Thursday, August 21, 2014

Harris Crab House: More Fun than a Trip to the Shrink

Harris Crab House
433 Kent Narrow Way N.
Grasonville, MD

My Harris Crab House t-shirt sums it up perfectly:

“Group Therapy – One Bushel at a Time”

With a little waterman dude emblazoned on a big old bushel of freshly steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

(Spoiler Alert: I know I like to keep you in suspense until the end of the review, but…I bought the shirt.)

Some activities in life, like using a bathroom on a Regional Jet, man was meant to do alone.

But man is a social creature. We crave the company of other humans.

That is why other activities are best enjoyed in a group of friends.

Picking crabs is definitely one of those.

A crab feast is all about sitting outside on the water, passing around pitchers of cold beer, enjoying the sunshine and salty sea breeze and whiling away a lazy summer afternoon in conversation about matters simple or sublime, profound or frivolous.

Yeah, there is food involved. Sort of.

But a crab feast isn’t really about sustenance. It’s about the experience.

Group therapy.

Forget your daily routine, leave the laptop at home, power off your smart phone.

Get together with some friends you haven’t seen in a while, engage in dialogue that doesn’t involve thumbs on a tiny keyboard and hang out pounding away at bottom dwelling sea creatures with little wooden mallets.

The conversation, beer and sunshine provide the therapy. The crabs are just the excuse.

So for me, Harris’ perfect waterfront locale of its upstairs outdoor deck on Kent Narrows just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Annapolis is justification enough to bestow upon Harris the title of quintessential Maryland crab house.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

That being said, the tab for our group therapy (there were eight of us) came to $500.


So no matter how bucolic the setting, for that price, you better dump some decent crabs onto the table in front of us.

In the three or four times I’ve visited Harris, the place hasn’t let me down yet.

While the conversation at any crab feast usually remains appropriately light, controversy can erupt unexpectedly.

Our most contentious discussion on this Saturday afternoon dealt with this very subject -- critiquing Maryland’s famous crab houses.

One person in particular in our little party was aware of my alias as an internationally-known world-famous food critic -- and took exception to my panning of Cantler’s on the other side of the bridge.

Cantler’s is arguably the most popular crab house in Maryland, but my lone experience there left much to be desired. (Read about it here.)

My argumentative friend declared, “You can’t say Cantler’s has bad crabs. Nobody MAKES crabs! They just serve whatever is caught in the crab pot.”

While I conceded his point that crab houses don’t “make” crabs (a guy at a higher pay grade gets the credit for that), there are some important rules to follow when you make your living selling bushels of crabs that cost more than an early model Ford Focus.

First of all, the crabs need to be fresh -- as in still kicking and clawing for life when you put them in the steamer.

Second, you need to steam the crabs the exact number of moments that turn their shells from blue to red without transforming their delicate crabmeat into crabmush.

And finally, the steamed crabs should be served within minutes -- not hours or days -- after emerging from the steamer.

I’m happy to say, Harris has this process down to a science.

Our four dozen “large” crabs (Harris was out of the much more expensive “extra-large” and “jumbos”) were dumped upon our brown paper-covered picnic table in perfect condition.

Bright red, still warm and coated in Harris’ signature salty seasoning, these 48 crustaceans provided the table with an afternoon of picking, pounding and prying.

And even a little bit of crabmeat.

You’ll burn more calories than you consume.

But that’s why God invented hush puppies as well as crabs.

Harris serves excellent puppies, warm, doughy and sweet.

Even more sweet was the moist cake-like corn bread.

Of course the most important part of any crab feast is not the crabs. Or the hush puppies. Or even the conversation.

It’s the beer.

Harris has a decent selection of local craft beers available in the bottle.

My Lot No. 3 IPA from Evolution Brewing Company in Salisbury was a new one for me.

Of course you can never go wrong with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA from just down the Delmarva.

But let’s face it, if you are going to sit outside in the August sun all afternoon eating salt-coated crabs, even the most devout beer snob should switch eventually to pitchers of lower octane, lower priced good old American lager.

And that is basically how the afternoon unfolded.

We left the suits at home, put on our flip-flops, passed around cheap pitchers of Coors Light, soaked up the salt air and retold those decade old stories -- some of which even have a bit of truth to them.

Group therapy.

Yeah, $500 is a steep price to pay for an afternoon of hanging out on the Chesapeake.

But it’s a hell of a lot more fun than an appointment with your shrink.

