Pad Thai- No need to drive to Milwaukee

I have never been to Thailand or Asia for that matter, and I have no idea how traditional, authentic Thai dishes taste.  What I know is that I love the Thai noodle dish Pad Thai from the first time I tried it. And I’ve ordered it on a regular basis since then.  Pad Thai contains thin noodles with peanuts, bean sprouts, eggs, and then usually a protein like chicken, beef or shrimp, usually served with a lime.   The sauce is generally not spicy and has a peanut flavor.

For this Take Three, we chose the three Racine/Kenosha suggestions from our page members.   These three restaurants may be the ONLY restaurants in Racine/Kenosha that even serve this Pad Thai.   Because of this, I expected a good plate of noodles at maybe one of the establishments, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Coming in at No. 3:

Pimmy’s Authentic Thai Cuisine, 7180 75th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin

2016-01-03 12.44.18

Pimmy’s proclaims its authenticity in the name of the restaurant and I suspect that it may serve the most authentic Pad Thai of the bunch.  The interior was also the most comfortable and the service was prompt and friendly.

Pimmy's Interior

The pad Thai at Pimmy’s was the best deal of the three at $9.99.   The peanuts were chopped and on the side instead of spread on top.   Unlike the other two places we tried, Pimmy’s Pad Thai included tofu.   Tofu went well with the dish and probably is a traditional ingredient (can anyone confirm?).   The only complaint with Pimmy’s Pad Thai is that the chicken was slightly overcooked.

Pimmy's Pad Thai

Coming in at No. 2

Krung Thai, 515 6th Street, Racine, Wisconsin.  (No web page)

Krung Thai Exterior

Krung Thai is a newcomer to Racine and does not have a website.  (I always find this shocking as websites are quite easy to make and very inexpensive — also crucial for folks looking for a menu before trying a new place out)

The night we checked out Krung Thai, the waitress was juggling about five tables as well as packaging take-out orders — time to hire a second waitperson to help out.

Krung Thai Interior

If you are a spicy food lover, then Krung Thai’s Pad Thai ($10.95) is for you.  Without even requesting spice, the Pad Thai was quite spicy.   Putting aside the heat level, the sauce had great flavor.   The peanuts used in Krung Thai’s dish were a little different than the Planter’s peanuts you get in the jar at Pick n Save – longer and thin.   I would definitely order the dish again.

Krung Thai Pad Thai

 

Coming in at No. 1:

Sticky Rice, 203 6th Street, Racine, Wisconsin.  (No website, new location)

Sticky Rice Exterior

Sticky Rice recently reopened on 6th Street after moving from their old Main Street location.  I like the new location and it has more parking options than the old location.

Sticky Rice Interior

Sticky Rice’s Pad Thai was 10.95, adding $3.00  for shrimp.

Sticky Rice Pad Thai Menu

Sticky Rice is our winner for a couple reasons.  First, the chicken was cooked nicely.  Second the sauce was flavorful but yet not overly spicy.  Finally, the portion size was great and the ingredients were fresh.

Sticky Rice Pad Thai

Bottom line – I still don’t know what truly authentic Pad Thai is, but I am glad that I don’t have to drive all the way to Milwaukee to get a tasty order of the Pad Thai I know and love.

 

This small bar makes the best chili in SE Wisconsin

Gray skies, leaf-less trees and cooling temps tend to put me in the mood for hearty comfort foods. And even though temperatures have been warmer than usual for December in SE Wisconsin, chili-eating weather is here.

Just like we’ve done in the past, we asked our readers to send us their favorite chili hotspots. Three locations were selected, chili was enjoyed, and our results are as follows…
#3 – Shirl’s Frozen Custard 7943 Sheridan Road, Kenosha

Shirl’s is a popular spot in Kenosha for burgers and frozen custard, and I’m a little embarrassed to mention that I’d never been here before. So, needless to say, I was excited when Shirl’s was mentioned for our chili challenge.

The chili at Shirl’s (small $2.79, large $3.39) was decent (I’d say it kind of reminded me of Wendy’s chili), albeit a little inconsistent. One serving was pretty greasy with a really strong oregano flavor and a medium heat level with grilled onions. But a later other serving didn’t seem greasy at all and without the overpowering oregano (yay!), but had virtually no heat (boo!) and raw onions. Maybe one bowlful was scooped and served without being stirred up a bit first; that’s my theory anyway. We also asked for cheese and onions to be added. I kind of dug that Shirl’s used nacho cheese instead of shredded cheddar. It seemed like a very “drive-in” thing to do, and I wish similar places would offer a cheese choice – shredded or whiz.
#2 – Swingin’ Door Exchange 219 E. Michigan Street, Milwaukee

This is a bar/restaurant in downtown Milwaukee that has been slinging drinks since 1931.  The vibe was great and the menu went beyond bar food to steaks and complicated salads.



