Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back

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saps
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2003/12/01 17:10:29 (permalink)

Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back

I took my wife and three kids down to see friends in Fort Worth for Thanksgiving. Our drive to TX took us through St. Louis, Joplin, through Eastern Oklahoma, and into Texas. The return trip took us through Oklahoma City, Wichita (Yucch!), Topeka, Kansas City, Des Moines and back through Illinois.

We stopped in St. Louis, for cheeseburgers and roast beef sandwiches at an old bar called O'CONNELL'S. The cheeseburgers were top-drawer- thick, beefy, and cooked medium-rare from edge-to-edge. The roast beef sandwich, served on french bread rare, was excellent as well. The fries were decent, and the onion rings were excellent. As a burger aficionado, I would put this burger in my top two or three. The prices were ridiculously reasonable. An added bonus was that it was about 40 yards off of I-44, which we needed to get back onto.

15 minutes later, we stopped at TED DREWES for frozen custard. I found it to be good (I had a malt, and tasted my sons vanilla custard and the other sons strawberry), but not great, and it didn't blow away Culver's like I thought it would. I couldn't get a sundae, since I had to drive- maybe that's where the legend is made.

We stayed overnight in Joplin, MO. My kids wanted pizza (go figure) so we found a non-chain pizza place called Pizza by Stout. The pizza wasn't horrible (then again, my kids eat Pizza Hut), but they did have excellent cinnamon rolls. I wouldn't recommend this place as a stop, but if you're in Joplin, you might as well grab a cinnamon roll there. I couldn't find too much food info on Joplin.

On Wednesday we headed to Tioga, TX to CLARK'S OUTPOST. I love this place- the food, the atmosphere, the waitresses. My wife and I ordered a rack of ribs and a large brisket platter. Our sides were corn-on-the-cob (deep fried), barbecued beans, french fries, and cole slaw.

RIBS- Tender and moist, almost to the point of fall-off-the-bone, but not quite, which was perfect. The smoke flavor goes to the heart of the meat (after 60+ hours I suppose it would). Sauce on the side in old Grolsch beer bottles, but it's a sin to cover up smoked meat like this with sauce, although the sauce is quite good.

BRISKET- Incredible. Juicy, and breaks apart with the slightest touch of the fork. A nice, brown crust on the outer edge with no visible fat.

COLE SLAW- Good slaw- I like to pour barbecue sauce into mine and eat it.
FRENCH FRIES- A little soft for me.

BARBECUED BEANS- Good and tangy. I threw some sauce in those, too.

CORN-ON-THE-COB- Not too impressive. The deep-frying browns the corn kernels, but the corn is rendered fairly soggy.

Later that evening, we went to a place in Roanoke, outside of Fort Worth, and had dinner at a place called BABE'S. They only serve two main dishes there: Fried chicken and chicken-fried steak. It's a dining hall type place, kid friendly and noisy. BYOB as well. After a wait and a few beers in the street, we hoisted our cooler and headed inside. Service is fast. Here's the rundown:

Fried Chicken (Deep Fried)- The chicken was awesome. Apparently they soak it in some sort of brine and spice solution for 24 hours prior to frying. Gold crunchy crust and moist chicken all the way through.

Chicken Fried Steak- This was it for me. The meat was extreeemely tender, the coating perfect. I like this over the chicken.

Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Creamed Corn- The potatoes were great, but the star here is the gravy. I'm not a gravy person, but I threw it on everything except my loins. I would put potatoes and the Chicken fried steak on the plate, and douse them with gravy. Then I'd make a pool of gravy on the side of the plate. Then I would cut a piece of gravy laden cf-steak, scoop up some creamed corn and then mashed potatoes, and then dip it back into the gravy pool, chew, swallow, and then dibrillate myself to restart my heart for the next mouthful.

Next: Drunken midnight runs to Whattaburger, killer Thanksgiving dinner at the Renaissance Worthington hotel in Fort Worth, OK Mexican food at Mi Cocina, bad food at Braum's in Wichita (the city from hell), chicken breasts the size of Anna Nicole's breasts at Stroud's in Kansas City, coneys and tenderloin sandwiches at George the Chili King Drive-In in Des Moines, IA.
#1

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    Pwingsx
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/01 17:25:40 (permalink)
    This was a great post, but the only impression that remains planted in my memory is you and your loins bathed in gravy. Or not. Ewwwww.

