Review by: Michael Stern
Memorable | One of the Best
Al’s is a fabulous destination for travelers in search of culinary color. It is located on the main street of Locke, a forgotten little town in the Sacramento Delta, originally built by and for Chinese Californians. Once famous as an anything-goes enclave of vice, Locke’s weathered wood-frame main street remains a magical sight; and in the middle of it is Al’s Place, thriving since 1934.
Several years ago we heard from Patti Spezia, whose father was a good friend of Al Adami, the man who started the place. Patti wrote to say that Al’s place began because another member of the Adami family had been accused of bootlegging; but Al took the rap and served the jail time himself. When he got out of prison, the family rewarded him with a stake to start Al’s Place in what had been Lee Bing’s chop suey joint. Al’s was the only non-Chinese restaurant in town, and there was no menu. Mr. Adami asked you how you liked your steak, which was the only thing to eat amidst the slot machines and card tables in the Tong Dining Room behind the front-room bar.
According to Patti, one day her father Vic brought jars of peanut butter and marmalade into the restaurant and asked Al for some toast to spread it on. Al liked the idea, and started putting peanut butter and marmalade on every table. The tradition continues, and while most customers use the peanut butter and jelly on the bread, some actually spread it on their steak!
The menu now includes pasta, soup, and salad, and hamburgers are wonderful – thick and juicy, served between thick slices of grilled-crisp Italian bread with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, and olives on the side. The steak sandwich is, in fact, not a sandwich, but a sandwich-size steak on a platter accompanied by a second plate of toasted pieces of the good Italian bread. Horseradish or a little dish of minced garlic are available to spread on the meat.
Be sure to look upward in the bar room at the front of Al’s. The ceiling is plastered with dollar bills. If you wonder how they got there, ask the bartender. It will cost you a buck to find out, but it’s well worth it!
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|