Rating: I Already Told You -- Bought the Shirt!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Parking is a Premium at Off Site Kitchen

Off Site Kitchen
2226 Irving Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75207

It's been just over two years since my last visit to Texas, and as a guy from the Great Lakes region, I can tell you that I did not look forward to return to the heat of Texas.

I was in the Dallas area on business with a fellow Suit who explained to me that the heat in Texas can get so extreme that bugs will actually melt on the sidewalk. Not the crunchy bugs, he clarified, just the big, fat and juicy ones.


Look, I'm sure Texas is nice not during the summer months, but I can't exactly confirm that, being that I've only really been there during the months that bugs melt.

And don't get me started on the politics of Texas.

Every conservative believes that Texas is somehow a utopia for conservative politics. Texas has worse gun laws than Pennsylvania!

Oh, and you also have to provide all ten fingerprints to get a driver's license in the state. How about that for freedom-loving?

And Rick Perry...where do I even start with him? Sometimes he can be so right and other times he can just be plain stupid. Perry is finally stepping down after being Governor for what seems like since the Civil War. No term limit for the Executive? No thank you...

Oh, and let us not forget that Texas also gave us the Bush dynasty which single-handedly destroyed the Republican Party.

But the people of Texas are good people, so long as you can tolerate them constantly correcting you that everything is better and/or bigger in Texas.

No, but seriously, I shouldn't be so tough on Texas because despite their government and obnoxious heat, it is a nice state. And one thing for sure, they know how to cook.

My fellow suit, being a native Texan, knew that I would be interested in the finest of what Dallas had to offer. He did his research, and brought us to a shady part of town to what looked like from the outside a perfect place for a Suit to review.

Once through the front door, I knew he had just taken me a goldmine of a Suit review.

Off Site Kitchen is everything that a Suit could ask for in a delicious place to eat: severe lack of parking spaces, long line to the register, very little seating, and the smell of smoked meat in the air.

I ordered the special of the day which was half a BBQ chicken with house made BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and Texas toast.

In true Texas fashion, my fellow Suit ordered the Ten Buck Four Burger, which is a burger made up of four 1/4 pound burger patties, for a grand total of a pound of meat, plus a fried egg on top.

I must say, I became envious of that burger. That thing looked awesome, and according to my fellow Suit, it was, as he had to restart his heart several times during the process of eating it.
Don't get me wrong, though, my BBQ chicken was delicious. The meat was very moist and flavorful, and the house made BBQ sauce that came with it had the right amount of tang to it.

The only way to truly complete this meal is by washing it down with the beer that is the pride of Texas, Shiner Bock. Now, I'm not going to sit here and sing the praises of Shiner Bock. It's an okay beer and really is about the best Texas can offer. The laws in Texas just absolutely kill the craft beer industry.

Yet another fine example of the lack of freedom in the Lone Star State...

But I salute Shiner for their long history of serving the people of Texas with a quality beer.

Freedom will come some day to Texas so that Texans can actually openly carry a firearm without being thrown in jail, and to know what real good beer tastes like.

Until then, they can keep enjoying their delicious food with a small variety of good beer, while dreaming of the day they can live up to the label of "freest state in the union."

Off Site Kitchen is a must for anyone visiting the Dallas area. It is off the beaten path, and you'll have a hard time finding parking, but it is well worth it.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nothing Boring About A Cajun Shrimp Burger

Mason’s Grill
13556 Jefferson Hwy.
Baton Rouge, LA

Mason’s Grill is the embodiment of everything I love about the state of Louisiana -- the best state in America for eating.

End of discussion.

Even at an ordinary-looking non-descript place on the outskirts of Baton Rouge like Mason’s you can find something extraordinary to light up your taste buds.

I mean, this isn’t the kind of place I normally seek out.

There is nothing historic or quaint about it. It’s not some Travel Channel dining landmark.

Mason’s has no divey charm or scary clientele.

It’s just a boring looking restaurant with a big parking lot filled with pickups sitting by the side of the road patronized by local families out for a good meal.

But looks can be deceiving -- especially in the Bayou State where “a good meal” is almost never boring.

There is nothing boring about chowing down on giant dangerous reptiles -- especially the way Mason’s prepares alligator.

While I enjoy my oversized lizards fried as much as any red blooded heterosexual American male, you have to try your gator blackened just once in your life.

This alligator was generously seasoned with Cajun spices, perfect with the tangy New Orleans style remoulade dipping sauce.

Tender, juicy and packing a nice kick, Mason’s blackened gator was like a Mardi Gras parade in every bite.

