Everybody loves Booby’s

In Recipies on May 19, 2011 at 10:05 am

The iconic logo of "Booby's"

In the near future, look for quite a few Phyne Dyning recipes to feature onions.  I came home the other day and found a heavy box at my door with a West Texas return address.  One of my friends back there had sent me a sack of Texas-1014 onions.  These sugary onions make those from Vidalia bitter by comparison.

One of my favorite places to unwind during my years at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU-C) was a bar on the strip called Booby’s.

No, it was not a strip club or t-bar as my Marine friends call them.

Booby’s was a place were grad students, M-1s (first year med students), and “lab rats” (research assistants) hung out.  Because the owners ran a no nonsense kind of place where drunken fights were quickly relocated to the county jail, the testosterone-intoxicated jocks tended to avoid the place.  A lot of the women from campus liked the place for that reason, as it removed the “meat market” atmosphere that is typical of many campus town bars.

The absence of jocks had the added benefit of keeping “wannabe” high school girls (jail-bait) away…a leading cause of fights between drunken jocks.

Still, Booby’s was no piano bar.  The place featured live music ranging from alternative rock to acoustic.  Some nights you could not hear your own thoughts and you sat quietly at your table, sacrificing brain cells to the Budweiser gods.  Other nights, you could sip cheap wine and have some remarkably sober conversations.

The closest place to Booby's (Web photo/Unknown)

Mike’s Place, a bar in Tel Aviv behind the American embassy, captures the same kind of atmosphere and attracts a similar crowd.

I am not sure why I thought of Booby’s, except that I was lost for a supper idea until I thought of hot dogs.

Hot dogs?

Not just hot dogs…Booby’s-style hot dogs.

Big kosher dinner franks, boiled not grilled.  A chewy sour dough bun, filled with minced onions, tomatoes, diced pickled pepperoncini, with a couple of tablespoons of spicy, heavy grained mustard slathered on it.

A side of Hula Hoop-sized onion rings and skin-on chips (fries) on the side with a frosty beer made for some fine eating.  The whole shpiel in those days was less than five bucks.

I looked down at the sack of 1014s and the menu was set.  The smallest onion in the bag was almost four inches in diameter.  I tossed one into the basket of my kitchen scale… 2lbs, 6oz.!

Next, I selected two enormous russet potatoes from their bin for the skin-on chips.

We will start with the chips.

Cut one large (unpeeled) russet potato (per person) into ½” wide sticks.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven (or electric fryer) to 350F.  Cook the potato sticks for 7 minutes, or until they just begin to turn translucent or become pale golden along their cut edges.  Remove from the oil and allow them to cool.  When all of the potato sticks have been pre-cooked, increase the oil temperature to at least 380F (400 is better).  Again, in batches, return the potato sticks to the hot oil for 4-5 more minutes, or until deep golden and crisp.  Remove from the oil and allow the potatoes to drain on clean newsprint or paper towels.  Keep the potatoes hot in a 250-degree oven while you make the onion rings.

For the onion rings:

1 very large onion per two people, sliced to make rings ½ to ¾ inch wide

2 C milk

2 TBS white vinegar

2 C white flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp dry thyme

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

¾ tsp cayenne pepper

1 TBS Chalula hot sauce

1 tsp ground, black pepper

Pre-heat oil to 360F.  Temperature is critical.  Too hot, and the coating will over cook and the onion will be raw.  Too cool, and the coating will be undercooked, greasy, and doughy.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne, and black pepper.  In a small, deep bowl mix the milk, vinegar, sugar, and hot sauce together thoroughly.  Working in small batches, dip the onion rings into the milk mixture, shake off the excess, and dredge them through the flour mixture.  For a thicker, crispier coating…return the onion ring to the milk mixture and run it through the flour mixture a second time.  Toss the ring into the hot oil.  Do not crowd the rings in the oil.  Cook the rings until they are deep golden and float on the surface of the oil.  Remove the rings, using long tongs, to clean newsprint or paper towels to drain.

For the dogs:

1-2 Kosher dinner-size franks (Nathan’s, Sinai, or Hebrew National), per person

(Note: Kielbasa makes a great sandwich here, too.)

1 sour dough hoagie roll (or similar) per person

¼ C diced sweet onion per dog

¼ C diced Roma tomato per dog

1 TBS minced pickled pepperoncini per dog

1-2 TBS spicy, heavy-grained mustard per dog

Heat 4-5 quarts of water in a large pot until simmering.  Toss in the franks.  You can leave the franks in the water while you make the chips and rings.

Dampen a heavy towel with water.  It should be very damp, but not dripping.  Wrap the rolls (do not use regular hot dog buns) in the towel, place the wrapped package in a covered roasting pan and place in the 250-degree oven where you are keeping the chips and rings hot.

Ketchup serves the rings well, but they are tasty without any condiment.  We enjoy chips with mayonnaise or with malt vinegar…never ketchup.

Serve with frosted mugs of your favorite beer.

Okay, this is not health food.  And, without discipline, you will eat the chips and onion rings as soon as you can put them in your mouth without blistering it as you cook them.  This can lead to your Booby’s-style hot dogs looking sadly neglected from your plate as you belch fried stuff in Hedonist contentment.


Alas, Booby’s is no more.  I did a “whatever happened to” Web search for my old hangout and found “closed” listed next to each listing for the place.  It is too far to walk to visit Mike’s Place with any regularity.  So, I will have to make my own and settle for fond memories of the best little bar on the Carbondale strip.

A piguah (terror attack) struck Mike’s Place on April 30, 2003…killing three.  The bar was re-opened in a matter of weeks.  When we visited there again in July, it was defiantly packed with patrons.

(Israel News Agency Photo)

(Israel News Agency Photo)


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