Huck Finn Restaurant – Oak Lawn

9 08 2008
  • 10501 S. Cicero Ave.
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60453
  • (708 ) 499-1112
  • Website
  • Menu

One of three Huck Finn Restaurants in the Chicagoland Area

I have got this strange fascination with 24 hour diners.  When we go to my girlfriend’s parents house, we leave Lansing when she gets off work around midnight.  That puts us in the Chicago area around 2:00 AM CST.  This night was no different.  We made it to town just after 2:00.  Like the lazy college kids we aren’t, we piled all of our dirty clothes into her car and took over her parents laundry room.  Because we had plans Saturday afternoon, J wanted to get a couple loads done before we went to bed.  We put in a load of whites and realized we were both hungry.  Even though Huck Finn has been there since she was in high school, she never ate there.  Since it’s only a few blocks away, we hoped back in the car and went for breakfast.

Huck Finn is a chain of three restaurants in the Chicago area.  They’re open 24/7 and they work on the unique model of being not only a restaurant, but a donut and ice cream shop too.  The parking lot was packed even though it was 2:30 in the AM.  We headed inside and a hostess showed us to a booth along the back wall.  We just seem to not have much luck with waiters in Chicago area 24/7 places.  We had an absolutely disasters meal at White Palace Grill (review HERE) in the south Loop and this one started out that way.  Fortunately, the waiter recovered and everything turned out ok.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mike’s Village Restaurant

30 07 2008
  • 115 N. Bridge St.
  • Dimondale, MI 48821
  • (517) 646-6804
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Mikes Village Restaurant in downtown Dimondale

Mike's Village Restaurant in downtown Dimondale

I’m not sure how I first heard about Mike’s.  I’m pretty sure I saw a recommendation posted a couple years ago on Chowhound.  When we were at the farmer’s market at the State Capitol last week, I heard a lady advertising the Dimondale Farmer’s Market.  When someone asked her where it was, she said, “Across from the restaurant.  You know, Mike’s.”  From that comment, it sounded like it’s one of those places that everyone in the area knows about. 

We made our weekly trip to Horrock’s and Wal-Mart.  Like most of the trips, it was around lunchtime.  Dimondale is sort of on the way home so we started heading that way.  I didn’t grab an address, but I told my girlfriend to put the city center of Dimondal in the GPS.  I had a sneaking suspicion that it would get us to the right place.  Once we turned on Bridge St., we actually found quite a few restaurants which was a little surprising for such a small town.

Mike’s Village Restaurant wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  What I was expecting was a fairly good size family restaurant.  What we found was a somewhat small family diner.  The green awning out front let us know we were in the right place.  Mike’s is probably a turn of the century store front.  The entry way is up a couple steps and has an old, heavy, wooden door that pushes in to open. I tried to pull and couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t open.  Once I figured it out, I went in first and went to pass the weight of the door back to my girlfriend.  Instead, it closed in a hurry and almost smashed her.  Neither of us were expecting that and now I feel bad.  Read the rest of this entry »

Theio’s Restaurant

16 06 2008
  • 2650 E. Michigan Ave.Theio's
  • Lansing, MI 48912
  • (517) 487-3955
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

I love 24-hour restaurants.  My dad and a buddy of mine came to town for the NASCAR races at Michigan International Speedway.  My buddy had to work until 5:00 (CST) back home in Illinois, so they got a pretty late start to the three and half hour drive.  After getting a little lost getting to my place, they were both pretty hungry.  It was after 10:00 (EST now) and neither had eaten dinner.  I figured the choices were either fast food or a diner.  So, of course, I chose the diner.

I had drove by Theio’s a few times, but never stopped.  I knew at some point it would make a great late night stop.  We drove through downtown East Lansing first to see if there was a pizza-by-the slice place, but when we couldn’t find one, we headed back down Michigan.  It looked like there were a lot of cars in the parking lot, but most of them must have been at the bar next door.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dalmation Firehouse Grill

21 05 2008
  • 1107 S. Washington Ave.Dalmation Firehouse Grill
  • Lansing, MI 48910
  • (517) 485-7877
  • No Known Website
  • No Menu Online

I got an e-mail from a reader over the weekend that suggested I try the Dalmation Firehouse Grill on my quest for the perfect burger.  Lance, the reader, called Dalmation’s burgers the “best in Lansing” and “amazing.”  With an endoresment like that, how could I pass?

Dalmation Firehouse Grill is located in REO Town next to the Cadillac Club.  It’s a small diner with a lunch counter and only six tables.  We stopped in for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon and the place was about half full.  The waitress came over for drink orders while we looked over the menu.  They’re only open for breakfast and lunch.  They switch over to the lunch menu at 11 am.  The waitress came back with our Pepsi’s and we were ready to order.