So does gator taste like chicken?

Well, yeah. Kind of.

Like a swampy, greasy, delicious chicken.

While the gator is top notch, the real reason to come to Mason’s is for their famous Cajun Shrimp Burger.

This burger is epic!

A half pound of fresh ground beef spiked with jalapeno peppers is then sautéed in more jalapenos and Cajun spices.

But I’m pretty sure that is not even half of this burger’s caloric overload.

The burger is topped by a molten lava concoction of gooey Monterey Jack cheese and shrimp.

Yes. Shrimp.

On a burger.

How awesome is that?

Pretty damn awesome as a matter of fact.

And these aren’t those lame little cocktail shrimp I was expecting.

We’re talking big plump local Gulf Coast shrimp. The real deal.

The cheese/shrimp topping was thicker than the half pound burger -- and oozed appetizingly with every delicious bite.

Fortunately, Mason’s uses an industrial-sized sourdough bun fresh made from a bakery in Houston to keep it all together.

Too often these epic sized burger/condiment combinations transform into an epic failure because the buns just can’t stand up to the meat/cheese/grease assault.

But not here. Mason’s has mastered the art of burger structural integrity.

Cooked exactly the way I asked for it -- a nice medium pink with plenty of juices flowing, the burger featured a harmonious yin and yang of sweet and spicy.

The jalapenos in the beef let their presence be known, but never turned my mouth into an inferno of spice.

The jack cheese and shrimp lended a perfect sweet balance to the Cajun spices.

Definitely a Suit757 burger Hall of Famer. For sure.

Along with a side of first rate onion rings, I had trouble finishing my meal. And that’s saying something.

My bartender said most folks don’t finish the burger. And most folks don’t start with a whole appetizer of gator either.

But then again most folks ain’t Suit757.

I’m a professional after all.

The beer selection at Mason’s was decent -- for Louisiana -- a state with among the least adventurous tastes in craft beer.

Proving that Louisianans are all about the food -- not the drink, the local Canebrake from Parrish Brewing Company in Lafayette was just a bland boring wheat beer with a sweet aftertaste.

Canebrake just adds further proof to my theory that wheat beers are brewed for people who don’t actually like the taste of beer.

So much for trying new local beer I’ve never had before.

So I switched to the familiar.

Mason’s sports a nice lineup of Abita beers from the brewery down the road in Abita Springs.

I opted for my favorite Abita -- Turbo Dog.

First of all, it’s fun just telling the bar tender, “I’ll take a Turbo Dog.”

The dark heavy ale is a perfect foil to the Cajun spiced delicacies you can find on just about any menu in this state.

Even at a mundane looking place like Mason’s.

Sure, it would make for a more entertaining story if I could tell you I risked my life walking into a smoky biker bar with heads turning, beady eyes glaring, fingers on switch blades twitching as soon as I swung upon the saloon doors.

But you know what? I’ve been to enough of those places.

Sometimes it’s nice to nice to know a suit doesn’t have to risk his life to get an epic burger.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

Mason's Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No Hand-Holding Naked Dudes at this San Francisco Dive

7 Mile House
2800 Bayshore Blvd.
Brisbane, CA

Sometimes I like a little history with my burgers and beer.

Especially if that history involves gangsters, hookers, gamblers and other shady characters of ill repute.

I definitely came to the right place.

San Francisco was about the last place in America I was expecting to find a blue collar dive like this.

This is the city more famous for public parks full of hand-holding naked men, taxpayer funded sex changes and roving gangs of tofu-munching yoga instructors.

Certainly not traditional American values like cheap beer and towering greasy burgers.

But that’s exactly what you’ll find here at the 7 Mile House just a mile or so south of the city limits in Brisbane.

The bawdy history of this dive bar began in 1853, when it was established as part of a chain of “mile houses” along the old stagecoach road that ran from the San Francisco Ferry Building to San Jose.

Later, 7 Mile become a post office stop along the Pony Express.

These mile houses located every mile or so along the dusty, bumpy, hilly journey gave the poor stagecoach horses and their drivers a spot to rest and take a drink.

You know. That whole “whiskey for my men, beer for my horses” thing Toby Keith and Willie Nelson sang about so eloquently.

The owners of 7 Mile (seven miles south of the San Francisco Ferry Building), discovered that meeting the needs of these rugged travelers could be a lucrative business.

Fresh water and horses.

Beer and whiskey.

Rooms for rent and female companionship.

That’s early American entrepreneurship.