    I think I missed the point.

    Bad Pwingsx.
    #2
    MaryB
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/01 18:33:26 (permalink)
    Wichita does have a few hidden treasures. Garrozos off KS96 East has Italian food to die for! This restaurant was founded in KC and has succesfully multiplied without losing its talent for producing great food.
    #3
    wanderingjew
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 07:55:21 (permalink)
    Should have gone for bierocks in Wichita. I wouldn't have anything else there maybe with the exception of a steak at Doc's.
    #4
    Bushie
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 08:51:05 (permalink)
    Thanks for the report! Fun.
    #5
    Lone Star
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 11:19:49 (permalink)
    Thank you for sharing your trip! I myself have made a few Whataburger runs like those you described back in my younger/wilder days.


    How was the dinner at the Renaissance Worthington? I had the pleasure of staying there on business for several days last year. Lovely hotel, and I was surprised at how Downtown Cowtown! Cobbled streets, lots of restaurants and things to do. Very nice.
    #6
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 15:39:17 (permalink)
    Part II

    On Thursday we had Thanksgiving dinner at the RENAISSANCE WORTHINGTON in downtown Ft. Worth. There were 4 adults and 5 kids between the ages of 2 and 9, menaing that we were in a zone defense. People were addressed in attire from baseball caps to coats and ties.

    I am not a huge turkey fan to start with. However, I've had many good Thanksgiving dinners. My mother-in-law is a gourmet cook (she did most of her big spreads in the 70's and 80's) and has actually been in a couple of magazines, so I have some idea of what a good Thanksgiving dinner is, I hope.

    The dinner at the Worthington was the best Thanksgiving dinner that I have ever had. Dinner came on a plate with the following: Turkey, smoked ham, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a healthy dollop of cranberry sauce on top. The turkey was tender and juicy, the ham rich and smoky with no fat to cut around, and had a nice crusted meaty edge to it. I don't like green beans, but whatever they were made with, they were excellent. The sweet potatoes chunks were housed in a somewhat crunchy coating of brown sugar and spice, with a buttery soft center. The mashed potatoes were fluffy and herbed, and the gravy was a peppery sauce with bits of white meat turkey in it. On top, the cranberry sauce was citrusy and delivered a kick. Top notch. Dessert was nothing great, but at that point, who cared.

    Had a few beers at the hotel bar that night and got hungry later on. Turns out that there is a WHATTABURGER within walking distance of the hotel (Embassy Suites, Grapevine, TX).

    Whattaburger makes a good fast-food burger. I'd put it on a par just below In-and-Out.

    On Friday we went to MI COCINA, a local chain that isn't "roadfoodworthy". Good pork tamales and margarita's, which later led to more beer at the hotel bar with a friend, weakened inhibitions, and another late night run to Whattaburger.

    On Saturday we headed North towards KC. I tried out this southwestern chain in Wichita called Braum's, and had a yecchy burger and a bad malt. My stomach felt crappy from the burger for the rest of the ride up to KC. We arrived in KC at 8:30 p.m., and headed to STROUD'S(the Manor House) for fried chicken. Like so many have said, it was the best that my wife and I have had. Homemade salad dressings and excellent chicken noodle soup. Chicken breasts the size of Patrick Swayze's head, and for the kids, deep-fried chicken fingers the size of a fist. Great potatoes and gravy, too. We brought plenty of leftovers back to the hotel.

    I got sick that night, from what I suspect was the Braum's burger. In the morning, I tore back into the leftover chicken with a vengeance. Chicken, it's what's for breakfast.

    On Sunday, we headed to Des Moines for our next stop, GEORGE THE CHILI KING, an old drive in with a cafe inside the main part. I had read that people either love or hate the chili there. I loved it and hated it. It tastes great on a coney dog (they make it with chili, onions, and pickle slices; no cheese) but tastes and has the texture of emulsified vomit when alone or on top of overcooked melting macaroni. Tried a fried tenderloin sandwich for the first time, with pickles and mustard, and thought it was good, albeit greasy. My kids had burgers, which were thin little patties on a smashed down bun. I thought they were great for drive-inn burgers. For some reason, they tasted to me like I always envisioned one of Wimpy's hamburgers tasting on the old Popeye cartoons.

