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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, October 8, 2015 5:05 AM

Decisions, decisions. Should I choose roast beef hash or corned beef hash? “Try both,” my waitress suggested as she brought a mug of coffee to my booth at the Sunny Day Diner. Brilliant idea, but the compare-and-contrast session that followed was a mind bender. Both hashes are excellent: very finely chopped, soft and moist and almost reminiscent in texture of a succulent boudin. Neither has an assertive flavor. Both, in fact, are subtle and elegant. The roast beef hash, which contains limp little bits of onion and pepper and, of course, potato, is underseasoned in the best possible way, like grandma’s comfort-food hash. Corned beef hash has a bit more punch, a faint briny character, but it too is laid back. Neither offers dramatic surface crunch, but that’s ok. These are all about gentility.

They do a lot of baking at the Sunny Day Diner and among the specialties is banana bread, which is made into French toast for breakfast. It is like warm cake: moist, rich, faintly fruity, and very sweet. It comes topped with maple cream, and the waitress strongly suggested I try it as delivered before adding any maple syrup, which is the real deal, presented in a jug. She was right. Between the banana bread and maple cream spread across it, no more sweetness is required.

As I left, I asked my newfound friend if I had eaten the kitchen’s best stuff. She gave it some thought and instructed me to return for eggs benedict (“the best anywhere”) and a Reuben sandwich that contains the same fine corned beef used to make the hash. I shall return!
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Roadfood of the Day: Becca's - Tasley, VA
Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015

Smith Island cake: the official state dessert of Maryland, as served in easternmost Virginia
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 4:57 AM

A fact that eluded me when I studied American history in school is that the chicken tender was invented in Manchester, New Hampshire, by Arthur Pappas and Louis Canotas of the Puritan Back Room Restaurant. In fact, the Puritan Back Room has eluded Jane and me all the while we have been writing about American food. No surprise: it really isn’t a Roadfood restaurant, but I list it here for history buffs. Its name makes sense; it really is the back room of a huge building that also is a function hall and ice cream dispensary. Ambiance is well-to-do bourgeois: a happy bar with TVs overhead, plush upholstered booths and banquettes, thick rug on the floor. When I arrived at 5pm, there already was a wait-list for tables. The good people of Manchester love this place.

“I guess I better get the tenders,” I told the waitress after she clued me in to the restaurant’s place in the annals of gastronomy.

“Yes, you better!” she said with glee, offering me a mix of regular tenders, coconut tenders, Buffalo tenders, and spicy tenders. When I asked about the onion rings, she assured me they were not the big, gross ones, and like everything else on the menu they were hand-made, from scratch. In fact, they’re pretty good: not the wispy type, but nice, thin hoops with crisp crust and sweet onion flavor. As for the tenders, the regular ones are encased in a batter that is slightly sweet and the spicy ones are quite peppery. One order is absolutely immense, enough for three or four moderately hungry people, or for a dozen people who don’t like them very much. They come with a ramekin of clear liquid that tastes like hummingbird nectar. “Duck sauce,” the waitress said, for dipping the chicken. “Sweet and sour.” Yes, it is sweet; but sour I did not taste.

The dish I liked best was the Greek salad that preceded the mountain of tenders. It comes with a block of good, tangy feta cheese and is dressed with a well-seasoned vinaigrette that reminds me of the Greek salad they served at the old George & Harry’s in New Haven.
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Roadfood of the Day: Smoke & Bones - Derby, CT
Posted on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Long ago, burnt ends were simply cutting-board scraps. But people like them so much that many barbecue parlors offer big hunks of edge-meat, ribboned with fat.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 4:22 AM

I had time for only one meal at Bufalina – one pizza to be precise – but based on that experience, I highly recommend this place to pizzaphiles. The style is true Neapolitan, each pie a good-size meal for one. 90 seconds in a 900+ degree wood-fired oven yields a pizza with a thin, chewy crust that is gently fire-blistered at its puffed collar and infused with smoke that so nicely enhances the dough’s long-risen, yeasty savor.

Roadfood of the Day: Red Barn - Exira, IA
Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One of Iowa's great tenderloins -- crisp, juicy, hugely satisfying. And garnished with slices of garden-fresh tomato.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 5, 2015 4:18 AM

This clam castle is in fact a clam shack, and we mean that in the nicest possible way. A breezy roadside eatery with a pleasant dining room adjacent to the order windows and picnic tables set back from Route One, it has been a significant shoreline source of fried clams and clam chowder for more than half a century.

The whole-belly fried clams are plump, juicy and sweet with vividly seasoned crust that is brittle but virtually melts on the tongue when you crunch into it. For those who like only a hint of clam flavor as part of the fried-food package, the Castle also offers clam strips. While not the bivalve connoisseur’s choice, these strips are in fact quite tasty … reminding us of the fried clams that originally helped make Howard Johnson’s famous.

There’s a full array of other fried seafood, as well as seafood salads, burgers and hot dogs for the fry-basket-frowner; but in our book there are two non-fried things that must be eaten. First, chowder: a brisk, oceany brew typical of the southern New England shoreline, bright with clam flavor and ballasted by the starchy goodness of potatoes. Second, the lobster roll! A striking Connecticut beauty, it is loaded with immense, butter-glistening pieces of meat, many of them two- or three-bite size (no shreds or stringy stuff here!) Barely holding them all is a split-top Yankee bun, so fresh and soft inside that it absorbs massive amounts of butter-lobster flavor and is impossible to stop eating even after the big hunks of lobster are gone. Its outside has been brushed with butter and grilled to a golden crisp.

The food is better than ever, and service has gone a bit upscale since the Clam Castle formally became Donahue's Clam Castle a few years back. You still place your order and pay at the counter, but now a member of the waitstaff will bring it to you at the table. Everything is still presented on or in disposable dishware.
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Roadfood of the Day: Pepperhead - Cortez, CO
Posted on Monday, October 5, 2015

The cheesy combination of enchiladas and a chile relleno is extremely satisfying.
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Posted by Cliff Strutz on Sunday, October 4, 2015 4:53 AM

First of all, the name of this place can be a little confusing. The sign hanging over the front door calls it Moody's Place. A smaller hand printed sign over the parking lot says Moody Café. An interior sign goes with the name Moody's Restaurant. And then you have to actually find it. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Moody's puts the "hidden" in hidden gem. If you can get past those issues, you will be rewarded with a memorable meal in one of the South's best meat-and threes.

Don't expect a menu to be brought to your table. A huge menu board plasters the back wall with a list of everything the kitchen makes. There is a white dot next to each item and if that dot is filled in, (green for entrees and vegetables, blue for desserts and yellow for drinks), then that item is available. As tempting as the baked chicken and dressing looked on nearby tables, I couldn't pass up chicken and dumplings. A comfort food classic, this is soft, misshapen dumplings, with both white and dark meat. The vegetables are world class: highly seasoned field peas, earthy turnip greens infused with pork, and fresh, sweet oven baked corn, available as a special.

You cannot leave Moody's without trying dessert or in my case, two desserts. The wonderful coconut pie was highlighted by a thick layer of homemade whipped topping. Even better was the peach cobbler with just the right mix of sugary sweet breading and slices of fresh fruit.

Moody's is ultra casual and run by genuinely welcoming people. One note of warning: it is open for lunch on Mondays through Fridays only.
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Roadfood of the Day: Beto's - Pittsburgh, PA
Posted on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Notice the unmelted cheese on top of the tomato-sauced crust. The pre-cooked sausage and mushrooms are phenomenal!
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