Archive for the American food Category

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-

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+

Blue Dome Diner

Posted in American food, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on December 28, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

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Located at 313 E. 2nd St. in Tulsa’s historic Blue Dome district on the east side of downtown, the Blue Dome Diner offers an upscale spin on old-fashioned diner fare.

Catering to a decidedly eclectic crowd, the diner serves such specialties as quiche, French toast, and grilled cheese sandwiches made with real cheese (not “pasteurized process cheese food”) stacked between thick slices of homemade bread.

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Even a simple bowl of oatmeal becomes a gourmet affair at the Blue Dome Diner, where the cereal is cooked gently, with enough water to moisten it, but not enough to make it mushy; each individual oat remains separate and distinct, sweetened with plenty of brown sugar and big, fat raisins. The oats are a meal unto themselves, but they come with a side dish: toast, fluffy biscuits with thick cream gravy, or the diner’s to-die-for French toast.

The decor features exposed brick walls and poster-sized enlargements of postcards and photographs from Tulsa’s past. The diner sits catty-cornered — and takes its name — from the historic Blue Dome building, an Art Deco structure that once housed a gas station on the original alignment of Route 66.

The staff is friendly, helpful, and supportive of Tulsa’s indie business scene (a Blue Dome waitress clued us in to the existence of Under the Mooch while she was ringing up our order one morning last winter), and the prices — while a bit higher than most diners — are pretty reasonable, considering the quality and quantity of food being served.

Bring quarters to feed the parking meter if you go during the week, as the Blue Dome Diner, like the rest of downtown, suffers from a dearth of free parking. Still, you can usually find a meter fairly close by, and if you aren’t in the mood to walk, there’s a fairly inexpensive ($2 or so) pay lot right next door.

The Blue Dome Diner is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.Saturday and Sunday; and 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Grades:
Value: A-
Product: A
Service: A-
Overall: A-

Midpoint Cafe

Posted in American food, Diners, Pie, Texas restaurants on December 27, 2007 by redforkhippie

The Midpoint Cafe on Route 66 in Adrian, Texas, has terrific bacon, great omelets, good sandwiches, and a spectacular gift shop, but all of that is really beside the point.

The Midpoint’s raison d’etre, as far as I’m concerned, is the pie.

Apple pie, coconut cream pie, peanut butter pie, chocolate pie, banana cream pie … doesn’t really matter which kind of pie you order, because it’s all spectacular, and it all elevates this rather nondescript little building in the Texas Panhandle to an international tourist destination.

The Midpoint takes its name from the fact that Adrian is generally regarded as the halfway point of Route 66. (Your mileage may vary, but who needs accuracy when you’ve got a good claim to fame?)

In any case, the Midpoint Cafe’s friendly service, well-stocked gift shop, and decadent “ugly crust” pie (so named by the baker, who says she’s never quite matched her grandmother’s talent for making pretty pie crusts) make it well worth a stop. While you’re there, be sure to browse through the Midpoint’s scrapbooks, which include photos of well-known roadies and articles from local, national, and international publications whose reporters visited the place and found it worth mentioning.

Prices are a little higher than most diners, but the food is so good, you won’t regret spending a little extra for it.

The Midpoint Cafe is located on the south side of Route 66 at the west end of Adrian. For more information, call (806) 538-6379 or visit the Web site.

The Midpoint is open 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week from Nov. 1 to April 1, with extended hours during the summer.

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

Hank’s Hamburgers

Posted in American food, Burgers, Oklahoma restaurants on December 26, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

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In Tulsa, the competition for “best mom-and-pop hamburger stand” is fierce (after living here for three and a half years, I’ve yet to find a less than satisfactory burger), but one contender stands out from the pack: Hank’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, located at 8933 E. Admiral Place — an old alignment of Route 66 on Tulsa’s north side.

Everything I’ve eaten at Hank’s has been good — the chili, the fries, the burgers — but two items stand out from the pack: the Big Okie and the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls. Even after consuming the former (a behemoth of a burger consisting of four, count ‘em, FOUR quarter-pound beef patties, layered with cheese, grilled onions, and all the trimmings), I manage to find a little room for the latter.

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A couple of years ago, during our first encounter with the peanut butter balls, Ron and I noticed a sign taped to the side of the Pepsi machine that read: “We hate to brag, but these are the best thing you have ever tried.”

It’s a bold assertion, but it comes close to the truth. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two desserts better than a peanut butter ball from Hank’s, and neither is available in Tulsa.*

When Waylon Jennings came through Tulsa, Hank’s was one of his favorite haunts — as evidenced by the autographed photographs of Jennings and his wife, Jessi Colter, hanging in the dining room.

