We have been aware of this place and its reputation for quite some time. People swear by the quality of Hank’s smoked meat. He only offers carry out so we had to pick a nice day. That is the only reason I can come up as to why we were so tardy in coming here. That, and our horrid memories. Today was a beautiful day so we headed to Hank’s.
They have a menu board on the wall, but I messed up the picture. Their sandwiches range from $6.50 to $8.50. Their sides are all $1.80. The brisket is $16 per pound and the smoked corn beef is $17.50. On Urbanspoon there is an older picture of the menu. The brisket prices have gone up since that was taken. Price increase or not the man sure can smoke some beef. And it is definitely butter my butt and call me bread good.
Pat stopped and bought some buns on the way. We got one pound of brisket, one half pound of smoked corned beef and a side of potato salad and coleslaw. Conveniently there is a Dairy Queen next door, so we picked up a couple of chocolate malts. There is also a nice little park about a block away. So we had an old-fashioned picnic.
In a nutshell I don’t know which we liked better. The brisket or the corned beef. The brisket was delicious and had a beautiful bark. I think it was a wee bit better than Squealers. My previous love. As for the corned beef it was truly a taste to remember. I know this is trite and over used but it really did melt in your mouth. A nice texture, indicative of corned meat and just a hint of fat to leave a little gleam on your mouth. The slaw was good but the potato salad was better, I think. Super creamy. A sweet foil to the home-made BBQ sauce.
What is extraordinary is Hank is a self-taught pit master. As I understand it he spent 10 years perfecting his technique through trial and error. Which is, ultimately, the way all smokers learn. Try different ways until you find the one way that floats your boat. In this case Hank certainly has found his way.
How I could have overlooked this place for so long, I just don’t know. Well I corrected that over sight Friday. This joint is the quintessential tavern. Dim lighting and wood paneling. It is a credit to its generation. And their food and service is a credit to taverns everywhere. I discovered a new beer from Sun King. I don’t recall the name but after the obligatory notes of hop, the finish had a definite chile pepper smack. This beer made for a great pairing with the Hot Sicilian sandwich. Now this sandwich is standard fare in a lot of places. Ham, pepperoncinis, bacon and mozzarella cheese on a toasted roll with shredded lettuce. The way they prepare their version is what sets it apart from the rest . They par cook the bacon and then finish it per order on the flat top with the remaining ingredients. The result is a flavor filled sandwich full of greasy bacon goodness. I would also recommend a side of potato salad to go with. The salad is of the smashed variety. The first taste is hard-boiled egg, followed by the potato with a touch of sour cream and a hint of vinegar. If you like potato salad as much as I do I think you’ll love this.
After my successful scouting trip Pat and I decided to make this joint our weekly destination. As you will see I wasn’t the only one taken by this joint. Following is Pat’s ode to a French Dip.
I was torn between a grilled chicken sandwich or a burger. Since the menu mentioned char broiled burgers I ordered one, medium rare, with a side of cole slaw. I was a wee bit disappointed. There wasn’t a whole lot of char on the meat and it was cooked past medium. All in all the meat was a little dry. That could have been caused by aggressive spatula use or patty compaction. In either event it really is not that big of a deal. The burger temp is regulated by the Board of Health. The last I heard all ground meat must be cooked to an internal temp of 160 degrees, and held for 15 seconds. Which precludes even a true medium. As for the slaw I thought it could have used more dressing. Now that is purely subjective. Hell you can’t hit a home run every time.
So this is a place worth visiting. And from the lunch crowd I guess a lot of folks feel the same way. Oh. I almost forgot the Chile. I had a cup to start things off. It was house made and really good. Mild enough to appeal to non chile heads and packing enough chile powder and cumin to make it interesting. Also like so many joints the help is such a key to success; and the help here appears to be professional. At least in the front of the house; where it matters. I would also like to thank Kelly for such attentive service. Thanks from both of us.
At the corner of Capital Avenue and 13th street sits the Tip Top Tavern. Pat and I have stopped there a few times,but it has always been closed. A couple of weeks ago we found out why. The place has gone through a few owners the last few years and have never been able to make a go of it. Now the owner of the building has decided to have a go of it himself; and it appears as though he is on the right track. They only operate 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.;Monday through Friday. Which is probably a good call for the neighborhood.
It is certainly a good-looking place. Cozy booths around the perimeter of the dining room and several large dark wood tables down the center. The first thing you notice,when you walk in is the large ,dark, carved wood back bar. It looks antique;but it probably isn’t. The remaining area is spacious and bright; with an abundance of old school glass blocks in the walls ;that allows for a great deal of diffuse natural light to enter. Like I said, like coming home. The service is first-rate and the people are great. The owner is casual and friendly and Echo ;our server/bartender is a charming and lovely young lady that never stops moving.
