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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Start Off the New Year with The King's Ransom

As you know I try as much as I can to let folks know about interesting places, people, and attractions across the land.

Over the years, this blog has spoken about such places as the SPAM Museum, the National Mustard Museum, Prairie Dog Town, Bryce Canyon, Hash House A Go-Go, Big Elvis, and many others.

Well the time has come to let you know that Elvis has entered the building! Not Big Elvis (though I still recommend his show at Bill's Gambling Hall & Saloon), but rather THE Elvis. You can now check out a wide assortment of Elvis Presley's personal treasures & items at Las Vegas' Imperial Palace at the newly opened exhibit, "The King's Ransom".

April and I were there to check it out yesterday and absolutely loved it. Of course, we're always into such exhibits, but this one really had some rare and amazing artifacts, all personal items from The King of Rock n' Roll. Moreover, seeing it through the eyes of my friend, and occasional boss (he's a booking agent in town), Paul Sanders of Las Vegas Talent, the place took on a whole different meaning.

Paul was on hand to give us a tour and he really has put his own heart and soul into this project. It was not just the personal items from Elvis that made it special, but seeing the dedication and effort on the part of Paul (and so many others) to make this new attraction find a home in Las Vegas is quite remarkable.

Elvis will always be associated with Vegas. Now, The King has returned and found a home at a Palace, no less. I can strongly recommend" The King's Ransom" as a worthy distraction from your drinking & gambling duties when traveling to Las Vegas.

Some info for you...

3535 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Pricing: $10 admission (Keep your eyes out for Two-for-One coupons. At either price it is a BARGAIN for an attraction on the Strip!)
Phone: 1-888-777-7664
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
How To Get There:
Las Vegas Boulevard between Flamingo Road and Desert Inn. Across from Caesars (Next to Harrah's).
Parking: Valet and self-paring garage

Also at Imperial Palace...

The NEW Strip location for Hash House A Go Go
The Auto Collections
Embers (our FAVORITE steak house in Las Vegas!)

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ironic? Coincidence? Symbolic? Just AWESOME? You Decide!

Sure I'll get around to an obligatory "Year in review Post", but for now I simply must post a scan I found in a recent issue of Las Vegas Weekly, the coolest magazine in town (and one that I'd LOVE to write for one day. Anyone? Wanna resume or something?)

They had a poll asking Nevadans to chime in on the question of allowing male prostitutes to work in our brothels.

Generally, questions like this make me just that much happier that I live in such a cool state. The fact we even have legal brothels and therefore, a better understanding of the realities and the necessities of life, make Nevada a great place to live. Keep your morality and your puritanical ways to yourself. We do some things right in this state and those who disagree will NEVER understand that fact. I was going to say that those people, "just don't get it", but that rather SINGLE-entendre would have been far too obvious, both in a literal and comical sense.

However, I'm that happy to hear that even more people will be able to make a living selling the world's most coveted and revered commodity. I've no plans on getting my whore's license nor trying out the trade in other ways. No I'm happy to find such a delightfully funny graphic depicting the results of the Weekly's poll.

The readers of the Las Vegas Weekly overwhelmingly responded "YES" when asked if male prostitutes should be allowed, as this chart indicates...

Clearly, Nevadans are rather pro-erection.
Was there ever a doubt?

(This looks more like a "pole" than a "poll.")

I haven't laughed this "hard" at an image in a newspaper since I was a kid in Marengo around Easter time. In case you forgot what could have made me laugh so much back then and don't want to click the previous link...

Ahh, the sweet irony that is life.

Feel free to start a letter-writing campaign to get the Weekly to take me on as a columnist, or to at least as for some writing samples. I won't mind.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Christmas Miracle: An Update

Since this is the Christmas season, I find myself thinking about the Christmas Miracle. Not that lame birth of a savior story (That's been PLAYED OUT!). I mean the true Christmas Miracle, the resurrection of Booby's Charcoal Rib in Niles, Il. For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, I'll reprint the story here later (You can also just click this link.).

Back in 2007 when I was working at the Grand Canyon I received an email from Lisa(Friedman) Radin, the daughter of Booby himself! She had found my story online during a moment of boredom and took some time to contact me with more stories from my favorite place to eat a steak sandwich. Somehow I forgot to post that story and I'm looking to rectify that right now.

"Was bored and Googled "Booby's" - came across article - made me laugh and write email. If you ever want more Booby stories - there are many. And, if you ever go back during lunch 11-2p, my Mother age 82 still works there - introduce yourself. To this day, my mother will say, "the guy who ordered the well-done (burnt) burger - ketchup only" said to say, "Hi"; and I'll know who she's talking about. Or, I'll see someone on vacation and 'it's the guy who orders the beef heavy gravy, cut in-half" - people would come in every day and order the same food for years. We (all 4 kids) - knew people by what they ordered.

