The Tattooed Dog – Wentzville, MO – It’s Burger Time!

“The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single burger.”
Chris O’Brien 

If the above statement is true, I’m in serious trouble.  How many posts on burgers can one blog have?  For me, the answer is now 13 and counting.  The most recent shares my experience from the Tattooed Dog in Wentzville, MO.

The Tattooed Dog advertises itself as “upscale dive grub”.  The burger selection is impressive; and the reason for my visit.  However, they feature some pretty interesting sandwiches as well.  Can I interest you in some fried chicken sandwiched between two apple pancakes?

menu

For my lunch, I chose the Benedicto for the simple reason that it has a fried egg on top!

Burger

It was a solid burger.  I liked the greens to help me feel OK for not eating healthy.  The pretzel bun was also a great touch.  There are two things that would have made this burger even better.  One, if you ask if I want “pink or no pink”, I expect it to be pink as requested.  Luckily, it was not overdone so much that it was dry.  Two, I should have requested my fried egg over easy.  That’s my personal preference and I didn’t think to ask.

The Tattooed Dog delivered a solid burger and it’s a nice change to the fledgling restaurant scene in Wentzville.  I like the uniqueness of the menu and I’m sure I will try other burgers in the future.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  When I saw “upscale dive pub”, I was expecting a dark location with a large bar.  I was surprised at all the windows that lit up the place during lunch.  It’s also surprisingly kid friendly and did not feel like a bar atmosphere at all.  The only really “divey” part was the bathroom.  The walls were painted an awkward brown color…

Daddy Ray Burgers, O’Fallon, MO – St. Charles Shack Attack

What’s up with food prepared in shacks in St. Charles County?  I found some excellent fried chicken at Chicken Coop last November and this year I stumbled upon Daddy Ray’s Burgers on the day of their one year anniversary.
Since it was my first time, I ordered their namesake:  the Big Daddy Bacon Cheddar Burger.  It doesn’t come with lettuce, tomato, or pickle but you can ask for them.  It does, however, come with their pub cheddar which I’ll admit I was leery of.  Remember my experience at the now shuttered Fatted Calf?  I also ordered the garlic Parmesan fries as my side.  After only a quick 5 minute wait I had my food.

Daddy Ray burger

This is a meat lovers burger.  It’s a 1/2 pound burger topped with crispy bacon that is clearly a diet crasher.

After Two Big Bites

As you can see, the middle isn’t pink but they still keep it juicy.  The pub cheddar was creamy and added a nice contrast to the beef and bacon.  It was nothing like what I had at the Fatted Calf.

fries

The fries are thin and crispy.  They loaded them up with Parmesan and just enough garlic so you would notice it, but not so much that you would offend all your co-workers after lunch.

I usually bring my lunch to work so I can save my calories for dinner or the weekend; however, I’m starting to find reasons to change that.  Daddy Ray’s Burgers is one of those places.  They make a mean hamburger without a lot of fluff. Wanna go eat a burger without anyone watching? Daddy Ray’s gives you that option.  My only recommendation would be for them to ask you how you like your burger cooked.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 1.  Although Daddy Ray’s is a bit nicer than the Chicken Coop, I had to stay consistent with my earlier shack rating.  Daddy Ray’s is in a small building in O’Fallon along Veteran’s Memorial Parkway.  I bet a lot of people have driven passed it without noticing. Their business is completely take-out or outside dining.  They do let you call ahead and you can pick up your order behind the building. This is appreciated now that it is getting colder and you may not want to get out to order at their window.  As an added bonus, they have a loyalty program that after 9 burgers you get $5 off.

Daddy Ray Burgers on Urbanspoon

Abigail’s, Rocheport, MO – My Little Secret…

I hate to do it, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I’m going to share one of my favorite places to stop along that boring stretch of I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City.  Abigail’s in Rocheport is truly a hidden gem.

Rocheport is 2 miles off of I-70 just west of Columbia.  It’s population is just over 200.  Abigail’s is located in the center of the town next to an antique store.  You have to pay attention or you could drive right past it.

This place is filled with mismatched tables and chairs.  One of the tables even has a couch for seating.  The decorations are very eclectic. When you walk in, you will see the open kitchen on the left and one person manning the entire operation.  Once you have found a seat they will bring a dry erase board on an easel over to your table that has the day’s menu.

For my most recent visit I tried the lobster ravioli (again).

lobster ravioli

As you can see there are only a few ravioli but they are stuffed.  They did not skimp on the filling like other places.  I like that the sauce and cheese on top were different than I had on a previous visit.  I have enjoyed this dish twice now, and I know I will order it again.