But like many brothels and gambling halls, 7 Mile attracted a shady crowd of robbers, thieves and gangsters such as the infamous Hayes Valley Gang who cut a path of murderous destruction through San Francisco in the 1870s.

As recently as the 1980s, 7 Mile was a scary biker bar harboring the largest illegal gambling ring in the West until the Feds arrested everyone involved and spoiled all the fun.

Now days, 7 Mile still maintains some of that shady mystique without the fear of being stabbed.

An ethnically diverse clientele of local blue collar guys populated the bar by the time I strolled through the front door at 6pm on a Tuesday.

The smoking hot bartender knew every one of them by name -- except me of course.

As usual, I stood out like a tourist at a Hells Angels convention.

Everyone else was drinking PBR and Budweiser long necks.

I ordered the local 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA on draft.

Nobody else at the bar was eating.

I ordered the infamous Cow Palace Burger and garlic fries.

The guy sitting next to me moved over a stool. I think he knew something I didn’t.

You don’t want to be too close to a stranger gorging on a pound and a half of greasy cow, pig and garlic fries.

The Cow Palace is epic. It’s even been featured on national television.

Two half pound beef patties topped with melted cheese, sautéed onions, barbeque sauce, onion rings, tomato and a quarter pound of bacon. All held together by a foot long tooth pick.


When the cook brought this monstrosity out of the kitchen and plunked it on the bar in front of me, a jolt of panic flashed through his eyes as the tower of meat tilted precariously to one side.

I grabbed it before catastrophe struck and then pondered a very profound question.

How in the hell am I supposed to eat this damn thing?

At seven inches tall, I quickly realized that the human anatomy was not designed for such challenges. There is no mouth known to the human race big enough to wrap around that much meat.

Not even Joy Behar’s big mouth.

So I opted for the squeeze and nibble strategy.

No. This has nothing to do with the nefarious activities in the 7 Mile’s upstairs room back in the 19th Century.

I just squooshed as hard as I could with my hands, opened my jaws as far as they would go and plunged my face into meat heaven.

My strategy worked pretty well. At first.

Then all the drippy grease, cheese and onions conspired to disintegrate the bun.

Why can’t a place that sells an epic, nationally famous burger contain its creation in sturdier, higher quality buns?

It was a minor criticism considering how outstanding the rest of the components tasted.

The beef was perfectly cooked to a nice pink medium as evidenced by the waterfall of grease spilling onto the 150 year old bar top.

The multi-layered bacon was thick, greasy and perfectly cooked, providing a nice porky flavor in every beefy, cheesy bite.

Much like the buns, the breading around the onion rings disintegrated robbing the burger of the expected fried crunch I craved.

But the sautéed onions, cheese and BBQ sauce added plenty of condiment flavor to my messy mountain of meat.

Somehow I managed to eat almost the whole thing. By the time I surrendered, there was nothing left but a few random bits of beef here, soggy bun there.

Of course I made sure not to leave any bacon remainders. That really would be a federal crime.

I even polished off my mound of garlic fries that came on the side.

Garlic fries are something of a San Francisco Bay specialty, as Gilroy, the self-proclaimed “Garlic Capital of the World”, is just a short drive south of here.

But most Northern California inspired garlic fries I’ve tried in the past were nothing more than boring fries sprinkled with some garlic salt.

Not these.

7 Mile leaves no doubt about its garlicky condiment -- or the need for a breath mint.

Whole cloves of fresh-from-the-fields garlic are crushed and scattered across the oily fries. Every bite yields a pungent sweet flavor to bring the otherwise uninspiring fries to life.

Best of all was my Brew Free of Die! IPA from the brewmasters just down the street at 21st Amendment Brewery.

You know any brewery that names itself after the liberty-celebrating Constitutional Amendment that restored our rights as Americans to drink beer is going to take its task seriously.

I wonder if the folks at 21st Amendment have ever considered the irony that they located their brewery in a city that is considering banning everything from Happy Meals to circumcision to the sale of gold fish.

To crazed San Francisco leftists, no aspect of your life is too mundane or personal not to regulate.

You want to see men buggering in a public park? You’ve come to the right place.

You want to buy your kid a gold fish or a Happy Meal? You’re a heartless corporatist oppressor who must be stopped by government force.

21st Amendment celebrates one of the few freedoms remaining in this city with a wide range of kick-ass brews.

But Brew Free or Die! IPA is the best of the best, providing a hoppy kick of liberty in every patriotic sip.

Even if all the locals were drinking PBR and looking at me suspiciously.

