The almost Italian beef at Old Chicago

Being the ambitious man I am, one of my great goals in life is to try an authentic Italian beef sandwich in Chicago. So many food shows have showcased this sandwich packed with beef and peppers and dripping with beef juice. It is truly a beautiful sandwich, unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case, you weep. But I fear no sandwich.

With that pointless background information, I went to Old Chicago in Okemos for their version of an Italian beef. And I have the sneaking suspicion that a Chicagoan would scoff at what I had been served. No dripping juice, no bustling street-side location, no triple-digit murder total – this just wasn’t the Chicago experience. 

Old Chicago Italian Beef

Old Chicago Italian Beef

That said, the sandwich was pretty good, but instead of an iconic food experience, it was simply a French Dip with cheese, peppers and something spicy lurking inside. (Come to think of it, that’s basically what an Italian beef sandwich seems to be.) I suppose if I dumped the au jus on the sandwich it would have been dripping, but I probably also would have been wet, so I made due. Again, not bad – the beef was tender and tasty, and if you’re in the mood for a French Dip, then this sandwich is basically a deluxe version. Fries were squarely in the “ordinary” category, nothing bad to report, and there was no fry shortage on my plate. And pickles! There were pickles, too.

Along with the meal I got two beers. (They weren’t included – I had to buy them.) There was a Halloween mini-tour going on, so I tried two new ones – very exciting. The most exciting Monday night experience, in fact, since last Monday night.

The first brew was a Maibock, which was smooth and sweet. This was my favorite of the two, and I could have drank that with anything. My second beer was Newcastle Werewolf, and it was listed as a “Blood red ale” and had a sour aftertaste. Maybe the werewolf they juiced to get my beer had eaten a lot of Sweet Tarts? That’s my guess.

I came for the Monday Night Football, stayed for the beer, and enjoyed the French Dip. I mean, Italian Beef.

The practically bawking chicken nachos of Frank’s Press Box, Lansing

Nacho fail.

Not a complete fail, but I’ll get to that. And no pictures. I took one, but it was too dark to be useful.

Frank’s Press Box is a decent place to watch a game. No, better than decent – it has TVs almost everywhere (come on, can’t you get them in the bathroom, too?), and the main room is a virtual temple to televisions. I was there for a viewing of Monday Night Football, and no matter which direction I sat, I could see the game. So Frank’s get high marks for TV viewability. (No, that’s not a real word.)

Being Monday night, nachos were on special, both chicken and beef. So I decided to go out on a limb and try the chicken. (Did you appreciate my use of an idiom? I hope so.)

Now, before I criticize, the nachos weren’t bad. There were a lot of chicken chunks roosting among the chips, and there was a torrent of tomatoes atop the large stack. There was a lot of cheese, the refried beans were OK, and the chips didn’t taste bad. They came with salsa and sour cream. So far, so good.

Except they weren’t cooked all the way. Getting past the first layer of chips, I found cold (but pre-cooked) chicken and completely unmelted (also not a real word) shredded cheese. Cold nachos are never good even as leftover, but having them uncooked in the first place is super duper not good. So an extra five minutes in the oven would have been great, even at the risk of few singed chips. After all, you can dip burned chips in salsa.

This is the second time I’ve tried nachos at Frank’s. The first were beef, and though those nachos were actually heated that time, they weren’t that good. I’m willing to give the “American Nachos” a try, even though they’re not real nachos – waffle fries with junk atop it. But if I get a third nacho fail, I’m forever swearing off Mexican food at Frank’s.

Champps, Lansing

I’ve been searching for a replacement for Damon’s since it’s location at Lake Lansing and US 127 in Lansing closed years ago. The beauty of the appetizer platter and four huge TVs drew me every week to booth 109 (my favorite booth number – yes, I went enough that I had a favorite booth.) It’s replacement, the Hall of Fame Café is good, but not exactly what I was looking for. 

Since I wanted a big TV, Champps has become the de facto replacement. Yes, Reno’s West has a larger TV – incredibly large, as a matter of fact – but it’s on the other side of town from where I live. And Champps has burgers on special Monday nights for Monday Night Football season. Oh, am I a fan of dead cow pieces between bread.  Last year, all burgers were half off. This year, their special has changed to be a cheeseburger with fries and five chicken wings for $9.99. Which is still a good deal, though I preferred the flexibility of last year’s burger bonanza. But at least with this year’s special, two kinds of animals are dying for my dinner.

Champps Cheeseburger

Champps Cheeseburger

So how was the burger? It was good.  I think I wasn’t in love because I like my burgers to be more interesting, with bacon, or olives, or bananas – something that is going to make it stand out. Basically, I prefer a complexity in my burgers that I don’t like in my life. Not to disparage it – I will be having the cheeseburger special again.  I loved the waffle fries, my favorite fries in the Lansing area. The wings were also good, though I’m not a fan of wings (except the Red Wings), probably because I have issues getting my fingers messy, something that goes back to childhood. Anyways, I went for the medium spiciness because I wasn’t in the mood to hurt myself.

I will be back to Champps. I’m not sure if it will be an every-week place, but with their new MVP rewards program, it will be the place I go most for my football-watching needs.