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Help please with Road Trip: Milwaukee-Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Columbus (long)

Hi All-

Wife and I will be visiting your region for the first time and could use some help vetting my food itinerary. We will be coming from San Francisco with a goal to sample local eats and institutions. We will have a car, and love hitting up hole-in the-walls as well as the occasional more upscale establishments.

Sun 9/9
Fly into Milwaukee – staying downtown
Sample local eats at Indian Summer
Beer & bowling at Koz or check out a movie at the Oriental Theater

Mon 9/10
Graze at the Milwaukee Public Market (any rec’s here?)
Stop by Usinger’s for sausages
Quick bite & a beer at the Cheese Bar
Hit up Kopp’s or Leon’s for frozen custard on the way of town

Drive to Chicago – staying at B&B in Witicker
Dinner at Malnati’s

Tue 9/11
Sandwich crawl with intermingled site seeing (Untouchable’s TourJH Skydeck & Water Works):
-Pamozzo’s Market
-Al’s Beef
-Portillo’s Hot Dogs
-Grahamwhich
Dinner at Fontera Grill

Wed 9/12
Lunch at Turkish Festival
Site seeing: Mini-Bus & Boat Tour, Navy Pier
Dinner at Harry Caray’s Steak (looking for actual Chicago Steakhouse that dry-ages its beef)

Thu 9/13
Drive to Cleveland by way of Toledo – staying downtown next to Progressive Field
Hit Uncle John’s BBQ for rib tips and sausage on the way out of town
Lunch Tony Packo’s in Toledo (what to get here?)
Dinner at Lola

Fri 9/14
Breakfast at Slyman’s (corned beef hash)
Visit Rock & Roll HOF
Lunch at Sokolowski’s (perogies and fried perch)
Go to Indians Game

Sat 9/15
Early breakfast at West Side Market (are all places open in the morning?
-Czuchraj Meats
-Pierogi Palace
-Maha’s Falafil
-Old Country Sausage
Drive to Columbus – Staying in Worthington
Attend Cal @ Ohio State game
Bite to eat near shuttle drop off in Worthington after the game:
-City BBQ?
-Natalie’s Wood Fired Pizza?
-First Watch?
-others?

Sun 9/16
Breakfast across the street at Bob Evans
Lunch: Starliner Diner, Hubert’s Polish Kitchen, Tommy’s Diner, Katzingers Deli, other suggestions?
Visit COSI
Dinner: Lindey’s?

Mon:
Breakfast: German Village Coffee Shop, Pistacia Vera, The Angry Baker, La Chatelain, others?
Ice cream at Jeni’s
Fly Back to SF

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  1. Yes, the stands at the west side market are all open saturday mornings, saturday is the big day and it's hopping, so getting there early is good. There is a cafe in the market if you want to have breakfast there, or a really good crepe place handily located right next to a coffee place if you want to do a crepe type breakfast (crepes du luxe, next to city roast). Though an original maha's falafil (sic - their spelling) sandwich is a great breakfast as well.

    I cannot in good conscience endorse Sokolowski's but most clevelander's love it. I'm all about steam tables and hearty food but in my opinion they use a lot of cheap grease on things that makes it not sit well.

    Def. love the idea of bfast at slyman's before the rock hall. You may want to first visit Erie Street Coffee on E 4th (very near Lola) for coffee as well at some point.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      Thanks. The reason I chose Skolowski's was for the perogie's and to hit up a Friday fish fry while in the Great Lakes region. Would you have a more favorable recommendation?

      1. re: Civil Bear

        A lot of people like it, I don't mean to dissuade you from trying it, I just think it's really lousy. I would rather have one beef cheek pierogi appetizer from Lola than a whole table full of food from Sokolowski's, and I am a pretty low-rent type of person.

    2. What a trip! I live in Toledo and have a son in Chicago and a son who graduated last year from OSU (Go Bucks against Cal). Some observations:

      You may want to post an inquiry on the Chicago board. We like Malnati's as a good example of deep dish. Al's, Portollo's are fine for hot dogs and Italian beef. You could get both at Portillo's and do well.
      .

      Frontera is great but takes only a limited number of reservations and can be a long wait. You could try Bayless's more upscale place next door, Topolobongo (sp?) or one of the other great regional Mexican places, Mexique, Mixteco Grill, etc.

      I would suggest David Burke or Chicago Cut for dry aged steak.

      At Packos (I hope you go to the original on Front Street) try the hot dogs and/or stuffed cabbage.

      I don't know the places near Worthington. You should check out the short north area which is a little south of campus for trendy galleries and restaurants. Rigsby's is good and we like the Northstar. In German Village, check out The Thurman for its famous burgers. Bob Evans is just a regional chain - nothing special. Lindey's is also fine. It is more of an iconic Columbus spot, having been around for a long time.

