad on the dry side. He was also unimpressed by the baked beans, which is no surprise to anyone who has tasted his homemade brown sugar loaded version. For a barbecue chain, Bandana's is certainly a step above the rest. The meat has a good smoky flavor, but seems to be missing some of the love you'll find at smaller bbq joints. Nonetheless, it will satisfy your hankering for smoked meats and thousands of calories.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Which Wich

Finally rolling out a new blog post.  Taking a one year old out to eat isn't exactly a barrel of fun.  Who knew?

This past weekend we headed west to Hawkeye country for an overnight stay in Coralville, Iowa.  Desperate for food on a busy Friday night, we finally ended up stopping at a strip mall in a mall parking lot.  I had heard of the chain Which Wich, but again, this one is slow to expand in Iowa, so it's new to us.
 What makes Which Wich different from any other sandwich place?  Well it doesn't smell like a boy's locker room.  It also lets you customize your sandwich in a variety of ways by marking your choices on a paper bag into which your sandwich will delicately be placed.  As someone who likes a weird combination of tastes that could cause the snotty food workers to give me a stink eye, I liked the anonymity of the bag.  They do ask you to write your name, but you could write any version of the Seymour Butts gag if you choose. Which wich also has a lot more options than your average sandwich joint, hence the "no holding up the line" paper bag trick.
 After marking our choices, we grabbed a table and waited for our big Come on down! moment.  Richie got called first so he grabbed his Wicked Wich and got to munching.  The Wicked is a 5 meat monstrosity that includes 3 cheeses to really get your heart pumping and failing.  He also asked for horseradish, crispy onion thingys, and a kitchen sink.

My tame looking salad came out next, just the way I asked.  Double the ham, scrambled eggs, feta cheese, and yellow mustard.  Chef don't judge.
 Red has a pretty limited taste palate, so we hoped pizzawich minus the crusts would satisfy. It did. 

Which Wich was created by a veteran in the food business who was burnt out on the quality and lack of variety in quick service sandwich shops.  I would say he did a great job of improving the food and atmosphere.  The food costs a little more than your 5 dollar footlong, but it's worth bypassing the slimy meats and tasteless cheeses.  If you happen upon a Which Wich, stop by for a brown bagged treat. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sunshine Family Restaurant

On a freezing cold day in Iowa, there's really not much to do, except maybe clean your house, but who does that? Certainly not me. We decided to head North to Dubuque to visit an aquarium. But this is Iowa, so it was just filled with big ugly suckers like gar and catfish. To make up for the less than impressive aquatic displays, we decided to stop for a hearty meal. We settled on the closest place that served breakfast food.

Sunshine Family Restaurant is located in an old building on a tiny corner in downtown Dubuque. The history of the restaurant is printed on the menus but did I think to take a photo of it? Nope. It has had many different names over the years but, as I recall, it has always been a family restaurant. The restaurant has an open floor plan with booths along the walls, tables in the center, register up front, and closed off kitchen. The decor is retro, but not really in a cool way. It seems stuck in the early 80s, but at least it was clean and comfortable.

 Clearly we were moving in this pic

The menu resembled a short novel. I found the breakfast chapter and settled in. The waitress was very prompt, so I panicked and chose the meat lovers skillet, which was a good choice in the end. Richie asked for his current food infatuation, the corned beef and hash. We ordered a burger for the offspring whose tastes seem to be a perfect blend of both of us, eating only red meat and sugar. Our food came out blazing fast, which is a huge plus when you have a toddler with limitless energy

The skillet a lovely nest of freshly shredded hash browns mingling with the three little piggies, bacon, ham, and sausage. A light blanket of scrambled eggs laid on top. The meal came with a side of toast and cost less than 6 dollars.

Richie's plate could barely contain the mountain of hash and more than generous serving of potatoes.

Red's hamburger came on a soft bun and heap of thick cut french fries.

 Swimming always leaves me famished and just watching those fish must have had the same effect. We threw the food down our throats like it was our last meal.

Sunshine was the perfect place for these two breakfast loving bodies. The food left our bellies full and warm on that chilly Sunday. Hours: 6 am-9 pm daily Partial Menu

Friday, November 30, 2012

Checkers Pancake House

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg Illinois is the cute little diner, Checkers Pancake House
It looks to be in a remodeled Wendy's building, but they did a heck of a job on it.  The whole place was extremely shiny and clean.  A busboy was walking around polishing the freaking chairs.  He was actually keeping busy instead of smoking in the parking lot and talking crap about fellow employees.  Color me impressed.  In fact, every single employee was genuinely sweet to us.  Must be something in the water...or coffee.

The menu was similar to Family Restaurant in Davenport.  Pancakes, omelets, and a few dishes with a Greek influence. I knew I wanted a big omelet and Richie wanted a lot of food so we were both pleased with the large menu.  After carefully analyzing my choices, I finally decided on the Hawaiian omelet because I have never thought to pair pineapple with egg.

Richie ordered corned beef and hash, 2 eggs, hash browns, and pancakes.  Less than ten minutes later, our food was served fresh off the griddle.

Aloha!  My ridiculously large omelet was stuffed full of goodies, including the sweet and juicy pineapple chunks.  It was kind of a different taste, not unlike that of Hawaiian pizza.  I enjoyed the salty sweet combination but the mixture of textures was off putting.  I ended up eating around most of the pineapple.
The hash browns were freshly shredded from potatoes.  Definitely a step up from the dehydrated ones that I make from the box.  Just add water.  They were lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.