It just seemed such an appropriate beer to down in a century old former speakeasy where illegal booze was probably the least objectionable activity going down within its confines.

But I can understand the suspicions of the locals.

7 Mile is a historic treasure in more ways than one.

If you are an all-American, God-fearing, hard working PBR man, there aren’t too many places to hang out in San Francisco.

7 mile just might be the only down-to-earth, blue collar refuge for men who actually still dress like men to down long necks for under a five spot in the entire Bay area.

They’re not going to take too kindly to some fancy beer sipping suit ruining the place.

Not to worry.

Trust me. I appreciate a hand-holding-naked-dudes-FREE zone as much as anyone.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

7 Mile House Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 27, 2014

In Search of Jimmy Hoffa

Andiamo Bloomfield
6676 Telegraph Rd.
Bloomfield Hills, MI

I’m standing in the rain-soaked parking lot of Andiamo in Bloomfield, Michigan -- site of one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century.

This was the exact spot from which notorious Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on a steamy July afternoon 39 years ago.

What happened to the most infamous union boss in American history?

He’s buried under a parking garage in Cadillac…

…Or under a sanitation building in Hamtramck...

…Or under the 50 yard line at Giants Stadium…

…Or under some mafia dude’s mother-in-law’s drive way in Detroit…

…Or he was fed into a wood chipper…

…Or carried off to a landfill in a 55 gallon drum…

Nobody knows.

Or at least nobody who does know is saying.

Despite countless FBI investigations, false confessions, documentaries, movies starring Jack Nicholson and attention seekers spewing conspiracy theories galore, the mystery endures.

So did I come here to this godforsaken suburban hell of the most godforsaken metropolitan area of America to solve this mystery myself?

Or did I come here because it was lunch time and I was hungry?

Maybe a bit of both.

This infamous restaurant is now one those over-priced expense account chain steakhouses with valet parking flanked by a strip mall in the vast suburban morass north of Detroit.

Definitely not the kind of place Suit757 normally seeks out for lunch.

But I just had to check the joint out.

It was lunch time, I was hungry, I had a few hours to kill -- and I was stuck in Detroit.

What else was I going to do?

It’s not like the alternative entertainment options for guys wearing suits on a Thursday afternoon in Detroit are all that compelling.

In fact, Andiamo might just be the only tourist attraction in the entire Detroit metro area.

If so, Andiamo is not doing much to capitalize on it.

Thirty-nine years later, there is no more sign of Jimmy Hoffa at Andiamo than there was the afternoon he disappeared.

It’s almost like the new owners of the building are ashamed of its history.

Then again, that’s easy to understand.

Jimmy Hoffa came here on July 30, 1975 at 2pm to meet three mobbed up Teamster buddies for lunch at what was then the Red Fox Restaurant.

Hoffa was angling to get his old job back after spending eight years in prison for bribing a jury in a corruption trail brought on by Hoffa’s arch nemesis Democrat Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Of course, the Republicans, sensing an opportunity and always willing to suck up to their union boss enemies, jumped in bed with the Teamsters.

(Some things never change: Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just headlined a fundraiser on Amelia Island for a union front group created solely to defeat pro-Right to Work Republicans. When GOP primary voters in his district found out about it, they tossed Cantor out of Congress a few weeks later in one of the greatest upsets in American political history.)

GOP President Richard Nixon commuted the rest of Hoffa’s prison sentence in exchange for an agreement that Hoffa would keep his hands off the Teamsters -- and that the Teamsters would endorse Republican candidates for the next decade or so.

Of course, the day Hoffa walked out of prison he immediately began scheming to get his old job back, correctly surmising that Nixon wouldn’t have the balls to challenge him.

But one group that was willing to stand up to Hoffa was the group that controlled the Teamsters -- the Mafia. And they had no interest whatsoever in Hoffa sticking his nose back into their business.

After all, the business of running a union is good…

…a government granted license to extract from the pockets of workers billions of dollars per year in union dues that can be spent on paid-for politicians, tropical resorts, limousine lifestyles and fancy steakhouse lunches at swanky joints like Andiamo.

Life as a union boss is good.

Under federal law, if workers object to how their dues are collected or spent, they have exactly two options:

1) Pay up


2) Get fired.

Billions of dollars. No accountability.

That’s the kind of business mobsters love.

Hoffa’s mob buddies stood him up for 45 minutes while Hoffa waited in the Red Fox parking lot fuming.

At some point Hoffa went inside to use the pay phone and may or may not have had a drink at the bar.

