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Posted by Bill Homan on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:47 AM

I had first heard about The Only Cafe in an email a few years ago from fellow Roadfooder Lexi. Her brother, David, owns the cafe and she mentioned that the next time I was in the Central NY area visiting family, I should give him a call and stop by for lunch. In my many visits since then I am sure glad I took her advice. There aren't set hours so it would be a good idea to call ahead. When I asked David if I could see a menu he replied, "I don't have a menu but I collect them!" I asked what kind of food he had and he said, "I make big batches of food that I like to eat!" I knew good things were in store for me.

Over the past few years I've had a very comforting pulled pork, Hatch green chile and Syracuse salt potato stew, a Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble, with fresh stalks from Bill, his rhubarb (and other produce) guy, a flourless chocolate cake made with raspberry jam, cinnamon and coffee that brought out all of those flavors, lemon icebox pie with a crushed lemon candy topping, homemade pralines (scotch, Kahlua, bourbon-pecan and tequila-green chile flavors) and a rib-sticking dish of biscuits and sausage gravy with grits and eggs. David used to make pecan biscuits, but he has a customer who is allergic to nuts, so he began experimenting and came up with crystallized ginger biscuits. The spicy, chewy ginger is an inspired choice to pair with a soft flaky bisuit. And anything on his homemade sesame bread is worth getting. It's perfect for snacking on by itself.

In addition to the wonderful, inspired food is a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The best way I can describe it is as a laid back small town cafe. The cafe is filled with pictures, knick knacks and most everything has a story behind it as to how it was acquired. David is a one-man operation that is equal parts cook, server, cashier, storyteller and historian. From the 6-foot tall Gumby that accompanied him on a cross-country road trip to his days as a taxi driver in New York City, to spending time with Dawn Wells (Maryann from "Gilligan's Island-she was always my favorite too!) in L.A., David has led a colorful life and the conversations we've shared have been the perfect accompaniment to his cooking.

And he has a good local following too. I ran a half marathon in my hometown of Rome, NY a few years back and when I mentioned to my running partners that I was heading to the cafe after the race they said, "Dave's place? We love him!" On my most recent visit, it was a slow day and I was the only customer there. Marty Robbins was playing in the background and for a moment I felt like I had gone back in time: no cell phones, none of the modern day distractions that have become so normal these days, just two guys shootin' the breeze about whatever topics interested them. If you are ever in Central NY, The Only Cafe should definitely be on your short list of places to go. There's nothing else like it!
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Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pei Wei Spicy with Chicken

All dishes are served in a lunch friendly format - equal portions of rice and entree.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 4:34 AM

Soul food restaurants in and around Orlando, Florida, tend to be colorful places with personal photos and memorabilia covering the walls. P&D Soul Food Kitchen has virtually no personality at all. It is a minuscule carry out-only storefront with no décor and no seating except for a few tables out in an adjoining hallway and, on Sundays, a couple of extra tables set out in another hallway for families to share supper. Everything is sold in take-away Styrofoam containers.

In this bland location, you will find brilliantly flavored food, made with expertise and from scratch. "We use no cans," explains Denis Cox, who owns the place with his wife, Paula. Their recipes are mostly their parents', but with a healthful twist: smoked turkey necks are used instead of ham hocks to add meaty savor to greens and cabbage.

Among the nearly dozen entrees available every day, turkey wings are a standout, delivering incredible amounts of good dark meat; Sunday roast pork is as sweet as cream; chicken wings are fried crisp and a joy to worry; and baked chicken is butter-rich. Essential side dishes include glazed pieces of extraordinarily dark beets and peppery rutabaga served in big, velvety hunks. Baked macaroni and cheese is made with four different cheeses and – although Dennis is mum on the subject – we suspect a dab of sour cream.

