Rustle Up Some Grub @ Chuck Wagon

Driving home this evening, I saw a few cars parked at Chuck Wagon Burgers & BBQ. I popped in, hoping to catch someone outside and confirm an opening date. To my welcome surprise, I was invited inside right then. I had happened upon their unannounced soft opening. And that was the beginning of a great evening.

Situated just west of Kansas Expressway on the south side of Kearney Street, Chuck Wagon is a welcome and delicious addition to the north side of SGF.

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Interior

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Menu

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Now let’s get to the food. We went with recommendations from the owners: Applewood Smoked Tenderloin with Potato Salad, Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork with Fries, Cheeseburger with Slaw, and Chicken Strips with BBQ Beans for the kids.

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All the food was great. The burgers are made from fresh meat delivered daily, juicy and served with the basics: ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickle, onion. The fries are fresh cut. The potato salad tastes just like my aunt Janice’s (which is a good thing). The slaw is sweet, creamy and fresh with poppy seeds in the dressing. Barbecue meats are tender, flavorful, and have just the right amount of smoke. And the house made sauce is thick, sweet and tangy. The standout of the meal for me was the applewood smoked pork tenderloin sandwich. Throw on some onion, dill pickle slices and I’ve got what I think is my favorite BBQ sandwich in SGF. Oh, and the buns are outstanding. I would love to know where they get them. Buttered and toasted with a great mix of softness (not a word, I know) and chew–the perfect foundation for a great sandwich.

Overall Chuck Wagon made a great first impression. It is easily one of the best BBQ meals I’ve had in Springfield. And the burgers are fantastic as well. The two things they advertise, they excel at, and I hope they are here to stay. So hop in your cars, head over to the north side of town, support a great new local spot and fill your belly with some tasty grub. You can thank me in the comments section below.

PS
My 4-year old offered these thoughts: “They make healthy food and they have a drive-thru.” He also gave his chicken tenders two thumbs up noting “I like the frying”. Guess I may need to change his definition of healthy:)

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On The Moo-ve Burger Barn

With my business doing more and more work in Kansas City, my drive time on Highway 13 has increased drastically in the past few months. And every time I reach Osceola, I see this small cow-spotted burger barn beckoning to me.

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But the timing has never been right. Either it’s early morning or I’ve just eaten Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ on my way out of KC in the evening. That changed this past weekend.

On the way back from a weekend trip with my wife, and as a result of a late breakfast, we found ourselves in need of food right as we were pulling into Osceola.

It was late afternoon as we rolled into On The Moo-ve. We walked to the window and found the menu just what we expected: burgers (including a Taco Burger & 13-oz Barn Burger), hot dogs, grilled & fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, and a host of unfortunately frozen fried foods (shrimp, chicken strips, okra, corn fritters, etc).

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I asked if the fries, tots and onion rings were made in-house and received a no, but was assured the burgers were fresh. That being the case, I opted only for the single bacon cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion – the classics. It was a hot day, so we retreated to the comfort of the car’s AC while we waited for our name to be called. A few minutes later, we retrieved our brown bag of burgers and began chowing down – but not before a couple pics were snapped.

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The bun was your standard grocer grade white that could have been greatly improved with a quick toasting on the grill. The patty itself was more done than I like, but still flavorful and juicy, and there was plenty of oozy American cheese, fresh chopped onion, pickles and of course crispy bacon to compliment the beef. It was homemade and tasted like it. A definite upgrade over your standard chain fare, although not up to the standards of 417 favorites like Casper’s or Taylor’s.

So the next time your passing through Osceola, MO, drop by and have a burger at the spotted barn (name idea free of charge). You’ll be supporting small local business and enjoying a tasty burger.

Go Grotto, Great Burgers

I was craving a great burger last night, didn’t feel like firing up the Big Green Egg, and the first place that popped into my head was The Grotto. They never fail to deliver a thick, juicy, perfectly cooked (medium for me) and well seasoned burger. That is exactly what I got last night.

My personal favorite is the Grotto Bleu, add bacon. If adding bacon is an option, it’s always a go for me.

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I would usually opt for the Bleu Cheese Chips as my side, but my wife wanted some as well (and I didn’t feel like sharing), so we went with an appetizer order. Quite possibly my favorite app in 417, the fresh chips, awesome on their own, are taken to new levels by the creamy, just-right tang of the bleu cheese sauce.

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And yes, I doubled up on my fried starches with a side of sweet potato fries with my burger. Lightly battered and crispy, they go perfect dipped in the house avocado lime ranch dressing. It’s an extra $.50, but well worth it. The flavors go great together.

Fresh, flavorful, California-inspired cuisine. Great burgers, sides and gourmet pizzas (try BBQ Chicken, add bacon of course, and yes I have a pic).

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Over the past few years, The Grotto has cemented itself as one of my top 5 favorites in SGF. Try it for yourself and find out why.

eAT-Lanta

For the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to have a conference scheduled in Atlanta in September. Had a blast checking out the latest home technology at the CEDIA Expo and just as much fun eating some of the best meals of my life. These are some of the highlights.