      Jeni's is an absolute must.

      You have clearly done your research. Hope this helps.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sammyo

        Thanks sammyo. I was fortunate to get a res at Frontera, so I should be good to go.

        I will check out Rigsby's and the Northstar. Regarding the Thurman, it seems to be a Columbus type institution that I am looking for. However I caught a glimpse of the place on Man vs. Food and the burgers did not look too appealing (and this from a guy that will eat just about anything!). Any recs on what to order there?

        1. re: Civil Bear

          I've only had the burgers. I didn't see the tv show, but maybe he was trying to eat the "Thurmanator" which is not appealing to me either. The regular burgers come with a variety of addons and are what they are known for.

        2. re: sammyo

          >> Dinner at Harry Caray’s Steak (looking for actual Chicago Steakhouse that dry-ages its beef)

          >> I would suggest David Burke or Chicago Cut for dry aged steak.

          Yes, exactly. I don't think Harry Caray's dry ages their beef. Go instead to David Burke's Primehouse or Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Both dry age their beef. If you ask, Burke's will give you a tour of their aging room.

        3. Your Chicago list looks decent given the short amount of time. Personally, I am a big fan of the abundant taco joints in the area, so I would strongly encourage a trip to Cemitas Puebla for their 'cemita' sandwiches and tacos arabes. Also, I would sub out Portillo's with Franks-n-Dawgs. Not sure what you are looking for at Portillo's, but Frank-n-Dawgs has Chicago dogs along with several more creative sausage/dog gourmet creations.

          At Tony Packo's in Toledo, you want to get the Packo's original hungarian sausage with the chili. It would be a big letdown coming from a place like Franks-n-Dawgs though.

          Tony

          3 Replies
          1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

            Thanks GLBF. I'm hoping for an authentic Chicago hotdog and Italian Beef at Portillo's.

            If you were to throw a rock in any direction in many parts of San Francisco you would likely hit a taquaria. The area is lacking in more contemporary Mexican though, which is why I'm heading to Frontera. Would actually prefer to try Xoco, but just not sure what the wait would be like around 8:00PM.

            1. re: Civil Bear

              Gotcha. I assumed you were getting italian beef at Al's, in which case you could get your chicago dog fill at Franks-n-Dawgs along with some other more interesting gourmet sausage/brat creations that you aren't going to find at a chain like Portillos. Portillos does have its fans so I won't talk you out of it too much.

              Xoco is amazing, I love the torta ahogada (torta made with carnitas, black beans, pickled onions served in a fiery hot chile de arbol broth). You should definitely try to go, even if you go to Frontera as well. It's more of a lunch spot, so it might not be that crowded later, not sure how late it's open though.

              I hear you on the taquerias in SF, but I will just point out that Cemitas Puebla is unique in that it serves a version of tacos that is fairly unique to the Puebla area, where there is a large Lebanese population. The tacos are served on a hybrid flour tortilla/pita and the 'arabes' meat is cooked shwarma-style, with slices of marinated pork and onions cooked on a vertical roasting spit. The tacos arabes are probably my death row meal so I am biased, but if you find yourself out on the westside, it is worth a stop.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                Don't bother with Xoco. It's Mexican "street food", stuff like tortas (sandwiches) that you can get back home, just like the taquerias. Instead, stick to your original plan - get contemporary Mexican cuisine, either at Frontera Grill or Topolobampo, or at Mexique, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, or Mixteco Grill.

            2. Definitely NOT Bob Evans, and I wouldn't recommend First Watch or City BBQ either. All are large chains with menus designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of palates. I don't know where the shuttle drop off is in Worthington, but I'd check out the Wine Bistro if you want to eat lunch back in Worthington after the game. For breakfast in Worthington, try La Chatelaine.

              1. If you have a cooler for the car and the time for a further stop on your way out of Chicago, you should consider Calumet Fisheries for various smoked fish and shrimp to take along for the ride after your Uncle John's feast:

                http://www.calumetfisheries.com/

                It's old-school, smoked fish, and the atmosphere is like none other. It's a little shack in the middle of an industrial region, alone at the foot of a draw bridge. (Incidentally, the very draw bridge that features in the car jump in the Blues Brothers movie.) It's cash-only (why all the cash-only in Chicago?) I recommend everything there, including sides like cole slaw, etc., but don't miss the trout, whitefish, shrimps, yum...

                Problem is, it could add a half hour or so to your driving time, more if the drawbridge stops you. (But maybe some local Chicago folks will know better than I how to manage the drive there.)

                1 Reply