This chili (cup $3.50, bowl $5.50 + $0.50 for cheese/onions) tastes exactly how chili should taste. Thick and spicy and meaty with diced onions and peppers and exactly the right amount of heat. Shredded cheddar and diced raw onions were served on the side so you could decide exactly how much of each you’d like to add. Simply, really good chili.

I just want to take a quick sec to talk about what a fun place this is – from the kitschy decor to the delicious Moscow mules to the 70’s and 80’s music that was playing overhead to the waitstaff singing Little River Band songs with us – I cannot wait to go back to this place. Great time!
 #1 Toad Hall 611 Wisconsin Avenue, Racine



As delicious as the chili was at Swingin’ Door Exchange, the chili at Toad Hall (cup $3.50, bowl $5) is on new level. It’s just so… complex. Smoky, spicy, but also a touch sweet. You can tell after just one bite that this is a recipe that was developed over time. And topped with shredded cheddar and diced red onions – whoa… Corey, Pope of Chilitown, (the creator of the chili recipe mentioned on the Toad Hall menu), well done, sir!


Just to make your mouth water a bit more, Toad Hall also serves up Frito Chili Pie ($7).

You Really Can’t Go Wrong with Kenosha Thin Crust Pizza

 Living in or near Kenosha is like hitting the pizza lottery.  Like kringle in Racine or bars in Cudahy, there seems to be an Italian restaurant on every corner in Kenosha – and everyone has their favorite they swear is the BEST. 

Three local favorites were selected. At each location, we ordered a pepperoni and cheese pizza as well as one of the house specialty pizzas. So, ranked from “I’d crave this every once in awhile” to “This is my new addiction”, here we go…
#3 – Ruffalo’s Pizza 11820 Sheridan Road, Pleasant Prairie

 

The interior can probably best be described as… dated. One big, open room with tables varying in size. The full bar is a plus – I occasionally like to have an adult beverage with my pizza. 

 
 

The pepperoni and cheese pizza (small, $11.18) was fair. The thin crust was crispy, thumbs up. But the sauce was thick, almost paste-like, and applied very sparingly.  I also would’ve like a little more cheese. 

 

The specialty pizza we chose was Giuliana’s Special (small, $13.99) – the extra-thin crust was extra crisp and sauceless and topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, sausage, chicken, bacon and pepperocinis. That sounds overwhelming, but it was really quite balanced and good. And I liked the little bit of heat the pepperocinis added. FYI – Ruffalo’s does have gluten free options, including pizzas.

 

  #2 – Kaiser’s Pizza & Pub 510 57th Street, Kenosha

 

Walking into Kaiser’s always reminds me of restaurants “up north” – I love all that exposed brick and wood. And their holiday decorations are now up and fabulous. On to the pizza…
  

The first thing I notice about the pepperoni and cheese pizza (small, $9), is that it’s cut in triangles as opposed to squares. This could very well be my OCD speaking but, I like my restaurant pizzza cut in squares. Triangles are for the frozen cardboard pizzas. Anyway, back to tasting… Everything about the pepperoni and cheese pizza at Kaiser’s was good. Crust – crunchy. Sauce – decent. Cheese – plentiful.  Overall, we all enjoyed it. 
  

We selected Kaiser’s Special (small, $12) for the specialty pizza. And once again, this pizza topped with cheese, sausage, mushroom, onion and green pepper was good.  No doubt that we’ll be back again and again for more. Gluten free pizzas and pastas are options, as well. 
  

But our favorite… #1 Luigi’s Pizza Kitchen 7531 39th Avenue, Kenosha

 
 

The cozy atmosphere was great. And this placed was PACKED by 5pm on a Saturday night. 

 
 

Luigi’s cheese and pepperoni pizza (small, $8.50) was phenomenal.  The crust was light and crunchy. The sauce had just the right amount of seasoning. And the cheese… the cheese was piled on to create a melty, gooey taste of heaven (yes, I’m a Wisconsin girl… Why do you ask??).

 

The margherita specialty pizza (small, $10.25) was my favorite out of the 6 pizzas that were tried.  Cracker thin crust covered in garlic olive oil, topped with tomato, plenty of mozzarella and basil. My idea of pizza perfection. And did I taste a hint of smoke in both pizzas? Does anyone know if Luigi’s uses a wood oven? 
  