Flip Burger Boutique
Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blais was near the top of my list of “Chefs Whose Restaurants I Want To Eat At”. His familiar flavors and chemistry experiment cooking techniques intrigued me and excited my appetite. Liquid Nitrogen milk shakes? Yes please. Deep fried burger with house pimento cheese? A must. And the array of fried sides (pickles, fries, onion rings, okra) and accompanying sauces were paired perfectly. This was my first gourmet burger experience (it was a few years ago) and still one of the best. I can still taste the chilled delight that was the Toasted Marshmallow Nutella milkshake.

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Antico Pizza Napoletana
The. Best. Slice. Of. Pizza. Ever. (That I’ve eaten to date). Everything from the glass case of cannoli at the counter, to the large communal table, to the kitchen dining where all the acton takes place and diners sit at mismatched picnic tables, the place transports you to Italy. When you go here, order your pizza and find a seat in the kitchen. There you will be surrounded by Italian music blaring from a small radio, bags of imported Italian flour and San Marzano tomatoes. You’ll see the pizza masters tossing fresh dough, piling on fresh buffalo mozzarella, sausage, herbs and whipping them into one of three ovens for their 2-minute trip to bubbly crispy pizza perfection. Then you’ll be served your perfect pie on a baking sheet covered in craft paper. And you’ll savor every delicious bite, all the while trying to figure out when you will be able to get back to Antico for another meal (a big challenge when you live in Springfield, MO). Their hours are 11:30 – Until We’re Out Of Dough. Don’t be late.

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Woodfire Grill
Home of my other favorite Top Chef, Kevin Gillespie, master of all things pork (down go the pig tattoo), this was my must stop destination last year. I happened to be in town when Chef Kevin was out cooking on a cruise ship, but was assured by the staff that I would enjoy the same quality experience. They did not disappoint. Splurge when you’re here and order the 5-course chef’s tasting. I tried things I never would have ordered off a menu. And enjoyed every one. For anyone wondering, properly prepared pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth, smokey, salty goodness. Other highlights included the seared scallop with corn and truffle puree, the wood grilled duck breast and the blueberry semolina cake. In reality, all dishes were stunning. I’ve included a shot of the menu (ask for one and they will print out what you ate). All in all, start to finish, the best fine dining meal I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. Thank you Chef Kevin (and Woodfire Grill kitchen staff). And thank you Crestron for paying the bill.

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Varasano’s Pizzeria
#3 on my list of best pizza I’ve ever had. Behind #1 Antico and #2 Pizzeria Mozza (LA). The owner has one of the most viewed pizza blogs on the Internet and decided to put all his research and testing on display and opened a restaurant. It was a good decision. The house sausage and caramelized onion with Emmenthaler cheese was a standout. Bottom line, ATL is a pizza lovers destination.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed these highlights from my dining in the ATL. Bummed the conference got moved to Indianapolis this year. Any restaurant recommendations in Indy?

Blanc Burgers + Bottles = Delicious

During a recent trip to KC for meeting w/ the extremely talented folks at Hufft Projects and Baldwin Denim, I took the opportunity to hit up one of my favorite burger spots: Blanc Burgers + Bottles.
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For me, there are two types of burger joints, of which I love both: 1) Greasy (in a good way), traditional dive 2) Fine dining between a bun. Blanc is the latter.

All the following culinary buzzwords apply: locally sourced, organic, grass fed, house made. All these ingredients come together in an inspired menu of appetizers (standout: Shatto cheese curds), salads and of course burgers.

A variety of gourmet bottled beverages are also available. Do yourself a favor and enjoy your favorite burger with a locally made Soda Vie next time.

This visit we went with some old favorites and found some new ones.

Started off with the Gouda Cheese Fries. Perfectly thin, crispy fries topped with a velvety gouda cheese sauce and awesomely crisp, thick bacon. These were out of this world and devoured within minutes of them hitting the table. Quite possibly the best plate of cheese fries I’ve ever had.
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For my burger, I went back to my old standby (and best burger on the menu) – The Inside Out. This masterpiece comes packed with creamy, tangy blue cheese inside the burger, then is topped with crisp bacon, lettuce, a battered onion ring and scratch made ketchup. All served up on a buttery grilled brioche bun that is sturdy enough to hold up to the substantial burger. The meat was perfectly cooked to my desired medium, extremely juicy and well seasoned. Most importantly, melted cheese oozed out with every bite. You have to try this burger.
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Classic – Aged white cheddar, lettuce, tomatoe, house made pickles, ketchup and mustard.
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For sides, we had my wife @iAmNotAFoodie’s favorite: Truffle Fries. Still love the mini shopping cart.
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Soda Vie. Flavors like Thai Basil, Mojito, etc. All very natural (yes those herbs were in the bottle), all very tasty. Not too sweet. And the coolest bottling ever for a soda.
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BLT salad w/ black mustard seed ranch
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This was another stellar meal @blancburgers. Chef Josh Eans and his team have put together an amazing upscale burger concept. Now they just need to bring one to 417-land.

Blanc Burgers + Bottles
http://www.blancburgers.com