Spent three days recently exploring the Calumet Region. While I was already pretty familiar with northwest Indiana, most of the south Chicago suburbs were new territory for me. I'd planned to make Lincoln's O in Highland my first stop but arrived to find they were closed for three days for maintenance (opening again tomorrow). There was a tavern only a block away called Traditions, which I remembered hearing served bluegill, so it became the first lunch of the trip. Totally unassuming from the outside, the inside was sort of northwoods-looking, dark wood walls, etc. They seemed especially proud of their homemade soups -- two different daily specials were offered -- so I ordered cream of asparagus, which was great and turned out to be the high point of the meal.
It was the first time I'd ever had bluegill deep-fried, rather than pan-fried. And while it was all right, there was definitely something lost in the translation. I'd return to Traditions, if only to try more of the soups.
Spent most of the afternoon across the border in Illinois. Had a fig ice at Zarlengo's in Chicago Heights. I liked it, though immediately regretted that I didn't try pear. I might have anyway, if I weren't heading straight to Mitchell's in Homewood, another suburb I'd never been to before. What a nice town! Really attractive downtown area, beautiful old train station, and the original location of Aurelio's Pizza. Mitchell's is a neat old soda fountain, though I was disappointed by the chocolate malted I got there. I wasn't watching closely as it was made, but it sure tasted like they used malt syrup, rather than powder.
For dinner that night I wanted to try John's Pizza, a local chain I'd never had before, at their newest outpost in Whiting. It was wonderful, great crust, sausage, cheese, probably my best meal of the trip.
It underscored again what a terrible pizza town I live in (Indianapolis).
Drove thru Portage the next morning and was impressed that they have a nice lake right downtown.
There was an intriguing-looking place called Lake George Shrimp House. Does anyone know anything about it? I was tempted to try it but really wanted to hit Lincoln's in Highland today -- and did! It's an old-school sandwich shop with a great feel.
I got the U.S. Steel (grilled roast beef and cheese), nice big sandwich, very good.
Then onto more exploring in Illinois, with an ice cream stop at Cunis Candies in South Holland. Overall, I got a better feel from Cunis than Mitchell's. It was still too early in the season for their peach ice cream, so I got a scoop each of banana and chocolate. The banana was definitely imitation and a let-down (is there a bigger gulf between real and imitation flavors than banana anything? I don't think so) but I thought the chocolate was very good, everyone working there was obviously family, and I plan to return before the summer's up for the peach. Here's their candy counter:
I'd planned to have a steak that night for dinner but my stomach was a little upset, so thought I'd opt for fish again. I'd have been better off with the steak. Went to the Schererville Lounge, a small place downtown with a clubby feel, that was packed on a Thursday night. But the lake perch I ordered were once again deep-fried -- and incredibly greasy. I've had excellent deep-fried lake perch, and in general I don't shy away from a little greasiness. But these were greasy to the point where the main flavor was, well, grease. Biggest disappointment of the trip.
Skipped lunch the next day and just drove around, the Indiana side this time, exploring food shops like these in Merrillville:
My last meal of the trip was at the Warsaw Inn, a famous old Polish Smorgasbord in Lynwood, Illinois.
It was awesome! Wonderful old-school layout, accordian player in the corner (alternating polkas with stuff like "Tweedlee-Dee" and "Knock Three Times"), nice crowd, full bar -- and really full buffet line.
The American items were just so-so but that's not what I was there for. The pierogis, blintzes, duck, mushroom soup, and sweets were great. Here's my fist platefull:
Snapped this shot of the salad and dessert offerings
but was asked (nicely) to stop taking pictures before I could shoot the main buffet. Turns out the owner (who was not present that night) has a certain horror of customers taking pictures (the woman explaining this to me wasn't even sure why herself); I was happy to oblige. So enjoy these shots, apparently they're pretty rare.
All in all, a great trip, one that's easy enough for me that I'll probably do another before the summer's up.
<message edited by Train on Thu, 06/11/09 4:35 PM>