There was a killing at Booby's (the rib hatchet is bad in the wrong hands), there were 2 major fires when we owned it (the store was filled with smoke with the glass on the pit exploding) and people were still eating. Memorizing those orders during a Sunday dinner rush from 5-8 non-stop was unbelievable. I'd go to school the next day and have orders of big boobs, fat boobs and naked birds rushing thru my brain.

Did you know that the big boob (1/2 lb hamburger) with French Fries was coined the '36'. Big at that time. Did you know that a cheeseburger was coined a "CY". People would ask why not call it a "CB" and Booby would say: "If we had corned beef that would be a CB - even tho we don't have corned beef". It was the CY. The Polish sausage was the Fat Boob (a bit embarrassing for a teenager to call in).

Things were "naked" - short for plain. Things 'to go" were "walking". Chickens were 'birds'. People who ate in the store - "orders were called in as 'in the house'. When someone went to the bathroom - my father would say: "just kick out the potato peeler". His Don Rickles humor would go on - he'd ask a lady why she'd dye her roots black - that always gave people a hoot.

One man was unhappy that everything was on his CY - and got so mad that he threw the sandwich at my brother - it missed him - but landed all over the glass of the pit. With the salad bar - customers would get a cup of coffee and eat the free salad bar and Booby would say nothing. Or, when folks ordered food to take out - they'd bring their own Tupperware from home to fill up from the salad bar. That was pretty amazing.

But, from all of this, we all were taught that 'the customer is always right' - even when they brought an 1/8th of a hot dog back and claimed, "This dog had mustard and I don't like mustard." We'd give a new dog. While we thought the guy was a jerk - it was impressive to everyone else standing in line and for this Booby build a loyal following.

I'm probably boring you. Sorry. But through the many years growing up at Booby's and being a slave to the business (I was 7 yrs old when it started) - and did it all from busing tables, doing homework at tables, calling in orders, making food (those fryers are hard on hands), working 9 hrs shifts in 8th grade - the evening was worst from 5- 2am, to even making deliveries when I learned to drive to running the place after my father died so my mother could take a vacation (I was a senior in college) - I never thought a place called Booby's would have such a huge impact on my work ethic and life. And, that's another story.

So, Andy, keep up the juggling - we all do it in strange ways - and Merry Christmas to you.

Lisa (Friedman) Radin"
PS If we talk - remind me to tell you about the Dr. Pepper delivery.

Hey Linda...I'd love to hear the Dr. Pepper story and plenty more!

Thanks so very much for contacting me and sharing some treasured memories. That place will always have fond memories for me. We made a special trip this past October (on vacation) just to have a sandwich and remember great times.

Merry Christmas to you all!

For those unwilling to click a silly link, read the story that inspired Linda's email below.


Booby's: The Christmas Miracle
(Originally published 2005)

Every family has their own set of traditions during the holidays. Some are long-standing rites of passage filled with meaning and sentiment. Others are just good silly fun. Around here we are not without our fair share of Christmas traditions.

My wife and I always get our tree from the Cosley Zoo, a tiny but extremely adorable free admission zoo just down the street from us. We go there because the money raised from the trees helps pay for food and exhibits at the zoo and the trees, to paraphrase Charles M. Schulz, seem more sincere than any others. On that tree we hang many unorthodox ornaments, mostly penguins and frogs, and a little piece of her childhood; plastic, glow-in-the-dark icicles. I always light the tree but the person who chooses the tree alternates year by year, a tradition started in my family.

These are standard practices in our home and we are always comforted by their regularity. When fun new traditions emerge we embrace them. Of course there are some customs that were around long before our marriage occurred and they too must be honored and respected, even if they make no sense to anyone else.

As an example, my younger brother, Matt, and I always drive SOMEWHERE on Christmas Day. We take the toll ways and always be sure to use the manual lanes. Why? A long time back we’d decided that if you are working in a small booth on an interstate on Christmas you need a little pick-me-up. Our solution? After paying our toll we scream, “MERRY CHRISTMAS” very loudly to the attendant, imitating James Stewart from “It’s A Wonderful Life”. It is always amusing, sometimes frightening, rarely annoying. We just do this for fun and we’ll never stop. However this can’t quite compare to the simple journey Matt & I make every year around Christmas.

Photo By Dr. Don
On Christmas Eve I took part in what has become a long-standing holiday heritage for me and Matt. For MANY years now we head on over to Booby's Charcoal Rib at 8161 N. Milwaukee in Niles, Illinois for the single greatest steak sandwich money can buy. If you will indulge me, I’ll describe the sandwich.

