Thursday, November 29, 2012

Takeout from Max's

I have been away from this blog too long. When I was making the post about the barkers at Riff Burgers recently I discovered the following entry I had written but never posted three months ago. So here it is with a new ending added.

Max's Deli at the Colonnade continues to be a high end deli. I recently picked up takeout for some family members, one of whom wanted the "1962 Dog".

The "1962 Dog" is a quarter pound kosher Dog with slaw, onions & BBQ sauce, served with a side of steak fries. This is a meal in itself.

I opted for the "Russian Reuben" which is: Pastrami on grilled rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. This has come to be a favorite sandwich of mine. As I write this I consulted the online menu to verify the ingredients of this sandwich and find that the description on the menu lists slaw instead of kraut. Whenever I've had this sandwich it has come with kraut, as it did this time. I believe the menu used to list kraut rather than slaw as an ingredient. I'm going to have to ask about this. If it is slaw it must be a sour rather than sweet slaw.

You might remember that when we discussed Chicago style hot dogs a while back I concluded that Max's Chicago is the nearest thing to authentic that you will find in Birmingham. They clearly take pride in their hot dogs at Max's. My focus at Max's has been on the Chicago style dogs and I've never tried the "1962 Dog".

This is a BIG hot dog that to some degree dwarfs the fries served with it. The report I got from Aaron who ordered the "1962 Dog" was that it was outstanding. The red sauce on top is a sweet bar-b q sauce that perfectly compliments the sour slaw. I guess I need to try one myself. As I write this I have decided to get one this week; so I might add to this entry before I post it.

I must stop and speak up for Steve Dubrinsky, the owner operator of Max's. A while back he was quoted in the Birmingham News as commenting on how Alabama's new immigration law has made even legal workers uncomfortable. After that many people who are passionate supporters of the law decided to twist his statement and accuse him of either hiring illegal aliens and much worse. All of these comments have been far from the truth. At the time of the article he had 9 LEGAL latinos working in his restaurant. If you click on the link above to Max's website the first thing you will see is a message from Steve in response.

Here's the afterthought added much later. I did try the 1962 dog at Max's just a couple of weeks after I saw Aaron eat his. My reaction was much like my reaction to the "Beale St. dog" at Riff Burger. I don't care for slaw on hot dogs, and don't want a sweet sauce on my hot dogs. That made two strikes for me on this dog. I like a little sweet relish if it is balanced with some good sour toppings like mustard and kraut. This was just too sweet for my taste. If you like this kind of thing like Aaron does, I say; "Help yourself". Just let me get one of their other dogs and I'll be very happy. Max's remains a favorite of mine.

As I look back over this I see I mentioned the Birmingham News when I wrote this back in the days when it was a local paper published daily. I still miss what was a pretty good paper for a city our size. Since it is now the print version of a news website for Alabama's four largest cities it seems to be quickly becoming irrelevant and uninteresting to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Barkers" at Riff Burgers

This week we cranked up the the hot dog tour again. I really appreciate my friends who tell me about the new dogs in town. In this case, Beverly told me about a recent trip to Riff Burgers the "new" burger seller in Hoover. Take a look at their web site and their link to a map. It will show you right where they are, near Taziki's, across Hwy. 31 from Hobby Lobby.

Riff Burgers is a burger place that seems to take great pride in their food. There are many choices for toppings along with an interesting variety of sides that are offered along with a good choice of beverages. Again, take a look at their web site and see the menu.

 This is clearly a burger restaurant, but we went because of the "barkers" (hot dogs) on the menu. This reminds me of our long time neighbors, the Barkers, who for many years had two dogs known to us as "the Barkers barkers". Riff Burgers' barkers are offered as chili dogs, Chicago dogs, Beale St. BBQ dogs, and plain dogs, all made with Hebrew National all beef hot dogs. I didn't ask but I would wager that you could order a dog made with any of their burger toppings and "build your own" creation. It was obvious that they want to please the customer.

On this visit Robert and I arrived toward the end of the noon to one lunch hour. There were still numerous tables occupied in the dining room, but we had our choice of places to eat. There is an interesting large multi-pane garage type door in the side wall facing the outdoor seating area. I would like to eat here some mild day when they have that open.

We were waited on by Eric Pilkinton the manager who was very helpful. The prices as stated on the menu are all for dogs served with a side. We wanted to try all three of the dogs listed on the menu but just get two sides. That was easily done and the price of the extra side was deducted from our total.

When the dogs came we immediately used the real metal knives and forks (not plastic) to cut all three dogs in half so we could each have some of all three dogs. I guess we were hungry and a little rusty in our hot dog tour skills. I had to run out to the car to get my forgotten camera after we had ordered. It has always been kind of a ritual to take pictures of the food before we start. It did dawn on us before we ate, but after we had cut the dogs up; that's why you see the picture with the dogs cut in half.

I have commented before about how we sometimes get immediate attention when we start taking pictures. Well, that didn't happen this time as we were in a back corner not easily observed. This day we tried to keep a low profile until we had eaten.

OK, the big question is; "How were the dogs?" Robert and I agreed that of the three we had the chili dog was the best. The chili is good and cooked to the perfect consistency to be a topping. The dog is full but not too full to be picked up and eaten. It was made in a freshly steamed bun as was the Beale St. dog.

The Chicago dog was very authentic. We found out that Eric agrees with my take on the infamous "sport pepper", that most of these are not very good. That's why they pickle their own at Riff Burgers. Their home-made pepper comes out on the mild side but definitely softer than the usual offering. Their Chicago dog seems to have all of the required ingredients in a dog that's fairly easy to eat. If you aren't familiar with Chicago dogs take some time and google them on the web or look back at some of my posts in early 2011. The Chicago style dog is different from what we usually see around here, the dog I have dubbed the "Birmingham dog".

The other dog we tried on this visit was the "Beale St. BBQ Dog. I spent a short time looking this up and Beale Street is in Memphis. I've never heard of this particular type of dog until now. They make if with a sweet BBQ sauce, pickled veggie relish and coarsely chopped slaw. If you like slaw and sweet BBQ sauce this dog is a good choice for you. It's not something I would personally go out of my way for; but I'm sure there are people who would like it.

On the way out we stopped and talked with Eric a couple of minutes. We told him about the blog and took a few pictures up front. He then wanted to make sure we tried something on the menu that he is really proud of. So he rushed back to the kitchen and brought us a sample of their "fried pickled veggies" with ranch dressing. He told us how they pickle the veggies themselves with a kind of "bread and butter" pickle recipe. They contain cucumbers and a little onion and red bell pepper, all battered and fried. I understand why he wanted us to try them because they are very good. This would be a good thing to start with while waiting on sandwiches.

One final factoid, this place used to be called Baha Burgers. They recently redecorated, came up with a new name and modified the menu. Eric told us how the old name actually kept some people from ever trying them since they didn't want a "tropical burger" whatever they think that is. I was a fairly regular customer of the old Baha Burger location at the Colonnade (now gone) and know they had good burgers, most of which were in no way "tropical".