The menu is pretty much what you would expect in a tavern;but although the fare might be common the execution isn’t. They cut their own tenders from a whole loin;and cube it themselves ; with an honest to gosh cuber; no hammer for these folks. I haven’t had a grilled tender in I don’t know how long. So when I learned they cube their own I had to have one. That hunk o’ pig was 8 ounces if it was a gram. They cook all their meat on a flat top griddle. Would that make it a Tip Top Flat Top? Nevermind. The sandwich was on point. The meat was cooked just to the right point. It offered enough “chew” so that you knew you were eating real meat; but not too much so it would wreak havoc on my store-bought chompers. Pat ordered a Philly cheese steak; and his only complaint was it needed more beef. But then who doesn’t like more meat? The sandwiches come with choice of fries,macaroni or potato salad or fresh fruit cup. I can’t remember the exact price of their sandwiches but I’m pretty sure they are less than 8 bucks. As for beer; well let me tell you they have a very respectable selection of craft brews for $3.50 to $4.00. That’s pretty good for”downtown”. Oh I almost forgot they also serve breakfast, hence the 7:oo A.M. opening. And their pricing is incredible. So it seems like a no brainer to me ,heading into work downtown on Capital pull off at 13th;they have a parking lot; and fuel up.Remember breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Located on Indiana Avenue;across the street from the Madame Walker Theater a new joint opened up just before the Super Bowl.It is where Zing and some other place were situated;I can’t remember the name;but from what I gather neither are greatly missed.Pat and I first went there for beers after eating at Duos.That’s our modus operandi;we check a place out while having a beer ;check out the menu and put it on the list.
The place is a large two-story building with its own parking lot.The down stairs dining area is either used for dinner or overflow;because when you enter you are directed up stairs.The down stairs area is dark and cozy,while the upstairs is spacious with wall to wall windows and a super great balcony.As you can imagine they offer Creole and Cajun food;gumbo,jambalaya ettouffe and the notorious Po’Boy sandwich; the whole delta experience.They offer you a choice of fries with the sandwiches;unseasoned,or spicy.Pat got a grilled chicken Po’Boy with plain,naked unseasoned fries.Angel our excellent server said the spicy tasted like Rally’s;and I think their fries rock.Pat’s fries were crinkle cut,which is always a pleasant surprise.His chicken was both tender and moist and somewhere in the $10 range.
I,on the other hand wanted to be a little more adventuresome;and ordered the New Orleans plate ( I think that was what it was called ) no matter, it came with a garden salad or potato salad,a cup of jam,beans and rice a cup of corn and crab chowder,and 2 pieces of catfish all for $15.The tater salad was of the mashed variety as opposed to cubed again one of my favorite versions.The jambalaya had an excellent flavor with bits of sausage and shrimps.That was the only thing I could fault it on,a steam table cooks all the while it is on and little shrimp become tough when over cooked;as was the case here.The beans and rice were nice and creamy but I prefer bigger hunks of sausage;but that’s me.The chowder was smooth, creamy and slightly sweet from the crab and corn,pretty good.My biggest surprise was the catfish;I ordered it blackened,so naturally I expected it to be done in a cast iron skillet;but it wasn’t.It was seasoned with spices and then char grilled.Don’t get me wrong it was perfectly grilled,Pat even liked it;and as a general rule he likes his fish battered and fried.I just had “my mouth set ” for the cast iron experience.So if you want something a little different for lunch you really ought to give the Avenue a try.
Have you ever felt like a cold sandwich for lunch?You know the kind you could fix at home;if you had access to a bunch of fixins’.Brown bagging;without the bag.That’s how Pat and I felt Thursday so we went to the Stars Sandwich Market ,on Delaware St,across from the City Market.It appears to be rather popular with the busy downtown crowd.They make all the sandwiches in advance and store them in a refrigerated merchandise cabinet.They offer the usual assortment of bottled water,juices and fountain soft drinks.They also offer pre-made salads and homemade hot soups.They offer a rather extensive variety of sandwiches;however you can’t get one “custom made”which could be a problem for some one like Pat;who is allergic to onion and detests mayo.However we checked out the menu in advance and we knew what to expect.Pat had a plain turkey with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat.I had their turkey with lettuce,tomato,provolone and cranberry sauce;all on a hoagie style roll.I also tried their sour cream and dill potato salad and sesame noodles.The potato salad needed some acidity to curb the richness of the sour cream and a lot more dill;for my taste.The noodles were very good I’d eat them again any time.All in all we think this joint’s worth trying.You know the sandwiches are fresh and they do have a good selection.From the classic;PB&J to the less common egg salad with bacon.So next time you’re downtown and you want a sandwich that isn’t grilled or deep-fried and aren’t in the mood for a “footlong”try Star.