My favorite thing about Abigail’s is the desserts.  In particular their gooey butter cake is to die for.  Not just my favorite dessert there, but my favorite gooey butter cake I have tried.  If you are on your way to visit friends and family, take a slice to go.  I guarantee they will appreciate it.

gooey butter cake

Abigail’s is a place that I don’t have the opportunity to frequent often.  However each time I have been seems to be better than the last.  It is hands down my favorite place to stop on a road trip across Missouri.  Do yourself a favor and drive the 2 miles off the interstate into Rocheport to enjoy Abigail’s.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 4.  In St. Louis, I would probably rate it a 3.  However, in a small town like Rocheport this is an unexpected find.  It’s just a neat place to experience.  If you are in a rush, this is not the place to stop.  This is a place to take some time and enjoy.  Also the servers also get tied up talking to some of the regular customers.  It’s all part of the experience.  I have only eaten there for brunch / lunch.  I hear that it is very hard to get a table during dinner.  Plan ahead!

Abigail's on Urbanspoon

Panhead Billy’s, Kingdom City, MO – KA-CHOW, Did I Find a Real Life Radiator Springs?

I’m not known for being someone who loves poetry.  However, as a child I memorized “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It’s something that continues to pop into my mind from time to time.  Recently I was wondering if I was going to find a hidden gem on that “road less traveled” on a recent road trip back from Kansas City.

Along old Highway 40 in Kingdom City, I stopped by Panhead Billy’s Smokehouse BBQ and Tavern.  Taking the right turn onto highway 40 I was quickly reminded of the animated movie “Cars”.  Here was small stretch of highway that had an out of business gas station, abandoned motel, Nostalgiaville, and Panhead Billy’s.  Clearly all affected by the “progress” brought in by I-70.

Abandoned motel on old Highway 40.

As I pulled in the gravel parking lot and up to the metal building I was pretty sure I had found myself a sure 1 on the Dive 2 Five Scale.  However when I entered I was surprised by the time and effort was put into this place.

After settling in at the bar, I asked for recommendations.  The bartender first mentioned brisket that just finished in the smoker the previous night.  I ordered it with a side of fries.

The brisket was tender enough to cut with a fork.  Thank goodness, since I wasn’t given a knife. 😀  Maybe I looked like a shady character and couldn’t be trusted with one.  The fries were fresh cut on site.  As I have found with other fresh cut fries, they were on the soft side.  I prefer a crispy outside but these weren’t bad.  They were seasoned well.  There was only BBQ sauce so that kept things simple.  It was on the thin side, but with a nice subtle after-burn.

Panhead Billy’s is a typical small town BBQ restaurant.  It would likely get lost in the mix with Pappy’s and some of the other great BBQ in St. Louis.  However this is a good stop when you have that craving and are traveling along I-70.  It’s also a nice place to stop and support a local business.  This was the road less traveled that I will be traveling again.  After doing some research, I think on my next trip I will try their BBQ chips.  They sound tasty!

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  As I said, from the outside I expected to score it a one.  It was just simple.  Inside the wooden tables and chairs were a nice touch.  The chairs were over-sized and heavy.  I was really surprised how nice (and clean) the men’s bathroom was.  It’s more of a bar, but I would not hesitate to take my son there.  It wasn’t really a sports bar, but had two TV’s for those of us interested in the college football games.

Panhead Billys on Urbanspoon

Pachamama’s, Lawrence, KS – Pork Perfection!

Hopefully everyone had a great weekend and survived their Monday.  I spent the past weekend playing tour guide for a friend on my 3rd consecutive road trip to Kansas.  One of my “must-do” stops when in Lawrence, KS is Pachamama’s.

Pachamama’s is a trendy restaurant conveniently located in the downtown area.  This allows for easy access to Lawrence nightlife post a great meal.  First things first, I had to enjoy one of their cocktails.  Normally I don’t blog about the drinks that accompany my meals, but check this photo out:

The Barbados Squeeze

That was the Barbados squeeze.  It contained rum, ginger beer, lemon, and soda.  It wasn’t overly strong.  It was actually really light and refreshing and allowed me to focus on the flavor of the food.

My appetizer was the slow cooked and pulled BBQ goat.  I can’t remember the last time I had ordered goat.  It was served on a buttermilk bacon / scallion biscuit.  I really enjoyed the biscuit.  The scallion added a little bite to it.  The goat was a little bland but the sweet chow chow added nice tart kick.

Slow cook and pulled goat

My main course was the slow cooked Heritage pork shank with a bourbon brown sugar glaze.  It was served on a bed of cheddar and apple grits with a side of snap pea slaw.  OMG!  The pork was amazing.  Cooking it with the meat on the bone it adds so much flavor and texture.  There is something about having meat served this way that triggers those latent caveman instincts.  I had to remember my surroundings so I didn’t just pick it up and gnaw it right off the bone.  The glaze was sweet and enhanced the juicy pork.  The grits and slaw were both nice, but the pork was clearly the start of this dish.

So much delightful pork!

Pachamama’s is my top choice for a fine dining experience in Lawrence.  It holds a special place in my heart since I first tried duck at their original location.  I have gone there for over 10 years and that won’t change any time soon.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  This is a nice restaurant for a college town.  There was live music during my visit but it was subtle and still allowed for conversation.  There was a mixture of people dressed in jeans to suits.  Don’t forget to check out the Star bar when you visit.