Finally, at 2:45pm, witnesses at the Red Fox saw Hoffa get into a car with several other men.

No one ever saw him again.

As you can imagine, for years the Red Fox enjoyed a certain morbid notoriety.

Eventually, the long-time owner sold the place in 1996 and the building was transformed into one of a chain of ten Detroit area Andiamos.

While the place has certainly modernized over the past four decades, I can definitely see Jimmy Hoffa and his mob buddies gulping martinis and sawing on 25 ounce porterhouse steaks here.

White tablecloths. Dark lighting. White men in tailored navy suits tossing valet boys the keys to the Caddy.

Andiamo is still THAT kind of place.

“No thanks. I’ll just sit at the bar.”

That’s what I told the perky hostess.

Even if it is a work day and I’m drinking nothing stronger than Detroit tap water, I’d rather sit by myself at the bar.

From my bar perch, I scoped the place out.

I’m not sure what I was looking for.

The bar stool where Hoffa regularly drank?

The reception room where current Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. held his wedding reception?

The famous phone booth from which Hoffa placed his last call?

Obviously, any and all such artifacts are long gone -- probably decades ago.

Andiamo doesn’t sell t-shirts with Hoffa’s face on it, either.

But I couldn’t help looking and wondering.

That’s the nature of a great mystery.

All of us can play a bit of Sherlock Holmes since no one else has figured it out yet.

I couldn’t help but ask the bar tender, Karen, about the mystery.

She said she’s worked there for years. She has lots of old timer regulars who date back to Hoffa’s days -- some who drank with him at this very bar back in the Red Fox days.

And a few who even claim to have been here that fateful day 39 years ago.

“Some say he had a drink at the bar. Others say he sat at a table by the fireplace. A few swear he never came in except to use the pay phone,” she said.

Then she took a quick glance around, hunched a little closer and said in a semi-hushed Michigan accent, “A lot of them think Hoffa’s son-in-law did it.”


Another twist to add to the mystery.

Of course I wasn’t really here to solve some unsolvable mystery.

I was at Andiamo because I needed to eat the only meal I was going to get that day.

I wasn’t about to pay $25 for a lunch-sized steak, so I stuck to the Italian portion of the lunch menu.

First came a clam stew with loads of onions, celery, peppers and spice. Delicious, but a bit sparse on the clams.

The Italian bread with oil and garlic was top notch as you’d expect.

My lasagna was a tall pile of very thin pasta layered with melted cheese. The only meat was provided by the Bolognese sauce ladled on top.

Maybe I’m a little biased toward my mother’s homemade lasagna but I like thick noodles with lots of meat and cheese embedded in my lasagna.

I suppose that is unsophisticated to the suit-wearing Italians at Andiamo, but my mom will be happy to hear I still like her version best.

Of course I couldn’t pass up a side link of Andiamo’s homemade Italian sausage.

Thick with lots of fennel and seasoning, it was well worth the $3 surcharge.

Remember, one can never have too much meat.

My meal was pretty tasty. But I had to admit that wasn’t really the reason I came here today.

I don’t make a habit of hanging out in expensive suburban valet parking Italian chain restaurants.

I was here to immerse myself in an historical mystery -- and to wonder what Jimmy Hoffa would think of his old hang out if he were still here to see it.

While Hoffa would probably fit right in with the two martini lunch crowd, I’m pretty sure his big mobster head would explode if anyone told him his home state just became America’s latest Right to Work state a little over a year ago.

In a case of “when all else fails, do the right thing”, after decades of losing jobs to Right to Work states, Michigan politicians finally stripped the state’s union bosses of their government guaranteed power to force Michigan workers to pay union dues.

The half billion dollars per year union bosses like Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. had been collecting from Michigan workers by force is no longer guaranteed by state law.

Jimmy Sr.’s little boy -- and all of Michigan’s other union bosses -- now have to collect dues from workers voluntarily.

What a concept.

No wonder Jimmy Jr. declared “Civil War” the day the Governor signed the Right to Work bill.

But the days of acting like a mobbed up thug are over for the Hoffa family now that they finally have to be accountable to the workers they’ve always claimed to represent.

Jimmy Hoffa, Sr. may not be around to witness this shocking change in the home base of compulsory unionism.

But you can be sure of one thing.

Jimmy Hoffa is rolling his grave.

Where ever that is.

Rating: I Would Have Bought a Jimmy Hoffa Commemorative Shirt – But, Alas, Andiamo Doesn’t Sell Those

Andiamo Italia West on Urbanspoon