I’m of the opinion that there is no such thing as bad pizza, but I’d move mountains for really good pizza. I would recommend any of these locations, but Luigi’s won the battle on this night. 

French Onion Soup – We found perfection

We received a ton of great suggestions as to where we could find the best baked french onion soup.  Traditionally, this deeply flavored soup is topped with a large crouton or croutons and melty, gooey cheese with a crusty top.    This would be my soup course if I was on death row.

Although there was a lot of things right about the soup at three places we tried,  there was a clear winner. Here are our results –

Number 3 – HobNob– 277 Sheridan Road, Racine, $5.25

Hobnob exterior

I always love the vibe of the HobNob. The vintage atmosphere practically forces you to imbibe in a martini (or two). I overheard one of the bartenders telling a patron that since the closing of Ray Radigan’s in Kenosha, the HobNob’s business has picked up. And that makes sense – we LOVE the supper club experience in SE Wisconsin!

Hobnob interior

As far as their french onion soup goes – it had its good points.  Plenty of onions in the bowl and tons of  cheese baked on top, giving it an almost creme brulee-like crust. However, we didn’t care for the soggy, tasteless “crouton” plopped under that cheese.  It was too mushy.   As for the broth it was oniony but lacked overall flavor.

IMG_2550

Number 2 – Erv’s Mug– 130 West Ryan Road, Oak Creek, $5.49

Erv’s is just north of Racine County and it is locally famous for its fish fry and starting this week, Erv’s Mug’s interior will be Christmas crazy with lights and decorations.  Although they have a bar, the dining area is large and kid-friendly.

Ervs Mug Interior

Erv’s also has good reason to be proud of their Crock of Baked French Onion Soup.   The broth was great, the crouton was  shaped to fit the mug, nicely seasoned, and retained some exterior crispness.   Another soup Erv’s offered that night was crocked Cajun buffalo chicken cheese….very interesting but we didn’t have room to try it.

Erv's Mug French onion with spoon

And the winner…  No. 1 – The Corner House– 1521 Washington Avenue, Racine, $6.75

Corner House Exterior

The Corner House is a supper club in the Uptown area of Racine that has been in operation since 1945.   The celebrity-signed menus that decorate the entry area mostly make references to their famous prime rib.

If the french onion soup at Corner House isn’t perfection, then it’s damn close.

IMG_2544

The rich, beefy and oniony broth was loaded with caramelized, julienned onions. The mozzarella and provolone cheeses on top were bubbly and but baked so nicely that we were scraping the sides of the bowl to try to pry off the cheese.  But what really put it over the top was the crouton.  It remained crunchy until we finished the entire bowl as if created by some sort of crouton wizard.   The bartender told us that their secret is to deep fry the crouton — well, this was a difference-maker.  It made my mouth happy to have that bit of crunch to accompany all those soft onions. In fact the next day, I found myself craving more.

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a compete dinner, you can have the soup and a brandy old-fashioned at the bar.   It’s a great time of year for a delicious bowl of soup. I’ll be heading back to the Corner House very soon to get my next fix.

You’re in Kenosha and craving awesome buffalo wings. What do you do?

Here is what you do — drive to Racine.

We asked our readers to nominate Kenosha places that have the BEST buffalo wings last week and we only received a smattering of responses.  This was curious.   Wings are not difficult to make but do require cooking precision and some trouble shooting.   We took three of the page suggestions and tried the wings.  One place we can’t recommend, the second place the wings were passable, and the third place the wings were decent but the wing menu was limited.

Coming in at No. 3

Rivals Sports Pub and Grille, 6325 120th Avenue, Kenosha.  Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Rivals-Sports-Pub-and-Grille-212848568732170/

Rivals exterior

Rivals is adjacent to I-94 in Kenosha and is a sports bar with a fairly good-sized menu.  We arrived Saturday shortly before the Wisconsin game and only a few tables were filled.

Rivals interior

We ordered six buffalo grilled wings for $6.95.

Rivals Wings Menu

Grilled wings have become increasingly common in Racine with local favorite Scores (Facebook page linked) leading the charge.   What’s great with grilled wings is that the sauce is given a chance to caramelize and adhere nicely to the exterior of the wing.   Unfortunately the Rivals wings didn’t make the cut.  The wings were overcooked and the sauce was almost non-existent after the wings were placed on the grill.   Not recommended.   We also tried the deep fried wings with the New Orleans Bourbon and although the sauce was visible, it wasn’t great.  Plus, the wings were again overcooked.   The ranch served with the wings was low quality.   Homemade dressings make a HUGE difference.

Rivals Buffalo Wings

Coming in at No. 2

Siebert’s Pub, 8403 Antioch Road, Salem, Wisconsin.   

