Back to the Region
In August, I made my second three-day visit of the year to the Calumet Region, an area incredibly rich in old-school urban culture, mostly untouched in at least thirty years. My first stop was lunch at a soul food place in Gary, which I last visited in 2000, when it was called Davis Seafood and Smorgasbord. The name has since been changed to Davis Southern Style Soul Food Buffet, but it’s the same owners (I asked), in business since 1969, a veritable eternity for a Gary restaurant. The buffet selection was a little smaller than I remembered (which may well have been my memory), but my meal was solid, if unexceptional, southern cooking. Here’s my plate of smothered chicken, pintos, and greens.
Next up was Cunis Candies, in South Holland (IL), a spot I’d first visited in the spring.
At that time, their seasonal peach ice cream was not yet available, which is what prompted the return visit. They had it this time (along with blueberry) and, scooped into a dish, it was fine. But used to make their peach shake – oh my! The peach ice cream, milk, and fresh peach juice were blended together to make one of the most intense ice cream concoctions of all time. It was very sweet – but fruit-juice sweet, not sickly candy sweet.
Amazing, probably the single best thing I ate this trip.
Dinner that night was Freddy’s Steakhouse in Hammond, sometimes described as the Region’s Gene and Georgetti. Here’s the exterior and front entrance.
Though it was a little too dark to snap much inside, the main dining room was very long and narrow, partitioned off from the bar. I didn’t explore the second (non-smoking) room, but did notice that there was a framed picture of Vogel’s, another legendary, though long-gone, Hammond restaurant, which I thought was a nice touch. I ordered the Porterhouse, which was nicely done, came with all the usual Region accoutrements, and was a bargain at $28. Funniest note of the night: Upon arrival, I’d ordered a bourbon on the rocks. Afterward, I noticed I’d been charged $5.50 for the Crown Royal – and another $3.50 for the ice! Has anyone else encountered this before? Another old-school touch, I’m assuming, but a new one on me.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last drink I had that night and the next day I was not feeling my chipper best. So, no day-two lunch. But dinner that night led me to the Lansing (IL) Knights of Columbus.
Their private restaurant, the Columbian Room, goes public on the weekends and I’d heard they do a good job with lake perch (as in all-you-can-eat). The room was pretty much what I was expecting (in a good way).
And my waitress was nice enough to let me order the yellow perch all three ways: breaded/deep-fried, no-breading/pan-fried, and breaded/pan-fried (shown below), which was clearly the winner.
A completely satisfying end to Day Two.
Day Three: I was meeting a friend at the Yankees/White Sox game, so decided to have lunch at 35th Street Red Hots.
Ordered the obligatory red hot, which was fine. But I’d heard rumors that 35th Street had acquired the shrimp recipe from the recently-shuttered Southside Shrimp House, so breaded shrimp was actually foremost on my mind. It was good! I'd never eaten Southside's but I recently tried Calumet Fisheries's (breaded, not smoked) and much preferred 35th Street's.
The game, a ten-run shellacking of New York, was highly enjoyable. (Eighteen total runs, zero homers.) Afterward, I headed back to Hammond for my last meal of the trip, at my very favorite Region pizza joint, State Line Pizza (located, naturally enough, on State Line Road).
It was just as I remembered: paper-thin crust, top-notch sausage and cheese -- and oh so greasy, in the best possible way of course, greasy in a way that you only find at pizza places that have been in business for decades. I was in Heaven.
(The blue spots aren’t mold, but rather my camera being finicky in the dim light.)
I highly recommend State Line to all connoisseurs of Midwest pizza, as well as the Region in general, for all manner of great roadfood.
post edited by Train - 2009/09/21 22:13:55