A fresh take on down-home cooking

John Volo

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

cents.

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

as food.

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

available.

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?

It's Sunny's.

* JOHN VOLO is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have

comments or suggestions, e-mail o7hbfoodguy@yahoo.comf7o7.

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