I reckon it's time to weigh in on this one.
It was indeed a splendiferous day which started off a little dicey given the violent thunderstorms the night before. By mid morning the weather had blown through giving way to cool-ish temps and just enough clouds in the sky to make excessive amounts of sunscreen unnecessary. Traffic on the toll road was clear (sorry to our Cheesehead pals who were stuck in traffic on the freeway) and we arrived at our first stop, Schoop's, more or less on time.
I was familiar with Schoop's burgers before this tour. They used to have a lone Northside outpost in Chicago at the corner of Irving Park Road, Lincoln Avenue, and Damen. We were occasional visitors when our daughters were small and ate less. Now that they're grown and can pay for their own meals, we might go more frequently if that location were still in business.
Anyway, I've always liked Schoop's burgers. They do a mash-it-on-the-grill style burger; the kind with the crispy, lacy edges, not very thick, but still good and juicy. "Everything" on a burger includes onion, pickle, lettuce, and tomato, with mayo and relish available on request. I've recently come to the conclusion that lettuce adds absolutely no flavor to a hamburger and only makes it slide off the bun easier, so I ordered mine without the offending rabbit food and then chose to add relish. Ketchup and mustard are on the table to be added by the customer. I took one bite before adding the K & M, and decided they were both not needed. Fries are good but unspectacular. Mrs. Roadhouse and I split a single, hoping to pace ourselves for the long day ahead.
From Schoop's we headed over to BuffaLouie's for wings. I've never been much of a wing guy. I fail to see the allure of restricting oneself to this one measly part of the chicken when there are so many other better, meatier sections of the bird to be had. Growing up I was a fiend for the drumstick; sort of a chicken flavored Popsicle, easy to hold in one hand, dip it in ketchup, bring it to the mouth and chomp leaving one hand free to grab an ice cold bottle (yes children, they used to make them out of glass
!) of Pepsi in between bites. As I grew older I became more of a thigh man, appreciating the dark rich meat below that golden skin. I'm not averse to breast meat, but I prefer it on the bone, skin on even though I know it is less healthy for me than the boneless skinless incarnation.
The best wings I ever had were at a place near Pittsburgh called The Parkview Bar & Grill. I'll do a full write up of The Parkview at another time in another forum. For now we'll focus on BuffaLouie's. I've got to say these were pretty darned good wings. Very meaty and juicy with good crispy skin. Sauces range from mild to "volcanic" in a variety of flavors including the standard Buffalo(?), Barbecue, Teriyaki(sic), Honey Garlic, Garlic Parmesan, and Hot Garlic. We ordered a 20 pack with medium heat Buffalo, BBQ, Teriyaki, and Honey Garlic. All the sauces were very good and made better by dipping a wing glazed in one flavor into a puddle of another flavor to get some great combinations. As wings go, these were pretty good.
Next up was Zel's, known for their roast beef sandwiches. Not quite a typical Chicago Italian beef, not really a French dip, and a long way from upstate New York's beef on wek, this was a yummy hybrid sandwich. The tender, well done beef was sliced in whole meaty slices like a beef on wek rather than the shreds and crumbs you frequently get in an Italian beef. The bun was closer to the type used for an Italian beef than the crustier roll used for a French dip, although it was well soaked with au jus. A very tasty sandwich unlike most served in Chicago sandwich shops.
Also, as Milwfoodlovers stated, Zel's serves Nathan's hot dogs, something I also noted at Buffalouie's. Maybe Nathan's is planning a takeover of Chicago, starting in NW Indiana and slowly working their way up north...
Although Zel's and Jalapeno's are right next door to each other, Bob felt, and I think we all agreed, that perhaps a break was in order. We all drove over to Cabela's Sporting Goods and wandered around for a while, burning calories and gawking at the large aquarium containing fish from local habitats. Was it wrong to imagine how good those catfish and large mouth bass would have tasted? The stop was not entirely food free however. I stopped at the "general store" and picked up a couple of pounds of fudge for later.
Our dinner stop was at Jalapeno's. The decor was very theatrical, although more understated and "authentic" than say a Chevy's or some other Mexican chain. Muted Earth tones, high ceilings, tiled roofs, heavy wood booths and faux flagstone floors made for very comfortable surroundings.
Everyone commented on how good the food was. I took a left turn from my usual standard Mexican restaurant order of enchiladas verde and tried a house specialty, Vista Del Mar. A huge bowl was set down in front of me. Beautiful chunks of crab and sea bass, shrimp, and chicken mixed with mushrooms, corn, and pico de gallo, were swimming in a rich white wine and butter broth, and all of it smothered in melted cheese. Even the sauteed veggies on the side were savory and flavorful. By the time I was stuffed, there was still enough to make a very filling lunch the next day.
We finished the evening at Cunis Candies. Cunis was one of the highlights of Bob's last tour. Specifically, we were enamored of the fresh peach ice cream. On this trip they also had fresh banana and blueberry. Maybe it was a different batch of peaches, maybe it was the fact that all of Cunis' ice cream is hand made daily, thus making it susceptible to human error, whatever the reason, the peach ice cream was not the standout that it was a summer ago (that's right all you folks who were experiencing it for the first time...as good as it was on Saturday, it was even better
the last time I had it!). Don't get me wrong, it was still very good. But the real stars of the show were the blueberry and banana! Both were intense, creamy representations of their natural fruit flavors. We also had a scoop of pistachio that was less successful; rather flavorless except for some saltiness from the pistachios themselves.
I also bought pints of peach and watermelon Italian ice which I have been enjoying for the last few nights. Both flavors start out with a pucker inducing lemony tang followed by excellent notes of peach and watermelon, respectively. They are a nice reminder of an excellent Saturday spent exploring good Roadfood and visiting with friends.
Thanks to Bob for organizing and for all who took the time and drove the miles to be together.
See y'all real soon!
<message edited by BuddyRoadhouse on Tue, 08/3/10 3:23 PM>