The last 4 days of the book tour were the most successful, and the last 3 brought me to Oak Park, Milwaukee, Madison, and back to Chicago again. Thankfully things went better here than my visit down south as true fans and great friends came out to see me, hear burger stories, and get a signed copy of the book.
I woke up Friday to be on the Johnny B Mornings radio show on The Loop 97.9 FM. He does the Classic Rock morning drive so I was guaranteed a large listening audience. The interview was going well until he asked me what my favorite chain burger was. I've always been a huge fan of Steak 'N Shake and assumed the listeners loved this fresh-
beef chain as well. Within 60 seconds of the statement, a caller yelled, "Steak N' Shake SUCKS!" Oh well. At least I had the day off.
I made a pilgrimage to the oft-praised Hot Doug's for a classic Chicago hot dog (I needed to balance my burger intake for the week) and had some of their hand-cut fries cooked in rendered duck fat. Wow.
That night was the scheduled reading at Barbara's Books in Oak Park, about 1/2 hour from Chicago. I know they had advertised well so a hearty turnout was expected. At 7:30, there were two people to read to but within 10 minutes there were at least 15 people there. The turnout was still way better than Texas so far and those that attended asked great questions.
I was starving after the reading and wanted to keep the Chicago food thing going so I stopped at Al's Beef for a hot dipped beef sandwich. It was a good day for classic Chicago fare.
Had to get up stupid-early again to get to Milwaukee this morning. It was a 2 hour drive and I was scheduled to be on the local WISN ch. 12 News for a 2 min. walk-on. It went well and I raced over to TMJ-4 for another brief walk-on. After my duel TV appearances I made it over
to Solly's for a much needed butter burger with stewed onions and a side of Glenn's famous hash browns. Glenn showed me the butter he'll go through in, I believe, a day (pictured, 30 pounds). I met up with good friend and butter burger lover Rick Cohler who had driven up from Chicago to meet
me and go to my reading at the local bookstore. Glenn knew that we had a few hours to kill before my Milwaukee reading and offered to score us a private tour at nearby Sprecher Brewery. A guy named Jason gave us a tour and we sampled their excellent new Cherry Soda. Now I really felt like a mini-celeb.
The reading at Schwartz Bookshop went very well and I had the biggest, most enthusiastic crowd yet. Close to 40 people showed up and asked great questions and a few had even been to some of my far-out burger joints. The reading was enhanced by a quick history of Solly's by Glenn Fieber himself. Glenn also offered free burgers to anyone who bought a book. Now that's my kind of incentive.
From Milwaukee I drove west to Madison, WI. I felt the need to stop at Peterson's Hamburger Stand in Jefferson because they are in the book and had recently changed their name to Wedl's Hamburger Stand. Turns out the Petersons had sold the stand to Bert Wedl's dad and nothing had changed but the name (Bert is the kid standing in the window of the tiny stand on p. 295). I did have time to sample the burger though and thankfully nothing had changed.
I made it to Madison with 15 minutes to spare before a scheduled book signing at Dotty Dumpling's Dowry so I did the only sensible thing - I went
to The Plaza for a burger. The Plazaburger is like no other and has a sauce that I crave. I tried once to re-create the creamy, tangy goo but failed miserably. The only spot to enjoy this crazy concoction is in Madison, at The Plaza.
Over at Dotty's 15minutes later I was met by a healthy fan base and a few locals interested in the book. I told stories to bar patrons, watched some NASCAR on one of the many screens at the bar, chatted with the affable Jeff Stanley (posing here with my nephew Garrett's own Flat Stanley) and sipped Sprecher's Root Beer (on tap at Dotty's!). A local bookseller was there and sold around 20 books. It was a good visit.
At 8pm, 13 hours from waking up in Chicago, I was on the road back. The brutal drive to Chicago was 2 1/2 hrs through endless darkness and I was exhausted. I also had to get up early again to go in Rick Kogan's WGN show Sunday Papers...
The final day of the tour could not have come sooner. At Day 11 I am so wiped out that I'll need 11 days to recover. Going on Rick Kogan's early Sunday talk show was the perfect way to end the tour. No pressure, just a conversation between friends. Rick spiced up the show by having the 12 year old son of a friend of his do the interviewing. This kid actually asked great questions, ones that even the seasoned anchors all over the country had neglected to ask.
Wind and rain almost kept us grounded in Chicago but we made it back to Brooklyn and now it is time to rest. No burgers for me tomorrow. Maybe tuesday.