White Dog Hill

Posted in Oklahoma restaurants, Upscale eclectic on August 17, 2008 by redforkhippie

White Dog Hill — which opened its doors in 2007 — is a relative newcomer to the Mother Road. The building that houses it, however, has been around since 1926, when it was constructed from native stone as a clubhouse for the Clinton Country Club. Owner Nelson King has spent the better end of three years restoring the property, which is situated on a hill three miles east of downtown Clinton, Okla., that offers diners a sweeping view of the countryside and the town below.

The restaurant’s slogan is, “Come for the view … stay for the food,” and both are worth the trip. 

On a recent visit, we started dinner with a large cheese board consisting of three cheeses, bread, an apple, grapes, olives, and mixed nuts, all arranged attractively on a thick wooden board. The appetizer is also available in small and deluxe sizes. The deluxe comes with five cheeses — cheddar, smoked cheddar, gouda, gorgonzola and havarti with dill — and would probably make a light dinner for two all by itself.

Our next course was a Caesar salad, which came with shaved — rather than grated — Parmesan, which I thought was a nice (and flavorful) touch. 

For his entree, Ron chose steak, which came with corn on the cob and a potato salad served cold with green beans and a nice vinaigrette. The steak was tender and succulent, and the potato salad was a creative change of pace from the usual mustard-based fare.

I opted for Cornish game hen, with a baked potato and grilled squash on the side. The hen was stuffed with a delicate cranberry-and-wild-rice dressing, and the squash was exceptional — light yet buttery and gently sweetened.

Other options included grilled smoked pork chops, grilled shrimp, catfish (battered or pan seared) and bacon cheddar burgers.

I let Ron finish my hen so I’d have room left for dessert: lemon pecan pie (right). Ron tried Aunt Ole’s Mud Pie (left). He said it was good. I believe him; he’d finished the whole thing before I had a chance to ask for a bite.

Other dessert options include strawberry shortcake — which we’ve had in the past and can wholeheartedly recommend — and raspberry wine ice cream floats, which we haven’t tried.

The service is quick and friendly, and the historic ambience is wonderful. Diners are encouraged to stick around after dinner to enjoy the view from the terrace, which is outfitted with brightly painted Adirondack chairs.

Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, although King is considering closing on Wednesdays and adding a Sunday brunch instead. A kids’ menu includes a cheddar burger or a grilled cheese sandwich, both served with salad, chips and a drink. 

Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Prices are moderate, with entrees ranging from $9.50 for a big bacon cheddar burger to $23 for a 16-oz. ribeye.

Reservations are recommended; call (580) 323-6922. White Dog Hill can also accommodate parties and receptions.

Grades:
Value: A
Product: A+
Service: A
Route 66 Spirit: A-
Overall: A

The Innkeeper Restaurant: A Nice Place to Get Just About Anything!

Posted in American food, Diners, Illinois restaurants on July 8, 2008 by rudyard1

THE INNKEEPER RESTAURANT: I-55 and IL 140, just East of Hamel, IL; (618) 633-2500; http://www.innkeeperrestaurant.com

When Quinn, Natalie Kay and I drove up to the International Route 66 Festival in Litchfield, IL the weekend of June 20, we wanted it to be a vacation. For us, vacations are a time to try things you haven’t tried before, so on the way to Litchfield, we decided to stop at the Innkeeper Restaurant in Hamel, IL. It is not right on the Historic Route (it is on the east side of the I-55/SR 140 Viaduct), but everything from its sign, to the front of its menu, to the goodies contained therein, tells you it is a 66 kind of place!

We had always been drawn there by the “Restaurant” sign, which looks like it sported some fine neon in its heyday, and all the cars parked there around lunchtime. When we walked in, we could see it was set up for all kinds of eating, from the lunch counter in the front, to the booths in the back, to the deck outside the place.

The menu offers breakfast anytime and a wide variety of pretty much everything. Quinn and I had sandwiches; mine was a cheeseburger, which came on grilled sourdough, with a nice slathering of cheese. Their sandwiches come with most any topping you’d like. They also have one of the most filling sandwiches known to man, the Monte Cristo, a turkey, ham and cheese concoction dipped in egg and deep fried! They give you a ton of fries to go along with your sandwich, quick service, and friendly service. Their menu also includes some excellent fried chicken and everything from soups and salads to a pretty fine pizza to a New York Strip, all for reasonable prices. They also have plate lunches for $5.95.

And this place is not just good for the food; they also have a pretty decent milkshake, as Quinn and Natalie will tell you.

Almost every town along Illinois Route 66 has its own special place…The Innkeeper may become a place to call your own!

Value: A
Product: A
Service: A
Route 66 Spirit: A
Overall: A

Hodak’s: Great Fried Chicken on Route 66!

Posted in American food, Fried Chicken on April 3, 2008 by rudyard1

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While it is probably not the most heart-healthy choice, fried chicken is one of the great staples of the road food diet. And one of the best places to get fried chicken on Route 66 is Hodak’s in St. Louis. In business since 1962, Hodak’s is a relative newcomer to the Mother Road, serving its first chicken plate at the corner of Gravois (Route 66) and McNair in 1970. Back then, it was a lot smaller than it is now; in the 1990s, the owners purchased a nearby trucking company, expanding and refurbishing the place and making it what it is today, a fine eatery along Route 66.

