I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is at Uncle Joe’s in Ina, Illinois.
N 38° 54.639’W 088° 54.639’ Elev. 391’Is it pronounced eye-na, ee-na or in-a? I’m not sure-a. I should’ve asked-a. Oh well-a.Besides how to pronounce the name of this place I’m facing quite a dilemma of where to eat today. Across the street, inside the Love’s truck stop, is a McDouche’s. On this side of the street, inside the Marathon, is Uncle Joe’s Deli. Hmm. Decisions, decisions. Best to first weigh each of their most obvious attributes before deciding.
McDouche’s consistently has really good coffee (which I can get at the senior price). It also has Big Mac sauce. The rest of its fare, however, is pretty much overpriced crap. I don’t think they even fry burgers on-site anymore, which may explain the rise of PBF (Push-Button Finger) Syndrome amongst its workers, slaving away in front of a preprogrammed, industrial-grade microwave oven day in and day out and all. Pushing the button, waiting for the beep.
On the other hand, here on the clown-free side of the street it has a decidedly less corporate, cookie-cutter feel. Indeed, Uncle Joe’s Deli (I-57 Exit 83) has a couple of funky reader boards with mis-spaced letters advertising its wares, like fried bologna. Seeing that, I’m thinking perhaps McDouche’s is not “my kind of place”® after all.
Uncle Joe’s Deli is obviously very proud of its Famous Fried Bologna. That’s why it has not one but two neon signs beckoning the hungry towards its famous fried goodness. I figured that since they went to the expense of neon Fried Bologna signs, as well as the marked dearth of fried bologna sandwiches on the planet, I’d bite and order one. After all, when was the last time I had a fried bologna sandwich, much less a famous one?
The sandwich ($3.49) consisted of a 3/8”-thick slab of bologna, fried on a little, itty-bitty griddle just big enough to get somebody kicked out of a college dorm; they had a matching itty-bitty deep fat fryer in the … kitchen, just big enough to get some dormie banned from campus for life. It was served on a choice of white or caramel-colored white (wheat) bread, with iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, and choice of condiments. I got it on the (healthier!) wheat bread, with mayo and mustard. Whether it was because it was just really good or I was just really hungry, the famous fried bologna sandwich was actually kind of awesome. In fact, now I wish I would’ve paid the $1.25 for extra meat.
Sure, it was a little overpriced but, hey, where else am I going to find a fried bologna sandwich, much less a famous one? Certainly not across the street in the evil clown’s lair; just more proof of McDouche’s complete lack of soul.
I also got a large smoked pork sandwich ($4.69). Served on a large hamburger bun, they piled the meat up about an inch-and-a-half high. Uncle Joe’s has five different homemade barbecue sauces to choose from. I tried them all and opted for the Hot & Spicy. It was slightly sweet with a nice tang to it, but certainly not “hot”, and it complimented the juicy smoked pork perfectly. Tasty, tasty.
And in keeping with the funky, both sandwiches were wrapped in plain, thin butcher’s paper. No expensive, throwaway designer packaging for Uncle Joe.
Now that I’ve had a truly soul-satisfying health-food meal, I’m going across the street to get a couple of senior coffees (25¢ to 75¢ each, depending on location) and refill my travel mug. “I’m lovin’ it.”®
And so we roll.