It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these, and I’m pretty sure the reason is obvious.
Our staff has had several conversations about whether we should continue Mystery Diner, given the fact that we can’t actually sit down to eat at a restaurant. But we discussed it further, and we realized that most of our area restaurants are offering service through curbside pickup, or delivery by their own employees or a third-party system.
So we’ve decided to keep Mystery Diner going by examining how our local eateries are responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and I started with Yorkville’s Crusade Burger Bar.
A longtime favorite, Crusade has embraced the restrictions and shutdowns put into place by the pandemic, and is offering a special menu of burgers and weekly milkshake specials.
We decided to test Crusade’s new delivery option – through DoorDash – and ordered three burgers, and a few milkshakes, as well.
Our order included a build-your-own burger with bacon and American cheese with a side of fries and a small vanilla milkshake; the Dirty Burger made with American cheese, PBR braised onions, onion straws and a chipotle aioli; and the Phony Tough Crazy Brave burger with the House BBQ sauce, aged white cheddar, maple bacon spread and an onion ring with a side of fries.
The order also included the Money Heist milkshake (a nice callout to the popular Netflix show), a mint Oreo shake with whipped cream, brownies, buttercream, and a chocolate gold coin.
Now, we don’t live in Yorkville, and Crusade is incredibly popular with families looking to support a local business, which we all took into account when we ordered. It took about 40 minutes to arrive at our house, and the burgers and fries were still warm, the milkshakes were still cold, so I considered it a success.
Our burgers were each cooked medium rare, and came exactly the way we ordered, and our fries were well-cooked and delicious. The Dirty Burger’s onions were a hit with the guy who loves onions, and I was a big fan of the sweet maple bacon spread balanced against the tangy BBQ sauce. And our third diner was just a fan of the whole combination.
The milkshakes, something Crusade is famous for, were, of course, a highlight of the meal. The ingredients tasted fresh and real – no artificial tastes to be found, and I enjoyed the brownie bites and chocolate coin.
A side note on the milkshakes: We weren’t sure if it was the buttercream we were enjoying or the whipped cream, but whichever it was, kudos for not using fake stuff. We can tell.
All in all, I’d call Mystery Diner’s first go of quarantine eats a success. I hope I’m able to continue doing this during the shutdown - not because the shutdown is ongoing, but because any opportunity we have to support our local businesses should be taken.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.