When I stopped by for lunch one afternoon, a radio in the kitchen was playing a James Taylor tune, and the tantalizing smell of grilled onions and sizzling beef hung in the air. I got a single cheeseburger — cooked to order, with grilled onions, mustard, tomato, and pickles — for $2.84 and paid 75 cents apiece for a half-dozen peanut butter balls.

It took all the restraint I could muster to keep from eating the entire bag of rich, creamy, truffle-like creations on the way back to the office.

Roadfood.com did a terrific writeup on Hank’s a couple of years ago. The review includes a photograph of the Big Okie.

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Hank’s opened in 1949 and has been in its current location — a small yellow building on Tulsa’s oldest alignment of Route 66, between Mingo and Memorial — for more than 50 years. The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The dining room closes at 6:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.

Grades:
Value: A
Service: A+
Product: A+
Overall: A+

*The only two desserts I love more than Hank’s peanut butter balls are the Dutchman’s Delight concrete from Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard in St. Louis and the maple truffles from Funk’s Grove Maple Sirup in Shirley, Ill.

Cozy Dog Drive-In

Posted in American food, Burgers, Corn dogs, Diners on December 25, 2007 by redforkhippie

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If there were a Mount Rushmore of Route 66 restaurateurs, the late Ed Waldmire’s face would surely be on it.

While serving in the Air Force during the 1940s, Waldmire invented what he called a “crusty cur” — a wiener dipped in cornmeal batter, impaled on a skewer, and deep-fried. His wife, Virginia, later convinced him to change his creation’s name to “Cozy Dog.” According to the official Cozy Dog Web site, the Waldmires began selling the deep-fried delicacies at the Lake Springfield Beach House in 1946.

More than 60 years later, Waldmire’s grandchildren help their mother run the Cozy Dog Drive-In at 2935 S. Sixth Street in Springfield, Ill.

In addition to Waldmire’s world-famous, much-beloved corn dogs, the Cozy Dog offers skin-on French fries and some of the best cheeseburgers on the road, along with plush Cozy Dog souvenirs; batter mix; and gorgeous pen-and-ink artwork by Waldmire’s son Bob, an ethical vegetarian, itinerant artist and longtime hippie who inspired the character Fillmore in the movie Cars.

Below is a rat-terrier’s-eye view of a Cozy Dog just seconds before our faithful sidekick, Scout, swiped it right off the stick:

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(Scout offers her own account of our trip to the Cozy Dog on her Web site, Kidson66.com, where you can also download a free guidebook to kid-friendly attractions on Route 66.)

If you’re traveling through Springfield on Route 66, the Cozy Dog is not to be missed.

The Cozy Dog Drive-In is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and significant holidays. For more information, visit the Web site or call (217) 525-1992.

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

Ollie’s Station Restaurant

Posted in American food, Diners, Oklahoma restaurants on December 23, 2007 by redforkhippie

(Cross-posted from Indie Tulsa.)

To my knowledge, Ollie’s Station Restaurant, 4070 Southwest Blvd. in Tulsa, is the only business in town that advertises itself with matchbooks that list its location as simply “Red Fork, Oklahoma.”

Tucked under an overpass next to the railroad tracks, directly across historic Route 66 from the remnants of downtown Red Fork — a little working-class community that was annexed into Tulsa well over half a century ago — Ollie’s is one of the best places in the area to take out-of-town guests or have lunch with a rugrat.

In addition to a terrific breakfast buffet, great fried chicken, and to-die-for cinnamon rolls, Ollie’s offers friendly service; a helpful, community-minded owner; and perhaps best of all, a collection of model trains that periodically race around the room on tiny tracks suspended from the ceiling.

One of my favorite memories of Ollie’s involves a toddler who was so delighted with the trains that he stretched out his arms and squealed with unbridled joy as he wobbled along beneath the track, chasing the tiny cars around the dining room.

Below are a couple of videos of the model trains running:

And here’s a clip of the restaurant’s miniature cable cars (the ski-lift kind) moving up and down in the dining room:

Everything I’ve had at Ollie’s was pretty good, but the weekend breakfast buffet — which offers thick slices of smoky bacon, three kinds of sausage, waffles, pancakes, French toast, biscuits, cream gravy, hash browns, home fries, and umpteen other goodies — is one of the few things that can coax me out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

Incidentally, Saturday morning is really the best time to go to Ollie’s, as classic car clubs frequently use it as a starting point for weekend Route 66 cruises, making it likely that you’ll find a few vintage Corvettes or ’57 Chevys on the lot if you get there early enough.

Service can be a little slow when it’s crowded, but you can expedite things by heading for the buffet instead of ordering off the menu.

Ollie’s is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information or to reserve a banquet room for a meeting or party, call 446-0524.

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

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