    Our final stop was to be the WILTON CANDY KITCHEN, in Wilton, Iowa. Unfortunately, it was closed.

    If you are ever in the Fort Worth DFW Airport area, I highly recommend the Embassy Suites/Outdoor World in Grapevine, TX. The pool was open until midnight, it was great for kids, and had one of the largest Bass Pro Shops in the country adjoining it (if that's your bag). The service was excellent, and the complimentary breakfasts were complete with Krispy Kreme donuts and an omelet station.

    If you are in Kansas City, do not stay at the Doubletree downtown on Wyandotte Avenue. Poor service, as well as security concerns made it an uncomfortable stay.

    A few final things:

    -I noted that people in the Southwest, as opposed to the Midwest, take great pride in their side dishes. Up here, for the most part, sides are an afterthought. In the Southwest, especially TX, the sides are every bit as important as the main course.

    -Fried food is good. I haven't had too much fried food in the past several years, and it was good to have good fried food. I only put on one pound during the trip, but I also lift weights three days a week and run 4-6 miles or swim three days per week. Otherwise, it might have been a different story.

    -Ice cold beer is good, especially after traveling with three kids.

    -I've noticed that the drive goes a lot quicker when you have destinations planned out. I have to say that Mapquest worked flawlessly on this trip, which isn't always the case.

    My next food trip is a short one, from Chicago to Green Bay for the Bears game this weekend. I'll probably stop at Kopp's or Solly's for a butter-burger, two places that I've never tried.





    #7
    dendan
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 16:08:24 (permalink)
    Which is bigger Patrick's head or Anna Nicole's mam's....any rate they sounded like big pieces of chicken. Thanks for the great report...
    #8
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 16:35:34 (permalink)
    I've never had the opportunity to weigh either of them. With the longer "Roadhouse" hair, I'd take Swayze's melon-like head as being heavier than one Anna Nicole boob. However, the two boobs of Anna Nicole would clearly outweigh a fully-coiffed Swayze-head. I consider boobs a unit, like a pair of shoes, so the nod goes to Anna Nicole's knobs over Swayze's noggin, which does in fact have it's own jet stream.
    #9
    Lone Star
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 16:48:22 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by saps

    Part II


    -Ice cold beer is good, especially after traveling with three kids.

    -






    Amen
    #10
    jlobough
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/02 17:36:19 (permalink)
    Sounds like it was a great experience. It was very informative. Thank you for sharing.

    By the way, I agree with clothier. You must recruit the oldest child to help the adults with the younger ones if possible. It's always nice to make it through a meal without too many child-related incidents.
    #11
    Hillbilly
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/03 09:20:02 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by saps

    Part II

    My next food trip is a short one, from Chicago to Green Bay for the Bears game this weekend. I'll probably stop at Kopp's or Solly's for a butter-burger, two places that I've never tried.


    Solly's for the burger, Kopp's for custard (flavor of the day Sunday is the best ever butter pecan, Saturday is some white chocolate-peppermint concoction that sounds sweeter than the white chocolate bread pudding at Commander's Palace). But I LOVE the butter pecan. Even their vanilla and chocolate custards are better than 99% of the other ice cream products out there.
    The butter burger? The taste of butter overwhelms, and having eaten it once is enough for me. I prefer to be able to taste the burger.
    Solly's and Kopp's are both on North Port Washington Road just 1 block off I-43 at exit 77-A. Solly's is at 4629 and Kopps is less than a mile north at 5373.
    #12
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/03 16:05:24 (permalink)
    Hillbilly-

    Thanks for the info. Do you know any places that have just good old pure beefy burgers along my path. I've heard of two places in Milwaukee, Mazo's Finer Foods and Sobelman's Pub. Do you know anything about them or can you recommend any other places?

    I'll probably stop at Kopp's on Sunday. I think that there flavor of the day then is butter pecan.

