Best Of MenuPages Reviews: Uncle Wiggly Takes Chicago

Uncle Wiggily is a friendly old rheumatic rabbit that walks with a peppermint-striped cane who’s featured in a series of children’s stories by Howard Roger Garis. It’s also the alias (actually, a slight variant) of a certain friendly Michigan state government employee who recently visited Chicago with his family and recounted his restaurant experiences on MenuPages.

Uncle Wiggly (our interlocutor has dropped the second ‘i’) left four reviews in the past few days for some classic, family-friendly Chicago restaurants. He visited solid institutions that one may forget about in the endless hunt for the Next New Thing, but are generally worthy of whatever praise they may receive. We really like Wiggly’s friendly, intelligent and totally unpretentious style, and think that the reviews function well as a set.

His first review, on April 7th, was for Hot Diggity Dog, matter-of-factly entitled “uncle wiggly loves hot diggity dog(s)”:

I loved Hot Diggity Dogs. I had a great brat with peppers and I had a hot italian beef sandwich also. Fun atmosphere and great service. Big Joe broke his leg and was not there and it’s my understanding that his sister is a CUTIE! but she’s engaged and she was taking care of big Joe. I’m going back to Chi-town in August and I will be eating at Hot Diggity Dog. Just to show my objectivity, the hot italian beef sandwich at AL’s Hot Italian Beef was a little better but Hot Diggity Dog’s was very good. Lastly, check out the sign at the counter where a fire boat in Lake Michigan is shooting mustard onto a Chicago style dog!!!

Informative, engaging, honest, generally excellent. Note that UW is planning on returning in August; this is a theme throughout the reviews.

As Wiggly foreshadowed in his Hot Diggity Dog review, next up is Al’s No 1 Italian Beef, entitled “Al’s is no. 1!!”:

I was just in Chicago and ate at Al’s no 1. Italian Beef for the second time it was just as good as it was 2 years ago. My wife and son and our friends were at that overrated, overpriced, Rainforest Cafe 2 blocks away I sprinted away to Al’s and ate like a king the best hot italian beef in Chicago. When I jogged back to Rainforest my gang still did not have a table!! I’m coming back in August for the Tigers and White Sox and I’ll definitely eat at Al’s again. The french fries are delicious too in fact, I took some back in my pocket to give to my starving 11 year old son who happens to be a french fry mayven and he love them!! Thanks, Al.

Yeah, Rainforest Cafe is no prize. We love that his son is a french fry “mayven”! That’s adorable. The detail about the baseball game is a nice addition to UW’s personal narrative, and lends credence to our deduction (via his IP address) that Wiggly resides in Michigan.

Breakfast time! Uncle Wiggly and his gang make their way to West Egg Cafe, which turns out to be a “Great Breakfast Find”:

Great place for breakfast I had a skillet, my wife had eggs and fruit, my son had pancakes. I would have given a 5 for service, but my wife had to wait and ask for her eggs. I had a side dish of corned beef hash and it was delicious. My wife’s fruit was fresh, there was a ton of it and it was presented very well. Our waiter was excellent and the atmosphere was clean and light. There’s a menu item named Myron and Phil’s and it was named after the owners of a great family restaurant in Chicago which was featured on the food channelspecifically on the show “The Hungry Detective.” Two years ago in Chicago we had breakfast at the Omni and it was way too expensive, way to glitzy for a kid and I walked away hungry. I will eat at West Egg again when I come back to Chicago in August.

Do you see how UW speaks to the restaurant staff in order to find out nuggets of local information, like the derivation of the Myron & Phil’s Scramble (lox, grilled onions and eggs scrambled together, served with a bagel, cream cheese and potatoes for $8.25), and earlier, Big Joe’s broken leg? We bet Wiggly is a fun guy to have a beer with, but also, that he rarely allows himself to get drunk.

Finally, this morning, Wiggly regales us with tales of Ed Debevic’s, using the promising title of “”Live Long and Grumpy” at Ed Debevic’s”:

Went to Debevic’s for a 2nd time over spring break. Had just as much fun as we did 2 years ago. Good burger, onion rings and chocolate/banana shake. Ed’s was not crowded so we had “Biscuits” (our waiter) entertainment almost exclusively…He was very entertaining and we had a blast. 33 years ago I saw a great basketball game between the bulls and the kansas city kings…I couldn’t remember what arena they played at but I knew it wasn’t the United Center where the Bulls and Blackhawks now play. Anyway, I asked several people the name of the old arena and “Biscuits” was the only person who knew the answer, Chicago Stadium. The most important thing about Ed Debevic’s is that you just plain have a lot of fun we had several great laughs, including when Biscuits called my son Poindexter. If you have time, carefully look around at the memorabillia it’s funny and interesting and you don’t find stuff like this in many restaurants.

We are beguiled by Biscuits’ interaction with Poindexter, and the aside about 1970s basketball is totally charming. This review simply oozes good tidings toward Ed’s, and we get a strong sense of the atmosphere there.

Anyway, we’re just happy to see reasonable, real people leaving reasonable, real reviews that will help other reasonable, real people make restaurant selections. It can’t be all hate, all the time, now can it? Overall, we found reading these reviews to be a very calming experience, like tending to a Zen rock garden. Maybe you too!

[Photo: a classic moment at Ed Debevic’s (Uncle Wiggly not pictured), from tansyjefferies/flickr]


Best Of MenuPages Reviews: Uncle Wiggly Takes Chicago