The pancakes were thick and fluffy but the syrup had a strange flavor.  Maybe we got the sugar free kind on accident?

Richie's meal was nearly gone before I lifted my fork.  A testament to the tastiness of his meal and his amazing digestive system.  We noticed that, like the Family Restaurant, his two eggs magically became four.  Must be using chickens on some serious fertility drugs. 

Both of us left full and happy, especially after seeing our paltry bill for our bounty of food. Checkers is open for just breakfast and lunch, which is unfortunate because their food is perfect for a post midnight feast.
We will be back Checkers.  Oh yes we will.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


On a recent trip to Schaumburg, we stumbled upon a wonderful discovery called Smashburger.  I realize that Smashburger is old news to everyone every where else in the US, but not to people from small town Iowa.  I had actually heard of the chain before, they boast hundreds of North American locations.

 Walking in, we were greeted by a friendly manager who asked if we had ever visited a Smashburger.  We said No, so he explained the menu to us.  The food is all made fresh and their specialty is the beef burgers they smash and sear on the grill.  They have several options or you can pick and choose your toppings. First you choose the bready receptacle for your beef.  They have my personal favorite, pretzel buns.  Love them buns. Then, choose a cheesy cloak for your beef and amass an army of free toppings.  You can also add several fancy schmancy garnishments for small fees, such as fried eggs, avocado, and garlic mushrooms.
 In addition to burgers, they also serve crispy or grilled chicken, black bean burgers, and hot dogs. Yay, choices!  In my black book of restaurants, this positions them higher than Five Guys.  Sides are offered a la carte and include veggie frites, sweet potato fries, and BEHOLD.. fried pickles.  Be still my heart. 

Richie was stoked to see Green River in bottles.

We ordered and paid at the front counter then found a booth to sit in.  The manager even brought over a high chair for us, which I thought was nice because it's a fast food, serve yourself restaurant.  Try getting that service at Burger King.  About five minutes later he brought us our food.

When they say Smashburger, they mean Smashburger.  Even my chicken was smushed flat.  Smashchicken just doesn't have the same name appeal, but it looked and smelled amazing.  Richie ordered the Barbecue Bacon Cheddar and added a fried egg for good measure and poor health. 
Red ordered the hot dog kids meal but it was a might big dog that I couldn't resist tasting.

The chicken came as requested with spinach, mustard, and pickles.  Everything was fresh and the pickles were especially crunchy.  The chicken was juicy and had a good char flavor.  The bun was great and tasted like an big unsalted Super Pretzel.

Richie eloquently described the burger as very juicy and tasty. Cooked perfectly.  The toppings were harmonious and abundent.  Each bite was composed of all the flavors and textures of the sauce, bacon, egg, cheese, and onion straws. 
We shared a side of fries which were concealed by chili, chopped onions, and melted cheese.  The fries beneath remained crispy and never turned soggy from the chili. 
After our meal, I seriously considered opening a franchise in the QCA, but then I remembered that I have no money.  The nearest location is Bloomington Illinois.  So please, will someone bring Smashburger to the Quad-Cities?  Pretty please?  You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

11th Street Precinct

Several persuasive friends finally convinced us to visit 11th Street Precinct in the Village of East Davenport.  I'd sort of been avoiding it because I assumed it was just an average bar. I hate bars, they are loud, have the same foods, and terrible lighting.  I hate people in bars, they are loud, smell like beer, and have terrible manners.  We have eaten at bars and never bothered to review them because food always tastes a bit sour when 50 year old drunks are leering at your tattoos.     

 We stopped in pretty early on a weeknight, so it wasn't too crowded or loud.   We found a table in the window and were promptly greeted.  The menu was a bit more expansive than a typical bar with appetizers, salads, pizzas, and pastas.  With a menu that big, I worried that they might not have a specialty, but they claimed to have award-winning tenderloins.  When was this awards ceremony for tenderloins?  I would have gone, dressed to the nines.  I went ahead and ordered one because it would be unIowan to not.   

Richie heard good things about their black angus burgers, so he ordered the bacon cheddar burger.  I Googled black angus to figure out why they superior to normal beef, and it has to do with fat distribution throughout the cut of meat.  So there you go.  

As for an appetizer, we went with Chicago style fries topped with cheese and giardiniera.  Apparently you can make anything Chicago style by throwing peppers and crap on it.

The food took a while to come out but maybe it just feels that way when you have a one year old mashing fruit loops all over the place.

The fries came out topped with lots of rubbery melted cheese, but no giardiniera.  Our waitress brought some out for a side.  

Maybe it was my extreme hunger that day, but that was the BEST pork sandwich I have ever had.  It had great grilled flavor and was very tender.  Not wanting to look like a porker myself, I saved half of it to eat later.  The pasta salad looked suspiciously like the boxed brand, but actually tasted different and better.

Richie's burger was another story.  He was quite disappointed.  Thought it was a little overdone and the toppings were sparse and added no flavor.  For the first time EVER he only ate half the burger.  He did happily demolish the rest of it the next day though.

On the other hand, he really like the light and crispy onion rings.  They have stripes, which completely baffles me as to why.

So if you happen to find yourself in the Village, you might want to stop by 11th Street and try the tenderloin.  There are other cheaper, faster options such as the Deli or  Lagomarcino's, but this is the best evening/sit down option in that area.  Then again, it will be crowded on the weekends and it will cost you a pretty penny, so drive down a ways and check out Front Street or Boozie's for cheaper options and better burgers.