My buddy Zach startled me when he confidently suggested I check out a
restaurant he favors. Upon regaining my composure, I asked, "Isn't it
like Denny's? Carrow's? Norm's?"
The fact I'd never been to this establishment was immaterial. I
was positive its clientele consisted solely of bowlers scarfing down
chicken salad sandwiches and bingo players sipping coffee alongside a
slice of huckleberry pie.
Zach countered by portraying it as an underrated, all-American
family restaurant, serving satisfying meals at a fair price. He
further confessed his fondness for its teriyaki chicken dinner.
Zach's ringing endorsement aside, I couldn't overcome my
narrow-minded perception of this place. The catalyst for my visit
came in the form of a coupon offering a second dinner for only 98
My buddy Tony declined an invitation to join us (even though he'd
never been there either) and suggested I call back when visiting
somewhere more upscale. Wow!
Undeterred, my two sons and I boldly ventured forth and, while
circling the parking lot, spotted a free-standing sign out front of
the restaurant, urging us to "Play Mega Millions Here."
A restaurant shilling lotto tickets -- how convenient. I wondered
if they were also selling fireworks and do-it-yourself divorce kits.
The entry door had aposted notice stating, "No outside food or
beverages are allowed."
What? Who brings their own food to a restaurant? It's like
bringing a portable DVD player to the movie theater.
I allowed my boys to enter only after patting them down for
illicit food and drink substances and uncovering none -- unless the
restaurant counts a chewed piece of gum stuck inside a front pocket
Once inside, I ordered two dinners, determined to take advantage
of my 98-cent coupon. Bold lettering on the coupon demanded I present
it before ordering. This left me wondering if the coupon was a signal
for reduced portions. Not the case, as evidenced by my ample dinners.
My 12-ounce New York steak was expertly broiled and topped with
two large, crispy onion rings. My steak dinner (like all dinners)
came with soup (a ton of veggies in a weak broth), salad (standard)
and my choice of two sides (a tasty creamed corn and mashed potatoes
with brown gravy).
I thoroughly enjoyed my roasted turkey dinner. Chunks of white
meat were topped with homemade yellow gravy. It was accompanied by an
extremely moist sage dressing and cranberry sauce. My sides of choice
were corn on the cob and a baked yam made deliciously sweet with
brown sugar-cinnamon butter and marshmallow spread. I would have
gladly paid full price for this meal.
You're allowed to substitute a slice of pie for soup and salad --
take full advantage of this. The coconut cream pie is heavenly.
From the children's menu, the boys devoured chicken strips and an
adult-sized hamburger. Both included fries, a beverage and a toy
ticket that's redeemable only when leaving. I worked this like an
incentive program -- if the kids didn't eat and behave well, their
toy ticket would go unclaimed. The children's menu also features
macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and fish and chips.
They also serve up retro dinner classics like pork chops and
applesauce, homemade meatloaf, liver and onions, and pot roast
covered with gravy made from a recipe found in the very first issue
of Good Housekeeping magazine. More contemporary items like fish
tacos, Greek salad and pan-fried lemon pepper steaks are also
Additionally, you can indulge in banana caramel pancakes and other
breakfast items throughout the day, as well as half-pound burgers and
way-too-thick shakes for lunch.
So, what's the name of this place that I'm glad I gave a chance?
* JOHN VOLO is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have
comments or suggestions, e-mail email@example.com.