Iâ€™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 atÂ Uncle Joe’s inÂ Ina, Illinois.
N 38Â° 54.639â€™W 088Â° 54.639â€™Â Elev. 391â€™Is it pronounced eye-na, ee-na or in-a? Iâ€™m not sure-a. I shouldâ€™ve asked-a. Oh well-a.Besides how to pronounce the name of this place Iâ€™m facing quite a dilemma of where to eat today. Across the street, inside the Loveâ€™s truck stop, is a McDoucheâ€™s. On this side of the street, inside the Marathon, is Uncle Joeâ€™s Deli. Hmm. Decisions, decisions. Best to first weigh each of their most obvious attributes before deciding.
McDoucheâ€™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 donâ€™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 Joeâ€™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, Iâ€™m thinking perhaps McDoucheâ€™s is not â€œmy kind of placeâ€Â® after all.
Uncle Joeâ€™s Deli is obviously very proud of its Famous Fried Bologna. Thatâ€™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, Iâ€™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 3/8â€-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 wouldâ€™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 clownâ€™s lair; just more proof of McDoucheâ€™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 Joeâ€™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 â€œhotâ€, and it complimented the juicy smoked pork perfectly. Tasty, tasty.
And in keeping with the funky, both sandwiches were wrapped in plain, thin butcherâ€™s paper. No expensive, throwaway designer packaging for Uncle Joe.
Now that Iâ€™ve had a truly soul-satisfying health-food meal, Iâ€™m going across the street to get a couple of senior coffees (25Â¢ to 75Â¢ each, depending on location) and refill my travel mug. â€œIâ€™m lovinâ€™ it.â€Â®
And so we roll.