My girlfriend went with the BLT.  The sandwich came piled with bacon, lettuce and a few slices of tomato on white toast with a light spreading of mayo.  The lunch baskets came with fries, a pickle spear and a brownie bite.  While her sandwich was filling, her complaint was the same as mine on the burger.  The bacon was really chewey and not very crispy.  A couple hours later, she said her stomach was rumbling.  She really prefers her bacon way overdone and crispy.  The structure of the sandwich was great as you really got a lot for your money and had the bacon been a little crispier, this would have been the perfect BLT.  The bread was buttered when it was toasted and she said that gave the sandwich even more flavor.  The fries were the out of the bag type and they mixed shoestring and crinkle cut fries for some reason.  They were crispy and cooked perfectly.  The brownie bite was a great addition to the meal for desert.  It wasn’t very big, but the flavor was huge.  It was very gooey, fudgy, and even had chocolate chips in it.

Since the burger was the reason we chose Dalmation Firehouse for lunch, that’s what I had to get.  They had a few different kinds of burgers on their menu, but I chose the bacon cheeseburger.  I finally got what I was looking for in flavor of the meat.  It was a classic diner burger.  It was juicy and cooked perfectly on the flattop.  The cheese was melted almost into the burger and it was topped with a ton of bacon.  Like I stated early, the bacon was really chewey.  The flavor of it was good, but it was hard to eat.  After biting into the sandwich, I had to rip the bacon with my teeth.  I really liked that they put an extra effort into the bun.  It wasn’t just the usual seasame seed bun.  This bun was soft and flaky.  They buttered the bottom of it then toasted it on the grill as well.  It makes for an extra layer of flavor that most places skip on.

The Dalmation Firehouse Grill is truly a neighborhood diner.  The small space makes it cozy and the staff seemed to know most of the people in there at the time.  A couple of the waitresses were sitting at the counter talking to a customer and our waitress was carrying on a conversation with two soldiers who were sitting behind us.  The grill is out in the open so you can watch you meal being cooked.  Thank you, Lance, for the recommendation.  I’m not sure I would have found this place on my own.  Is it the best burger in Lansing?  Well, it’s probably the best I had so far.  The individual components of the burger have by far been the best.  The bacon knocks off a lot of points, but the meat, cheese, and bun combo was incredibly tasty. 

Merry Ann’s Diner (Campus Location)- Champaign, IL

19 05 2008
  • 1510 S. Neil St.Merry Ann's
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 352-5399
  • No Known Website
  • Menu (downtown Location)

So here’s the first of my reviews of dining in Big Ten communities (well, second if you count The Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor).  I was in Champaign for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship.  When I lived in Peoria, I would end up in Champaign quite often for work.  When we had an early call time, I would pretty much always be put up in the Hilton Garden Inn on Neil St.  From the hotel, I always saw this little diner called Merry Ann’s.  For the most part, I needed to get to bed and didn’t have time to grab a bite to eat, so I kept passing this place up.  Not this time.

I spent the weekend in town and I got off work at a fairly early time on Saturday.  I had eaten nothing but cold meat sandwiches supplied by University Dining Services for two days, so I needed something good and greasy.  I walked across Neil to get to Merry Ann’s.  There were only a couple guys sitting in a booth when I got there, so I grabbed a spot at the bar.  The set up is pretty interesting.  There is only one row of booths and the bar.  All the booths have a cut-out area on the kitchen side so the waitress never has to go out to the dining area.  Merry Ann’s is your typical 24-hour diner and the menu is too.  It’s filled with breakfast items, greasy burgers and they even have some after midnight “hangover” specials. 

The waitress brought me a Pepsi and asked if I needed a menu.  I glanced over it and right away, one thing jumped out.  The Horseshoe!  If you don’t know what a horsehoe is, check out my post on unique regional foods.  This is what I really miss about Central Illinois.  The flat top was right in front of me, so I was able to watch the cook grill the burger, fry the fries, toast the bread, and squeeze the cheese on.  I actually got quite a bit more than I expected.  The fries came piled on and the burger was a pretty good size.  The cheese, for being squeezed out of a bottle, was just what I wanted.  I devoured the “sandwich” in just a few minutes.  The waitress was actually a little surprised I finished so quickly, but I was really hungry. 