What Hodak’s is best known for is its fried chicken, for which it has received local and national acclaim (it was featured on Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels a year or so ago). The chicken platter ($7.99) is a half chicken, crispy on the outside, juicy on the outside, with fries and cole slaw. You also receive a separate plate for your bones. While the half chicken is likely enough for most palates, if you are still hungry, they have bulk orders of up to 200 pieces of fried chicken available.

While chicken is their specialty, Hodak’s does offer a considerable selection of alternatives. Plate lunches and dinners, including country fried steak, roast beef, and chicken Parmesan dinners complete with sides, are also available. They also have great steaks and fish dinners, and a wide selection of sandwiches and appetizers, including chicken wings, toasted ravioli, and, if that isn’t filling enough, bacon cheese fries. If you are in the neighborhood at lunchtime, they have daily luncheon specials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a little under $6.00.

While the bar does not boast a huge selection of beer and wine, there is certainly sufficient selection to satisfactorily wet most palates.

Hodak’s does not have the same mom-and-pop look that it did 20 years ago when I first ate there, which was more appealing to the “roadie” in me. However, it has a nice “neighborhood eatery” feel, it is comfortable, and the waiters and waitresses are great (because of this, and the food, it is also very popular, so you may have to wait a bit for a table). Also for the roadie in me, Hodak’s could do more to emphasize its connection with Route 66. There is a sign or two in the place, but not much else to let you know that Route 66 runs right by it.

That minor critique aside, what can definitely be said about Hodaks is that it pays wonderful homage to the Mother Road through the great food that it serves, great Route 66 road food, in healthy portions, at a reasonable price. Definitely a place you want to stop when you are cruising down Route 66 through the city of St. Louis.

Value: A
Product: A
Service: A
Route 66 Spirit: B-
Overall: A-

Favazza’s: A great little “secret” on The Hill in St. Louis

Posted in Italian food, Missouri restaurants on January 28, 2008 by rudyard1

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(Photo and review by Kip Welborn.)

When travelers pass through St. Louis, one place that they love to go is to “The Hill.” Here, in an area nestled between Hampton Ave, Southwest Ave., and Kingshighway in the City of St. Louis, is the place the Italian American community in St. Louis calls home, and the place where you will find some of the greatest Italian eateries anywhere on the planet.

Many of these eateries — Cunetto’s, Charlie Gittos, Gian Tony’s, to cite a few –are known nationally, and all of them serve fantastic food. Most do not take reservations, however, so it can be a long wait at dinnertime.

Which is what brings me to Favazza’s (5201 Southwest Ave. St. Louis, Mo.; (314) 772-4454). It is a place where you rarely have to wait for a table, and when you do, there is a nice bar area to do so. Any wait you might have is well worth your time, as Favazza’s serves up some of the best food St. Louis has to offer, and the service is always first rate. It is a smoke-free environment and is a nice place for a romantic evening or to take the kids.

The dinner menu prices range from $9.00 to $25.00. The entrees will fit the “taste” of every palate, from the fish lover to someone who just wants a good steak. The prices are in line with most of the restaurants on The Hill, as are the portions, which are usually large enough to serve you for two meals. Before the meal, they bring out the “bread” two ways: plain, with olive oil and butter available, and toasted garlic. The wine and beer lists are extensive, and they have a very nice white house wine.

I am particularly fond of their Chicken Parmesan ($16.25), which is a healthy sized chicken breast doused with just the right mix of cheese and sauce, complete with a side order of your choosing (red or white pasta or a twice baked potato). The Chicken Prosciutto is also fine, and my wife, Quinn, loves the Tortellini.

For the Route 66 traveler, it is extremely easy to get to Favazza’s: At the intersection of Chippewa (Route 66) and Kingshighway turn right if you are heading West, left if you are heading East. Take Kingshighway to Southwest (approx. 2 miles). Turn left on Southwest. Take Southwest just up the “hill”, across a short bridge, and it is on the right side of Southwest at the corner of Southwest and Marconi. Parking is available on the right side of Marconi just past the intersection. It will provide the Route 66 traveler–and any other traveler–with a dining experience to remember.

For more information, visit the restaurant’s Web site.

Grades:
Value: A
Product: A
Service: A
Route 66 Spirit: B (it is not on Route 66 but it is a “mom and pop” place that has been in the Favazza family since the beginning)
Overall: A

Tally’s Good Food Cafe

Posted in American food, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on January 15, 2008 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa, with minor changes.)

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I was disappointed when the late Metro Diner in Tulsa closed to make way for TU’s oh-so-visually-stimulating McDorms, but I wasn’t devastated. To be honest, the Metro’s quality had slipped rather precipitously in recent years, and by the time it closed, I’d already found a better place to meet out-of-town friends for dinner: the aptly named Tally’s Good Food Cafe.