    Saps
    #13
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 12:23:11 (permalink)
    One more thing out of interest, regarding this trip:

    I told my dad in California about the trip, specifically Stroud's. He mentioned that he had a neighbor from KC and he would ask him if he has heard of the place.

    At 10:00 last night, I got a call from my dad's number in California. Only it wasn't my dad- It was his friend from KC. It turns out that he is an owner of Strouds.

    Small world. Cliche, but true.

    Saps
    #14
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 12:36:39 (permalink)
    Uhhh, scratch that last one. I just got off of the phone with my dad in California and he told me that the guy was B.S.ing me. He said he fell off of his barstool about 10 minutes after the phone call.

    I guess it's not such a small world after all.
    #15
    Hillbilly
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 12:53:58 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by saps

    Hillbilly-

    Thanks for the info. Do you know any places that have just good old pure beefy burgers along my path. I've heard of two places in Milwaukee, Mazo's Finer Foods and Sobelman's Pub. Do you know anything about them or can you recommend any other places?

    I'll probably stop at Kopp's on Sunday. I think that there flavor of the day then is butter pecan.

    Saps


    Don't let me talk you out of trying a butter burger at Solly's. Some people (my wife among them) think that they are great.

    I have only been in Milwaukee for a couple of weeks and don't yet know much about where to eat except at some of the pubs on Water Street, Plankinton and old world 3rd street. I had good burgers (and other sandwiches) at "Mo's" on Plankinton and at the "Water Street Brewery". We usually eat in at the "Residence Inn" hospitality hour Monday through Thursday and just eat out on week ends. (We spend about 200 nights per year at Residence Inns, and this one on Plankinton in Milwaukee has the best breakfasts and evening hospitality snacks I've seen anywhere).
    #16
    wanderingjew
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 13:27:27 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Hillbilly

    quote:
    Originally posted by saps

    I have only been in Milwaukee for a couple of weeks and don't yet know much about where to eat except at some of the pubs on Water Street,


    Hillbilly, considering going to Cedarburg, a town about 15 miles north of Milwaukee. Neat Main Street with quaint shops. There's a Tavern on the Main Street called Maxwells. True local color. I recommend the Bratwurst, it comes with fries, but try the fried cheesecurds as an appetizer instead and wash it down with a local brew.
    #17
    hermitt4d
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 14:30:31 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by saps

    Part II


    Whattaburger makes a good fast-food burger. I'd put it on a par just below In-and-Out.




    Thanks for your GREAT reports, gravy on your loins and Anna Nicole's breasts and all , but this really gave me pause " />. I haven't been to In-and-Out but this sure brings down my expectations a notch or two. Anybody else care to weigh in on the comparison
    #18
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 14:45:22 (permalink)
    Keep in mind that I was drunk when I went to Whattaburger.
    #19
    1bbqboy
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 15:03:10 (permalink)
    More importantly, how were you when you went to In and Out burger?
    From my own experience, In & Out has it all over whataburger. The pure burger & fries devotion at In and Out, plus their red color scheme makes it no contest. Plus they taste really good.
    #20
    saps
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 15:27:23 (permalink)
    I didn't have the fries at Whattaburger. I think part of the reason for the comparison the way it was was that I usually get burgers with just cheese and ketchup only. In the case of both In-and-Out and Whattaburger, I got the burgers with everything on them, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion (I think) and mustard and ketchup.

    Maybe saying that Whattaburger is just a notch below In-and-Out is inaccurate. What I was going for was that I think Whattaburger is significantly better than the Big Three. Between Whattaburger and In-and-Out, there really is no contest. (Especially a Double-Double, animal style)
    #21
    1bbqboy
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/04 15:42:58 (permalink)
    http://www.in-n-out.com/ http://www.whataburger.com/
    In my opinion, they both are better than average chains. In& out has a mystique surrounding it I'm not sure is warranted. The menu is minimal, and the food is fresh & hot at In & Out, but any independent stand that grinds their own beef and makes their own french fries is a better choice. I guess that's why chains are the opposite of roadfood in many posters minds. Heaven help us if there ends up being a chain of Stroud's nationwide. I have to add, Garazzo's is EXCELLENT! I'm sure Wichita couldn't ruin their food.
    #22
    hermitt4d
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/05 04:19:02 (permalink)
    There was a time I would have classified Whataburger as better than the other chains, but not any longer, at least here in Houston. They used to brag about not cooking your burger until you ordered it but now you can have your order and be on your way as fast as any of the chains.