My bill was a little over $7, so with tip, I got out of there for ten bucks.  Merry Ann’s is a great asset to the University of Illinois’ campus.  Diner’s are getting rarer and Merry Ann’s has been there for 25 years this year.  I’ve drove by there on my way to Memorial Stadium on Saturday mornings and the place is usually pretty busy.  If your in town, hunt this place down…it’s on Neil and Kirby and two blocks from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.

Don’s Windmill Truckstop

27 04 2008
  • 7262 Lansing Rd.Don's Windmill Truckstop
  • Dimondale, MI 48821
  • (517) 646-6752
  • Website
  • No Menu Online
  • Don’s Windmill is now closed.  To see the place that replaced it,

Don’s was a suggestion of one of my girlfriend’s co-workers.  We both like greasy spoons anyway and both have fond memories of truckstops from our pasts, so on our way to Horrock’s one Sunday, we took a little detour to Don’s.

The truckstop is exactly what you expect.  It’s kind of run down and not at all fine dining.  There’s a lunch counter with little coin operated TV’s then booths spread throughout the remaining space.  We just missed the breakfast buffet, so we showed ourselves to a booth in the non-smoking section and started looking over the menu while we waited for the waitress.

Don's Windmill TruckstopWe both got pop’s while we looked over the huge menu.  They do breakfast all day and offer some unique items like veal parmigana while making sure not to stray too far from what makes truck stop food great.  I ordered the Pepper Jack Cheeseburger.  The burger is a 1/3 lb frozen patty topped with a slice of pepper jack cheese served with coleslaw on the side and crinkle cut fries.  I don’t expect a whole lot when it comes to these types of places and I got exactly what I expected.  The meal was not great by any standard, but it was comforting and brought back memories of late night drunkeness in college.  There’s just something about a greasy diner burger and salt that’s comforting to me.

My girlfriend ordered the Gigantic Grilled Cheese sandwich.  Here’s a situation where Don’s went a little bit above expectations and served a grilled cheese with Texas Toast.  Like me, the memories of truck stops out west came rushing back.  She said her grilled cheese was delicious and appreciated the Texas Toast over regular bread.  Neither one of us really ate the cole slaw that came with the meal. It’s just one of those things your taught in the restaurant business….you never know when it was made.  She tried one bite just to see if it’d knock her socks off and it didn’t. The fries were a little soggy, but alright.  I salted them up pretty good.  Again, it’s truck stop food.  I wasn’t expecting anything great, but it was filling.

Our bill was just under $20 before tip.  Really, the food was good and exceeded expectations, but not worth that much.  The diner is open 24 hours and that’s what makes it appealing to me.  I love 24 hour places and will most likely be back to settle a late night craving.

Penn Ave. Diner

16 04 2008
  • 6031 S. PennsylvaniaPenn Ave. Diner
  • Lansing, MI 48911
  • (517) 272-0504
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

When you take the first letter from each word in the name of the Penn Ave. Diner, you get the word PAD.  The Penn Ave. Diner has taken that theme and ran with it.  As you walk into the restaurant, there’s a sign that says “Welcome to the PAD.”  Do you see where I’m going with this yet?  No?  Look at the picture to the right.  See anything there that jumps out at you?  Yeah.  It’s frogs.  Frogs everywhere.  The diner is painted green and adorned with stuffed frogs, ceramic frogs and anything else you can make a frog out of. 

Penn Ave. DinerI picked my girlfriend up at work and we took a quick dinner break at the PAD.  We walked in and waited for a waitress at the front counter.  The waitress came out and asked smoking or non-smoking.  We chose non-smoking which is a pretty small dining room in the front of the restaurant.  There’s a wall that seperates that space from the smoking section, but windows still allow the smoke to sneak through.  The non-smoking side of the dining room is actually pretty big.  I headed back that way to the restrooms and there were quite a few people back there enjoying their meals in the thick, smoky air.  Most of the patrons back there seemed to know each other as converstions extended beyond their own tables.

Dinner was what you expect at little family diners like this.  I chose the Penn Ave. Diner because I was in the mood for a greasy cheeseburger and fries, so that’s what I ordered.  Unfortunately, the sandwich didn’t come with fries.  It came with chips, so I had to order fries and they had to charge me extra.  The burger itself was really good for a diner burger.  They took a little extra time to toast the bun and the meat was a little bit better than a frozen patty.

My girlfriend went with comfort food too and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.  Like me, she wanted fries instead of chips and added on the extra.  She took her first bite and the look on her face was enough to tell me the PAD passed when it comes to making comfort food.  Both her and my sandwich came with coleslaw as well as the chips.  I don’t really like coleslaw so I passed and my g/f only took a couple bites and didn’t say anything.