I miss the Metro’s great Deco lines, glass-block windows, chrome accents, and that spectacular pink and aqua neon sign that stood out front, but Tally’s — with its retro-styled sign mounted above the door (on a framework that evokes the Meadow Gold sign in miniature), stylish architectural neon around the exterior (complete with glowing Route 66 shields every few feet), and killer breakfasts — is a fine substitute.

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You have to respect a restaurant that accompanies its chicken-fried steak with a soup bowl of cream gravy, and I think Ron would willingly swap one of his kidneys for a bacon and cheese omelet and a plate of those crispy seasoned home fries from Tally’s.

I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve eaten at Tally’s. The fry cooks know what they’re doing, the waitstaff is friendly and efficient, and although I didn’t ask about the hours, I will say that Ron and I keep strange hours and eat at weird times, and we’ve never come home hungry after heading out in search of a late supper at Tally’s.

Perhaps best of all, the owner, Tally Alame, really appreciates the community that supports his business. Every year, he shows his appreciation by serving a free Thanksgiving dinner to anybody who wants to stop by and eat.

Located on historic Route 66, at the corner of 11th and Yale, Tally’s is also within easy walking distance of the historic Desert Hills Motel, making it popular with my in-laws, who stay at the Desert Hills every time they’re in town and love to start each morning by walking down the block for a cinnamon roll at Tally’s.

Grades:
Value: A
Product: A+
Service: A
Route 66 spirit: A
Overall: A+

Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard

Posted in Frozen custard, Missouri restaurants on January 6, 2008 by redforkhippie

I suppose it’s a little cruel to talk about Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard in January — the only month the St. Louis institution is closed — but on this warm, sunny morning, I just can’t help dreaming of spring.

From February to December, you’ll find customers lined up 10 deep in front of the building at 6726 Chippewa — the most popular alignment of Route 66 through St. Louis — to order a Crater Copernicus (devil’s food cake with frozen custard, hot fudge and whipped cream), Dutchman Delight (chocolate, butterscotch and nuts), or Fox Treat (hot fudge, raspberries and macadamia nuts).

Don’t let the crowds scare you off. While a long line at some establishments may indicate that the business is understaffed or the service is slow, the fast-moving lines at Ted Drewes’ are merely an indicator of product quality. Everybody in St. Louis goes to Ted’s — and because Ted knows it, he hires enough employees to keep up with the crowds. I’ve never had to wait in line longer than five minutes.

Everyone’s tastes are different, but for my money, the Cardinal Sin (tart cherries and hot fudge) and Dutchman concretes are the best items on the menu — at least until fall, when Ted offers his pumpkin pie concrete, which involves an entire slice of pie mixed into a big cup of frozen custard.

My rat terrier, Scout, is partial to the Southern Delight, which is made with pralines and butterscotch.

Concretes, for the uninitiated, are rich, creamy milkshakes so thick that they won’t fall out of the cup when it’s turned upside down. I can’t begin to explain how good these are, but I’ll just note, for the record, that one former president of the Illinois Route 66 Association has been known to drive all the way from Chicago just to get a concrete on a summer weekend.

Scout and I completely understand.

If you’re not up for a 300-mile ice cream run, Ted can pack a few mini concretes in dry ice and ship them to you.

During December, Ted Drewes’ also sells Christmas trees. A second, older location is open during the summer months at 4224 S. Grand. When we lived in the area, we generally preferred to hit the Route 66 location, but if you’re interested in exploring St. Louis a bit while you’re in town, South Grand is an interesting drive that takes you past the Bevo Mill, among other oddities.

Ted Drewes’ opens at 11 a.m. daily. Closing time varies, but it’s fairly safe to assume that if the Cardinals are playing at home, Ted will be open when the game ends.

For more information, call (314) 481-2652 or (314) 481-2124 or visit the Web site.

Grades:
Product: A+
Service: A+
Route 66 spirit: A
Value: A
Overall: A+

Ike’s Chili House

Posted in Chili, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on January 3, 2008 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

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Ike’s Chili House has been in Tulsa for as long as my Cubbies have been disappointing their fans.

While it can’t claim to have the best chili on the Mother Road (that distinction belongs to the Rock Cafe in Stroud), the restaurant at 5941 E. Admiral Place — an early alignment of Route 66 — serves a respectable product, with a large side of history.

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Enlarged black-and-white photographs of earlier Ike’s locations grace the walls of the restaurant, and the chili — served straight or with beans — is a tame but flavorful blend of meat and spices. Shakers of ground red pepper and bottles of hot sauce are on all the tables to placate fire-eaters. Three-way chili (over spaghetti, with beans) and other variants are on the menu, but I’ve never bothered to order them. Such niceties strike me as gilding the lily when you’ve got a basic chili that’s so tasty and so filling all by itself.

Of course I was too busy wolfing down a large bowl to remember to take a picture of it the last time we were there, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to head down Admiral and order a bowl.

Ike’s is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

As a West Sider, I am delighted to note that a new location opened last year at 1630 W. 51st St. Click here to read the Tulsa World’s article about it.

Grades:
Value: A
Product: A-
Convenience: B+
Service: A
Overall: A

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