Pachamama's on Urbanspoon

Dad’s Junction Cafe, New Florence, MO – Gun Raffle, Keno, and a Big Breakfast

Another weekend, another road trip across Missouri on I-70.  This time on the return trip from KC it was time for a late breakfast.  After some research on Urbanspoon and other sites, I decided to give Dad’s Junction Cafe a chance.   You wouldn’t know the name from the outside:

When you walk in you quickly notice that this is an establishment that still allows smoking. There is a non-smoking section but it’s only one quarter of the place.  The ceiling fans don’t help much as they seem to spread it around.  It is a pretty big space so you can find something away from those that do smoke.

I ordered the “Diet Plate”.  Who uses this as a diet?  Check it out:

This should be the “you will need to diet” plate.

It consisted of two biscuits topped with 2 sausage patties and 2 eggs of your choice.  This was served in a ring of hash browns.  The whole thing was then smothered in gravy and topped with cheddar cheese and crumbled ham.   This was just massive.  The biscuit was on the dry side but that’s ok when covered in gravy.  The egg was cooked over easy as I had requested.  The sausage was a little spicy.  The gravy was not over-peppered.  This meal had a lot going on.  It was very filling and used good ingredients.

My wife had the Exit-175 breakfast.  This was two large pancakes, 2 eggs any style, and choice of meat.  As you can see, she chose scramble eggs and bacon.

Look at those pancakes!

I did sample the bacon which was very crispy.  The pancakes were my favorite thing I tried.  They were nice and fluffy.

So for 2 meals and 2 drinks, the damage was only $18.96.  Both of us were completely stuffed.  I’m sure we will stop here again.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  Folks we have our first 1.  This is a true dive.  Let me count the ways:

  1. You can get your gambling fix by playing Keno while you eat.
  2. They have an actual beehive that they found outside their building now located inside as a decoration.
  3. You can buy tickets for a gun raffle when you go to the counter to pay.
  4. The utensils are wrapped in a paper bag.
  5. Smoke em’ if you got em’.
  6. I don’t know if this is true or not but check out the popular tip on Foursquare.
  7. Booneslick road…need I say more?

The staff were all very friendly.  The service was quick and efficient.  If you are too pretentious to step foot in a truck stop, you probably should skip this place.  However if you want good home made food, this is a great place right off I-70.  I wouldn’t make a special trip out of St. Louis to try it, but it will be on my list of quality food along the interstate.

Dad's Junction Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Topsy’s Restaurant, Concordia, MO – You Don’t Look A Day Over 99

If you are like me, you get tired of having to choose from the multitude of fast food choices when on a road trip.  Lately I have worn out the highway between St. Louis and Kansas City.  I have made it my mission to try different restaurants along the way.

Last weekend while heading back to St. Louis I stopped off for breakfast at Topsy’s Restaurant in Concordia, MO

Right on Main Street. Lot’s of trucks!

It is located in the downtown area of Concordia.  As I drove through I was sad to see so many closed businesses.  My guess is that the large truck stop and fast food options closer to I-70 have taken their toll on Main St.  However, this is a business that has managed to survive.

They are celebrating being in business 100 years.

Not only did it survive, but it’s been there for 100 years.  That’s impressive.  The question then becomes if it is due to lack of options or being a quality restaurant.  That’s where I come in.

I arrived for a late breakfast.  They had a buffet but I chose to order from the menu.  Buffet’s are hit or miss and too dependent on how frequently they are restocked.  I had to give this place their fair shake.  After a quick scan of the menu, I ordered two things: a cinnamon roll and the farmer’s breakfast.

First the cinnamon roll:

Hungry yet?

It was warm, sweet, and had great cinnamon flavor.  I think the only way to improve is to warm it with butter on top.  Maybe that’s just me.  When I eat something like this I like to go big on calories.  I would definitely get this again.

Next up, the farmer’s breakfast.

The farmer’s breakfast

The farmer’s breakfast is 3 eggs any style, choice of meat, and hash browns.  I chose over easy eggs and bacon.  The over easy eggs were cooked well, I prefer to be able to break open the yolk and expose the “liquid chicken”.  The hash browns were a highlight.  They had a good mix of being crispy from the grill.  The onion flavor helped add some depth to the dish.  I loved them.  The bacon…was bacon.  I like a little bit of chew to the bacon.  This was strictly crispy.

Topsy’s diner has been open for 100 years.  This is clearly due to customer service and quality food.  There was a mixed of great (cinnamon roll / hash browns) and good (eggs / bacon).  Although there isn’t anything that will stick out as being unique, it’s a good place to avoid the fast food rut when traveling I-70.  I am sure I will stop here again.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3  Family oriented.  I saw people there in their “Sunday Best” to people wearing camo.  It captures the small town vibe and doesn’t try to be something it’s not.  The people are very friendly.  Come check out a piece of history!

Topsy's Cafe on Urbanspoon