In the Chicago area skirt steak sandwiches are a staple among the menus and restaurants. Generally I avoid these sandwiches because the meat is often too sinewy and tough for any sort of consumption. Moreover, they rarely taste as good as they smell. That smell of grilled steak hitting you upon entering the establishment is hard to resist. Unfortunately, they are always a disappointment.

However at Booby’s the sandwiches are blessed with outstanding flavor, extreme tenderness, and two huge slices of top-quality skirt steak. These delectable pieces of meat are run through a meat tenderizer twice, seasoned, and lovingly grilled over an open flame. A very light coating of Booby’s own barbecue sauce can be tasted. It is just a hint of sauce so as not to offend those who abhor barbecue sauce. Of course the sauce is so good most everyone ends up adding more on their own. The meat is then served on lightly toasted, thin French bread loaves which rest on the meat during grilling in order to soak up some of the juice.

These sandwiches are out of this world! To adapt a line from Twin Peaks, if there be steak sandwiches in Heaven, Booby's is standing next to God. They are THAT GOOD!

My brother and I have been going there for years. Of course we go not just for the food, but for the fact that Booby’s was the site of “The Christmas Miracle”.

I know it may sound strange to refer to the eating of a steak sandwich as "The Christmas Miracle" or to even bestow so much importance on something so silly but if you have ever had one of these glorious culinary creations you'd understand. As for the miracle, allow me to explain.

MANY years ago, my good friend John Severtsen introduced me to this suburban Chicago institution. We often went to baseball games together and then went to classic Chicago eateries. Chicago has some of the best food anywhere and we were and still are well-versed in all the best places to eat. I'd never heard of Booby's even though I lived very close to the place and I had certainly never heard of their AMAZING skirt steak sandwich. I thank God John was there to lead me in the right direction.

As I’ve clearly overstated, these sandwiches are just outstanding. I'd visited the place many times with John, with other friends, and of course, select family members. In the maybe hundreds of times I've been there over the years I've never ordered anything else from their extensive menu. Why screw with perfection?

By the time I'd introduced Matt to Booby's he'd been long gone from the Chicago scene. College may make you smarter and more appealing in the marketplace, but it can take you away from the finer things in life. Upon every visit Matt would want to make a pilgrimage to Booby's. I never questioned the desire to go. I'd want to make the same trip whenever I saw my friend John.

One day, horror struck!

John and I had just come from a Cubs game and I suggested a trip to our steak sandwich joint. He looked at me with shocked sadness and said, "Oh no! Haven't you heard?" I'd no idea what he was talking about. Rather than tell me what happened, he simply drove me past the Booby's lot.

There were the charred remains of the restaurant and the famous Booby's sign. Some time back the place burned to the ground when a kitchen mishap occurred after hours. Booby's was gone and there were no known plans for rebuilding. I was devastated.

That same year when Matt came for his annual Christmas visit I had to tell him the horrible news. We didn't go anywhere NEAR that block in Niles for a good long time in order to prevent getting too depressed. For us, losing Booby's was akin to baseball losing Babe Ruth. Booby's was such a favorite mainstay in our lives.

A year later, around Christmas, Matt asked if we could drive by the site and pay our respects. The shock and pain surrounding the loss of the finest steak sandwich in the world had subsided just enough to make a visit to the site possible. I put off the visit because I knew he'd just be upset at the site of a vacant lot. However, we did make the trip.

As we approached I braced him for the harsh reality. The sign was still standing and we drew closer to the hallowed ground. Suddenly we noticed that the sign was...ON! It was lit up and shining like a beacon of goodness & hope in the distance. We approached the site expecting to find rubble and ash but were astounded and overjoyed to see a shiny NEW building instead!

Could it be? Was there REALLY a new Booby's? Did Booby's rise from the ashes? It certainly seemed so, but there was trepidation. After all, who could say if the same owners were there? What if it weren't even the same thing at all? We withheld our excitement and ventured inside.

Sure enough, the owners rebuilt and the same staff was working there. The menu was the same as was the quality. All that was different were the surroundings. We asked if they still served the steak sandwich and the counter clerk smiled and said, "Why do you think we reopened? People were bugging us for the sandwiches!"

Elated, we hugged each other and shouted out, "MY GOD! It's a Christmas Miracle!!!" The clerk seemed amazed we'd not known about the new place. We told her that driving by and seeing the vacant lot was too painful to watch and figured it would never be back. She laughed, told us that "we're here and we've been waiting for you," and then she took our order. She even told us a few stories about other people having similar reactions to ours. Booby's was back and the steak sandwiches were better than ever!

THESE sandwiches were & are a gift from God! God Himself plucked Booby's from the fiery pits of Hell and bestowed unto us the gift of twice-tenderized, flame-grilled & barbecued skirt steak sandwiches on French bread. I’m fine with the whole birth of Jesus thing. As far as anyone around here is concerned, the rebirth of Booby's was and always will be The Christmas Miracle!

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