Thursday, February 24, 2011

Country Fix'ns

Welcome to the Appalachia of the Q.C., Colona, Illinois. There is a bright spot among the trailers, barefoot children, and fishin' boats, and it's called Country Fix'ns.

Country Fix'ns is a home-style diner that fills daily with regulars. It was a small spectacle when two 20-something city boys walked through the front doors.

The interior is quite plain and unadorned, decorated only by the smell of coffee and bacon, a warm welcome for hungry men.

Being a model greasy joint, Country Fix'ns serves breakfast all day, so Richie ordered the Country Fix'ns Skillet. He may have found a match for Ross' famous Magic Mountain.

He dug right into the giant hashbrown haystack permeated with mushrooms, bacon, eggs and onions. Of course, it was generously shrouded with both breakfast gravy and melted cheese. Ridiculous. As if that wasn't gut-busting enough, Richie poured on the Sriracha!

Bateman had eyes for another greasy classic, a cheeseburger and fries. The sirloin burger was served on buttered and grilled Texas Toast.

Fries were thick cut and made from real potatoes.

The food appeared to be thoroughly greasy and made from scratch. They didn't skimp on portion sizes, so the meals were well worth the small amount of cash they charged.

If you're willing to travel through the trailer trash boonies, Country Fix'ns is a neat little place to try. Bring an empty stomach... and maybe some art for the walls.

Country Fixins Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Portillo's is a chain of fast food restaurants in the Chicago area. It's birth in 1963 occurred in an $1100 trailer known as "The Dog House," a small hot dog stand in Villa Park. Over the many years, it has expanded into a a small chain of Chicago-style fast food restaurants. More history can be found in a video here. There are 31 locations in Illinois, clustered mostly in the Chicagoland area. We made a pit stop at the Schaumburg location during the lively Saturday lunch hour.

Each Portillo's has a different motif, Schaumburg's is the 1950s. The large retro mess hall also includes an ordering station for one of the owner's other concept restaurants, Barnelli's Pasta Bowl.

The place was humming with patrons, so I questioned their ability to promptly feed us. As soon as we stepped into line, a worker penciled our order on a a to-go bag. It was a lot of pressure to order so quickly, and I panicked a bit. If I had more time to pore over the menu, I would have noticed the enchanting Chocolate Cake Shake, but that's something to look forward to for next time.

At the counter, we gave our bag to the cashier and paid.
Then we hustled down the long assembly line of surprisingly cheerful workers to the food pick-up area.

Despite the massive wall of people waiting, we had our hot chow in about 5 minutes. Seating was not hard to find, as most of the restaurant is crammed full of booths and tables. No foot of floor was spared a table or chair.

Richie ordered the combo sandwich. A combo sandwich is comprised of a spicy Italian sausage gently swaddled in a juicy blanket of Italian beef. Customers can choose hot or sweet peppers; Richie chose HOT. I noted that he actually savored it, opting not to hoover it down as usual.

I ordered a charbroiled chicken breast on a croissant, with a side of cheese fries. Though my sandwich looks a bit bland, blame the lighting, it was actually the best I've had at any fast food or sit down restaurant. The chicken is very nicely seasoned and has a bit of kick to it, almost to the point of inducing nose running. The lettuce was crispy and the tomatoes were bright red and juicy. Portillo's is certainly no McDonald's.
The cheese fries were crinkle cut, to which I am partial. They provide crispy edges with a good filling of potato. The cheddar was served in a small container so I had full control over the amount of golden goodness I wanted to ooze off of each fry.

Richie also felt his sandwich was spiced well and very flavorful. The bread was a good chewy consistency and a nice bedrock for the moist beef and sausage.

The atmosphere was energetic and loud, but it was fun to people and food watch.
Next time I am within range of a suburb lucky enough to host a Portillo's, I will be visiting and finally sucking down that Chocolate Cake Shake I've been dreaming of.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Brothers Family Restaurant

I couldn't find any history online about Brothers Family Restaurant (1718 2nd Ave Rapids City, IL), but I know it has been around for quite some time.

We stopped at Brothers after a short excursion to Cordova IL. It's located just off the first I-80 exit in Illinois.

It's a charming diner that is retro, not in a kitschy way, but more like they haven't fussed over decor since the 70s. Walking in, I got an immediate whiff of fried chicken, lo and behold, it was the daily special.

Richie was happy to try out the all-you-can devour fried chicken, but why anyone would order anything other than breakfast is beyond me. and Ron Swanson. I mulled over the omelet selection and ultimately selected a Denver Omelet.

Our waitress was very sweet and asked about Richie's shark tattoo because apparently her husband has one too. And she has a dolphin.

Our food was ready in good time, probably because they had a massive bundle of fried chicken already prepared. It was all-you-can-eat, so our neighbors at the next table were unbuttoning and taking full advantage. Richie stopped after a leg, breast, and thigh.

Apparently that was pleasing enough. Though the chicken was moist and the skin was crunchy, he felt it lacked enough spice and flavor. I think he's been tainted by Colonel Sanders and his 11 herbs and spices.

On the other hand, the broccoli cheese soup was quite flavorful for a food that looks suspiciously like snot. Mashed potatoes were served school lunch style, one ice cream scoop drowning with gravy.

I had no problem devouring my giant yellow pocket, chock full of goodies- green peppers, ham, and onions. The hash browns had a nice golden canopy of crunch.

Though Richie wasn't terribly pleased with the chicken, everything else, including the service, was very good. Prices were reasonable as well. Overall, it's a nice cozy place to stop on an I-80 expedition.