This historic pub dates back to 1880 and looks like an old stagecoach stop.  The interior is updated and decorated for autumn but still retains the historic charm.   We liked this place.

Sieberts Exterior

Sieberts Interior

Siebert’s offers a full dinner menu and seating.   The appetizer list included many items that were a step above typical bar food, so we were intrigued.   The wings were reasonably priced at six for $5 with several sauces.   We tried the Buffalo Sauce as well as the Stout Sauce, which was sort of a bbq-beer sauce.

Sieberts Wing Menu

The wings arrived with ranch and chunky bleu cheese dressing and a couple pieces of celery. The plating was nice.   The wings were nicely cooked but the sauce wasn’t sticking to the wings and they didn’t have that crisp exterior.   The wings were decent — but unremarkable.   The Stout Sauce wings were the same.

Sieberts Buffalo Wings

Coming in at No. 1

Ron’s Place, 3301 52nd Street, Kenosha.

Ron's Place exterior

For being a place that focuses on burgers and long islands, Ron’s wings were pretty darn good — as long as you are fine with one flavor of sauce and ranch not bleu cheese dressing.

Ron’s Place opened in 1972 and is a favorite of SE Wisconsin Food Talkers for their burgers and drinks.  Located directly next to Tenuta’s Italian Grocery, Ron’s Place is an easy stop for a drink after stocking up on parmigiana and salami.  Just make sure to move your car to Ron’s back lot after shopping.

Ron's Place Kenosha Tenutas

“Ron’s Hot Wings” are buried in the middle of the finger foods section of the menu for $7.95. CAUTION: the menu also contains a finger food called “hot wings” which are sauceless, breaded and fried wings.   Make sure to get “Ron’s Hot Wings.”

Ron's finger food menu

There are no sauce choices – the standard sauce is a hot buffalo which had some heat and good flavor.  If you don’t like spicy food then do not order these wings.   Ron’s wings did not come with  celery or bleu cheese.  Bottom line the wings were decent hot wings but with bleu cheese dressing or celery or any alternative sauce choices, its not really a wing destination.   The price was certainly fair for the amount of wings served.

Ron's Hot Wings

Don’t worry Kenosha residents, simply head up to Racine, which has at least three places serving top-level buffalo wings with an array of sauces.   My favorite is Racine-style: sauced and grilled.

This Wisconsin restaurant is taking Guacamole to the next level

Guacamole — if you have tried it, you love it.  If you haven’t tried it, its only because you don’t like green stuff and hate to try new things.  Once you try it, you’re hooked.

Page members suggest several places and we went to two in Racine and one in Wauwatosa.   All of the restaurants made the guacamole table-side.  Two of the places were very good — one took it to the next level.

Coming in at two and three (both were equally good):

Jose’s Blue Sombrero, 6430 Washington Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin

joses_blue

Jose’s has a great atmosphere and the menu is ever-changing and innovative.   We ordered the table-side guacamole for $9.00.   Two things were great about this guacamole: (1) the server makes a  bunch of it and (2) Jose’s chips are thin and taste like they just came out of the deep fryer — so good.

Joses Tornado and Chips

Michelle made our guacamole.  She was clearly an expert in guacamole creation.  The ingredients are as follows: onions, fresh garlic, and peppers (which are mushed into a paste — no chunks), tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, lime, salt, and pepper. She asked us if we wanted mild, medium, or hot.  We chose medium, which I regretted because the medium was actually HOT.   Michelle used the mortar and pestle which I learned is called a molcajete.

Joses Michelle Guac

We realized that we don’t really like a noticeably spicy guacamole, just like we wouldn’t like spicy mashed potatoes.   Guacamole is comfort food — leave the spicy to salsa.  All in all a very good guacamole – but watch the heat level.

Joses Guac complete

Javier’s Cuisine, 2011 Lathrop Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin

Javier's Sign

Most of the tables were taken at Javier’s on a Saturday night.  The restaurant was tastefully decorated for Halloween/Dia de los Muertos.   I just loved the look of this place, so warm and inviting.

Javier's Halloween guy    Javier's interior

Pictured above is Jalyna, the most mature 10-year old girl that ever served Mexican food.   I wanted to adopt her.

Javier’s makes table-side guacamole using the same ingredients as Jose’s, but the peppers were Serrano.

Javiers Guacamole Tray

Jalyna was the guacamole maker that night and her personality and smile made our visit.   She asked us how much of every ingredient we wanted — the problem was we didn’t know — we just wanted good guacamole.   She did her thing and made us a good molcajete of guacamole, but it could have used a bit more lime, garlic and salt. That smile though.