Penn Ave. DinerThe Penn Ave. Diner passed the test as a greasy spoon diner.  They didn’t really do anything that made them standout, but most people don’t go to a place like this for something super special.  The bill seemed to be a little high to me coming in at $15 before tip.  I’m sure it was the extra we had to pay for a fry cook to open a bag of fries and drop them in the oil.  It was a quick meal though as we were in and out in about 20 minutes.  The PAD has a unique design and food that satisfies, but doesn’t wow.

Fleetwood Diner – Ann Arbor

11 04 2008
  • 300 S Ashley St                                                                      Fleetwood Diner
  • Ann Arbor, MI 48104
    (734) 995-5502
  • Website
  • Menu

I’m gonna start by saying the Fleetwood Dine was a huge surprise. I was at the University of Michigan for work, so when it came time for lunch, I put the Fleetwood in my GPS and went looking for a neighborhood diner. What I found was this great little shack located just off downtown. I actually drove by it twice cussing at my GPS because I couldn’t find it. It was hidden behind a delivery truck.

I had eaten at the sister restaurant in Lansing and was expecting the same thing. The food was the same, but the atmosphere was totally different. The size is ridiculous. In the entire restaurant, there are 6 tables and less than10 stools at the counter.

I was by myself, so took a seat at the counter and the waitress asked if I needed a menu. I did, but I really didn’t. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. It took about 10 minutes for the lone cook working the flattop just on the other side of the counter to send my order up. The waitress got sidetrack with some punks who came in wanting to start trouble, but still was able to not neglect her other customers.

My bill was a little over $7 and in less than a half hour, I had a decent meal. The burger was nothing special and the fries were out of the bag…it was classic diner grub in a truly classic…and unique diner.

Fleetwood Diner – Lansing

11 04 2008
  • 2211 S Cedar Street
  • Lansing, MI 48910-3131
  • Phone: (517) 267-7606
  • Website
  • Menu

The Fleetwood Diner is a throwback and exactly what you think of when you think of the word “diner.” My first weekend in Lansing, I accidently stumbled on the Fleetwood while driving around lost trying to get back to my new place, so, of course, the next day we headed back for breakfast.

The Fleetwood is an interesting place. The exterior is a metallic silver. The inside is cramped. You walk into the counter and to either side is a small dining room. One smoking and one non-smoking. There is a bench that runs along with wall with tables pushed up against them and chairs on the other side and there are a couple booths along the back wall plus a few tables in between. We were seated at one of the in between tables.

The host gave us the menus and took drink orders. A different waitress came back with drink and took our meal order. I got a bacon omelet which came with four pieces of toast and hash browns. The omelet took up a good portion of the plate and had big chunks of cripsy bacon. The toast could have used a little more butter and I didn’t really dive into the hashbrowns since I’m not really a fan.

The other guy in my group got the french toast and a cup of coffee. His plate came with 6 pretty good slices of bread which he polished off pretty quickly.

Now, the ladies dove right into the Fleetwood’s specialty….the Hippie Hash. My girlfriend got eggs and toast and got the Hash as a side. She didn’t say anything about either the eggs or the toast, but really enjoyed the hash. Hippie Hash consists of the Fleetwood’s homemade hash browns topped with grilled tomato, green pepper, onion, mushroom and broccoli topped with feta cheese. On the plate, it just looks like a mess, but both my girlfriend and her mom (who ordered the Hippie Hash as a meal) enjoyed it and will probably go back for it.

The Fleetwood is just a classic 24 hour diner. The people were great, the atmosphere is that retro diner feel I’m always looking for in a new city. The food was alright, but I’m sure this is a place I’m going to take anyone and everyone who comes to town for a visit. You just have to see the Fleetwood.   I always thought this would be a great place for the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but when I e-mailed the producer, he e-mailed back and said they’ve contacted The Fleetwood and the owners weren’t intersted.  Too bad because that would have made a great episode

New To Lansing

1 04 2008

I just moved to Lansing and I’m looking forward to diving into the culinary world here.  I don’t eat everyday, but my girlfriend and I do eat out a lot and for the most part, we don’t eat at the same place twice unless it absolutely blows both of us away.  We’re huge on local diners and love the history and culture that surround such places.  It’s very, very rare that you will see us at one of the major chains, but it does happen (family in town, convience, etc.).  I’ve been posting my reviews on the website for about three years, but I thought on the move to Michigan, I would start my own site and get some discussion going. Since I started posting on We8there, I’ve reviewed over 300 restaurants with the majority being in my old home town of Peoria, IL. I won’t transfer those over, but if I ever travel, you will probably see those reviews here too.