    Thanks to all for the comments and observations. In-and-Out is still on my list of places I have to try someday .
    #23
    St. Louis Browns fan
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2003/12/10 01:18:42 (permalink)
    The next time you exit I-44 at Kingshighway in St. Louis, go about two more blocks and experience the Hill. It's a century-old Italian neighborhood that looks like something out of the '30s. Stop at Cunetto's, Amighetti's bakery (sub sandwiches) or Bartolino's for some phenomenal food.
    #24
    Kent Daniels
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2004/08/24 22:55:11 (permalink)
    See, now if saps had known that there was a Stroud's in Wichita, he could have avoided that Braums. Braums is a dairy store that sells ice cream and burgers. Braums is NOT great cuisine. And really, in Wichita, the birthplace of White Castle (although they left 60 years ago, truth be told) there are hundreds of better burgers than Braums.
    I just hate to see my home town disparaged on account of Braums, especially since they're out of Oklahoma. Eat local...
    #25
    MikeS.
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2004/08/27 00:43:33 (permalink)
    I've eaten burgers from coast to coast and border to border and as far as I'm concerned In n Out wins hands down. I've had a few better but for consistency they have my votes. Now if they would only open up closer to DC ...

    MikeS.
    #26
    MikeS.
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2004/08/27 00:45:51 (permalink)
    Oh, and thanks for the trip report! I like these.

    MikeS.
    #27
    Lavanda
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2005/04/11 15:59:31 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by MikeSh

    I've eaten burgers from coast to coast and border to border and as far as I'm concerned In n Out wins hands down. I've had a few better but for consistency they have my votes. Now if they would only open up closer to DC ...

    MikeS.


    But Mikey dahlin, have you HAD a Whatavurger?
    #28
    The Travelin Man
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2005/04/11 16:52:30 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Lavanda

    quote:
    Originally posted by MikeSh

    I've eaten burgers from coast to coast and border to border and as far as I'm concerned In n Out wins hands down. I've had a few better but for consistency they have my votes. Now if they would only open up closer to DC ...

    MikeS.


    But Mikey dahlin, have you HAD a Whatavurger?


    I don't know about MikeSh, but I have had both a Whataburger and an In-N-Out, and In-N-Out wins. I don't know about "hands down", because it is pretty close, but In-N-Out wins.

    They are pretty similar in a lot of regards - mostly from the notion that everything is cooked fresh when you order it. But, In-N-Out really follows the idea of keeping things simple. Their menu does not include anything but burgers, fries and shakes.

    Whataburger loses some points in my mind just for thinking that if I go there, I might have to ask for something "whatasized."

    Steve
    #29
    Lavanda
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    RE: Trip Report- Chicago to Fort Worth and back 2005/04/11 22:56:30 (permalink)
    Whataburger and both came to Texas and the world in the same year. As with, it seems, everything else,they have gotten smaler, less tasty and more expensive as the years go by and inflatioo and greed take over. I have never had an in=and-out, but in Texas in my and my family's opinion, Whataburger has all the other chains beat. Although the "big honkin burger" I make at hoe is the best anywhere! By having other choices, the whole family is happy with ordering there. They load the burger and make it to your specs, unlike other places where you get like they want it. Even Burger King doesnt say "have it your way" anymore! At What-Bee as we call it, you can get a double, triple, or double-double, my fave. They dont charge extra for things like extra termaters. They toast and or grill the buig or make it practically charred, if you ask. They also have wonderful cookies. And the have nice, delicious filtered water, I am very picky about
    good-tasting water. And the breakfasts are the best I have found in the fast-food world. My personal fave is the breakfast on a bun ranchero,

    Since there are no in-and-outs in Texas, the last I heard, Whataburger has em all beat! And the only way you will get any catsup on your burger is by special request or if you dump it on yourself. !! Viva What-Bee. !!
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