Javier Jalyna Guac

The place we went that took guacamole to the next level was Habanero’s Mexican Kitchen, just south of the Mayfair Mall at 869 N. Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  (Rumor has it there is a location coming to Greenfield)

Habaneros Exterior

Habanero’s interior is attractive and modern with two sides — one side being more of a bar with tv’s the other side being the dining tables.

Habaneros Interior

Here is why Habanero’s is our winner.   We ordered the traditional guacamole.  The guacamole, made by Elena, was perfectly seasoned with lime, spice, salt and garlic and topped off with some mini-shreds of cheese.   The cheese was SUCH a great addition to the guacamole, I am absolutely incorporating it in my home recipe.

Habaneros guac table

Habaneros Guacamole

Secondly, in addition to traditional guacamole, Habanero’s offered five other types of guacamole.  Elena offered that the Roasted Bacon was the most popular non-traditional choice but her favorite is the Margarita Guacamole.

Habaneros Guacamole Menu

The problem that I had with this guacamole challenge was that by the time I had my fill of the guacamole, I couldn’t fit much else in even though I had my eye on several entrees.  #foodaddictproblems   I have a feeling that Habanero’s is the cusp of a food trend —- we will see new and different types of guacamole all over the land in the future.  You heard it here first.

Looking for Choice Clam Chowder? Set your GPS to Racine

Clam chowder was logistically a difficult “take three” to tackle as most places only serve it on Fridays.   We asked if anyone wanted to ride the chowder circuit with us and we got some help from one of our page members this week, Racine resident, food lover, chef/grillmaster, beer and bike afficianado, Jerry Springer.

jerry making sausage

We went to three places; two knocked it out of the park.

Coming in at No. 3:

Bartley House, 1212 58th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin.  http://www.bartleyhouse.com/Bartley House exterior

Bartley House is a true Wisconsin Supper club, first opened in 1959.  The cement block building is next to train tracks on a side street in an undesirable section of town.  Basically, you are not going to “happen” upon the Bartley House; you have to know its there.   Every seat was full at 7 pm on a Friday night in a dining room where the chef prepared all the meat at an open hearth located in the corner of the restaurant.

Bartley House Interior   open hearth

In true supper club tradition, dinners include bean salad, seasoned cottage cheese, which of course we paired with a Brandy Old Fashioned muddled to perfection.   We very much enjoyed the complimentary salads and our fine-dining dinners as well as the vintage atmosphere.

The Clam Chowder was bargain-priced at $1.75 a cup, $2.50 a bowl.   It was cross between New England and Manhattan Chowder. —  the color was pink/salmon.  Despite the interesting appearance, we can’t recommend this chowder.  We are not sure why it was called chowder because it was missing the potatoes.   Bottom line: the clams were tough and chewy.

chowder menu  chowder close up

No. 2 (or 1A) – Soup Shanty, 6022 Douglas Avenue, Caledonia, Wisconsin.  https://www.facebook.com/soupshanty

Soup Shanty is so cute you want squeeze it like a baby.  It was spotlessly clean and well-decorated in an updated country theme.  The menu offers three to four soups a day along with salads and sandwiches.

soup shanty large exterior

Its not simply a take out place – the Soup Shanty has several tables inside.  (Isn’t it just so cute, I want to eat it up!)

soup shanty interior

As far as the New England Clam Chowder — it was  excellent.  A satisfying, thick herbal cream base, large potatoes, carrots, and bacon is always a plus.  Lots of clams that were tender and not chewy.  The only downside was the first bite of clam was extremely gritty.  The rest of the clams were grit-free and the thick base made you want to take a nap after you ate it – comforting.

soup shanty chowder two

Just beating Soup Shanty (although not on all the judges scorecards):

  1.  Yardarm Bar and Grill, 920 Erie Street, Racine, Wisconsin   http://www.yardarmbargrill.com/

yard arm wide angle

The Yardarm is a sailboat-themed establishment tucked along the Root River.  The interior is oddly divided and has rooms named the quarterdeck, upper deck, and oarhouse.    The Yardarm is famous for its Sand Dollar potatoes and sky high ice cream cakes, not to mention the fish plates.

yard arm chowder

The New England Clam Chowder was just right with a creamy base, potatoes, red peppers, and bacon.   The seasoning was spot on and the large piece of bacon at the bottom of the bowl of soup may have put this chowder over the top.  The clams were tender and plentiful.

Being that its more than a days drive to New England from SE Wisconsin, if you get a craving for chowder, head on over to the Yardarm or Soup Shanty and get your fix. If anyone wants to help with the next take three, email us at Jill@wisfoodtalk.com.