“Our cakes come from the finest baker in Orlando,” Dennis brags, turning with a grin to a soft-spoken lady sitting on a stool near the door where people enter. Strangers aren’t sure if she is a customer waiting in line or a staff member. It is Ann Fisher, who brings her beautiful cakes to the Soul Kitchen twice a week. Ann's red velvet cake is moist, tender, and very chocolaty, its generous cream cheese frosting spangled with bits of pecan. As Dennis cuts us a slice of Ann's Key lime cake, he says, "This is a monster! People are taking it home and hiding it under the bed so they can eat it all after everyone else goes to sleep."
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Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Smoked Turkey

This smokey and juicy turkey is served only on Tuesdays.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, April 21, 2014 5:38 AM

Of course, one expects to eat excellent fried chicken in Virginia. In and around Charlottesville, some of the best of it is served in the most unexpected places: national brand gas stations that, from the outside, appear to have no distinct personality whatever. Even when you step inside Brownsville Market, located in a Shell station, a quick look around suggests that the inventory of edibles is nothing other than typical convenience-mart fare. However, inhaling provides hope. The air is perfumed by the luxurious smell of frying chicken.

Straight ahead as you enter, beyond the cash register, is a small food service area where customers get takeaway sandwiches, pork chops, burgers, and moist-meat chicken sheathed in a crisp, butter-rich crust. There is nothing wild about this chicken; the seasoning is just-right salty with perhaps a hint of herbs, the oil in which it's fried (peanut oil?) is fresh enough to make its flavor verge on health food.

There are all sorts of typical southern side dishes to accompany the chicken and an alternative entry that we'd never suggest getting instead of fried chicken, but which should be sampled by aficionados of mid-20th century home-ec cuisine: chicken broccoli casserole, gooped with plenty of cheese and soft noodles. It really is more old-style home cooking than modern-day restaurant cooking. Maybe you'd call it classic school cafeteria cooking.

Breakfast also is served.
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Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014


The onions and hard roll make the burger.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, April 20, 2014 3:56 PM

It was a sad day back in August, 2013, when Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, an Ann Arbor cheap-eats Mecca since 1953, had to close because the University of Michigan bought the land it was on. Those of us who treasure the great, greasy burgers and the 2,147,483,648 possible ways to order one have been on tenterhooks ever since. Breathe easy, Blimpy lovers: Krazy Jim's has found a new location, 304 S. Ashley St., and it is scheduled to open in June. Here are the reviews.

Source: Michigan Live
Posted on Sunday, April 20, 2014

Double Dog

That's not one long hot dog traversing the pizza bread, but two dogs stuck in either end. The bread is not quite like Italian bread, not like pizza crust, not much like pita, and not a hamburger bun. What is it? A little of each.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:15 PM

Highway 40 was once The National Road, a way to cross the country east to west before the interstate highway system. It is now a side road parallel to I-70, so that millions of vehicles zoom past, utterly oblivious to the existence of Henry’s. Even if you are on the two-lane and you do see Henry’s on the south side of 40, chances are good you will drive on by. It looks defunct. It needs paint. The gas pumps that used to be outside are long gone and what remains of the refueling islands is rusty. But a sign in the window says OPEN. And for those who persevere, walking in the door of this place is walking in the gates of Roadfood heaven.

The meals are just fine, very good country-style fare: baked ham, hot roast pork sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed chipped beef on cornbread. But it’s not the hot meals that put this unlikely knotty-pine-paneled roadside café on the map. It is pie. Here are some of the best pies in Ohio, in the Midwest, anywhere. Every day, baker Shelley Kelley has a list of six or eight she has made: peach, banana, chocolate, peanut butter, cherry, coconut, etc. We tried three kinds our last visit. The butterscotch pie was thick and dense, full flavored the way only real (not from a mix) butterscotch can be; and it was topped with a creamy meringue. Custard pie was modestly thin, a sunny yellow wedge dusted with nutmeg. It was balmy, lightweight, melt-in-the-mouth tender. The flavor of the rhubarb pie was as brilliant as bright summer sun, intensely fruity, sweet but not cloying, and balanced by a crust that flaked into luscious shards.

On the way out, for the road, we took a small oval zucchini loaf Shelly Kelly had pulled from the oven just hours before. It was glorious. No doubt about it: she is a baker with a magic touch.
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Roadfood of the Day: Jimmy's Hot Dogs - Easton, PA
Posted on Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jimmy's Dogs

Here are two with everything, which at Jimmy's means mustard, onion and pickle.
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