Blue Plate Specials and Blue Ribbon Chefs: The Heart and Soul of America's Great Roadside Restaurants

Overview

The authors have packed up their bags and hit the highways once again in search of the tastiest dishes and most fascinating chefs. The result is an amazing journey across America's heartland, with stops along the way for a few down-home meals and delightful desserts at the coziest, friendliest, and busiest diners and roadside cafes.

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Overview

The authors have packed up their bags and hit the highways once again in search of the tastiest dishes and most fascinating chefs. The result is an amazing journey across America's heartland, with stops along the way for a few down-home meals and delightful desserts at the coziest, friendliest, and busiest diners and roadside cafes.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jane and Michael Stern want you to meet the real celebrity chefs -- the short-order cooks, waitresses, barbecue pit masters, and pancake flippers who work in the roadside restaurants in small towns (and large ones) across America.

Thanks to these culinary road warriors, we have proof positive that America is not one homogenized strip of fast-food chains. Some of the diners and coffee shops the authors visited include Al's Diner (12 stools at an ancient counter) in Minneapolis; Becky's in Portland Maine, where all meals are backed with a 100 percent guarantee (if you don't like it, you don't pay); Ma Groover's Pig and Plate in Valdosta, Georgia; and Flo's in Cape Neddick, Maine, where the only thing on the menu is hot dogs and the only question from the waitress is, "How many?"

The Sterns call American food a crazy quilt influenced by cuisines from all over the world. That's evident from some of the dishes they found, like Polish chop suey from Chicago, St. Paul sandwiches (egg foo young on white bread with lettuce and tomato), Siouxland chow mein from Sioux, Iowa, and the amazing Fritos Pie from Santa Fe, New Mexico. (The Fritos Pie was originally served by ladling the chili-and-cheese mixture right into a large Fritos bag, so the happy eater could stroll and eat right out of the bag.) You'll also discover local specialties like the steamed cheeseburger, a Central Connecticut addiction, in which both beef and cheese are steamed on separate trays in the same little steam box. Hmmm....

Each segment on a roadside restaurant is accompanied by stories, recipes, and the occasional photograph. Best yet, the cooks dish out stories as appetizing as their food. (Ginger Curwen)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780867308402
  • Publisher: Lebhar-Friedman Books
  • Publication date: 8/8/2001
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction ix
A-1 Diner - Gardiner, Maine 1
Al's #1 Italian Beef - Chicago. Illinois 4
Al's Diner - Minneapolis, Minnesota 8
Al's Place - Locke, California 13
Anchor Inn - Farragut, Iowa 17
Becky's - Portland, Maine 20
Blue Willow Inn - Social Circle, Georgia 24
Bon Ton Mini Mart - Henderson, Kentucky 29
C&K Barbecue - St. Louis, Missouri 34
Cafe Poca Cosa - Tucson, Arizona 37
Carol's Calico Kitchen - Lexington, Minnesota 41
Clark's Outpost - Tioga, Texas 46
Danish Inn Restaurant - Elk Horn, Iowa 50
Dodd's Townhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana 52
The Downing Cafe - Downing, Wisconsin 54
Dr. Mike's Ice Cream Shop--Bethel, Connecticut 61
The Enrico Biscotti Company--Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 65
The Farmer's Inn--Havana, North Dakota 68
Flo's--Cape Neddick, Maine 73
Gordon's Coffee Shop--Milwaukee, Wisconsin 77
The Grand Cafe--Douglas, Arizona 80
Green Gables--Sioux City, Iowa 83
Hap Townes--Nashville, Tennessee 86
Hopkins Boarding House--Pensacola, Florida 89
Hudson's--Coeur D'Alene, Idaho 94
John's New York System--Providence, Rhode Island 97
Johnnie's Grill--El Reno, Oklahoma 100
Katz's--New York, New York 104
Kitchen Little--Mystic, Connecticut 108
Lasyone's Meat Pie Kitchen & Restaurant--Natchitoches, Louisana 114
Lusco's--Greenwood, Mississippi 119
Ma Groover's Pig and Plate--Valdosta, Georgia 126
Mama Lo's--Gainesville, Florida 129
Mamie's--Memphis, Tennessee 132
Manny's Coffee Shop--Chicago, Illinois 134
McClard's Bar-B-Q--Hot Springs, Arkansas 139
Mike's Donuts--Everett, Massachusetts 142
Mt. Cube Farm--Orford, New Hampshire 145
O'Rourke's Diner--Middletown, Connecticut 148
Porubsky's Grocery--Topeka, Kansas 154
Ranchman's Cafe--Ponder, Texas 160
Ratner's Dairy Restaurant--New York, New York 162
Roque's Carnitas Wagon--Santa Fe, New Mexico 165
Roseland Apizza--Derby, Connecticut 170
Rowe's Restaurant--Staunton, Virginia 176
Schwabl's--Buffalo, New York 179
Snappy Lunch--Mount Airy, North Carolina 183
Sophie's Busy Bee--Chicago, Illinois 188
Stone's Restaurant--Marshalltown, Iowa 193
The Sycamore Drive-In--Bethel, Connecticut 196
Threadgill's--Austin, Texas 199
Tigua Reservation Cafeteria--El Paso, Texas 205
Ulbrick's--Nebraska City, Nebraska 210
Vernon's Kuntry Katfish--Conroe, Texas 213
Woolworth's Lunch Counter--Santa Fe, New Mexico 218
Index 223
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Recipe

CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK from Threadgills in Austin, Texas
Makes 6 steaks

6 cube steaks
2 beaten eggs
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup all-purpose flour, mixed with 2 teaspoons pepper and 1 teaspoon salt
Lard or vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup milk, mixed with 1/4 cup beef stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mashed potatoes and biscuits for serving

  1. Sandwich each steak between pieces of wax paper, and beat with a blunt instrument until steaks are about 1/4-inch thick, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Combine the eggs and evaporated milk, and thoroughly soak the steaks in this mixture.
  3. Dredge each steak in the seasoned flour, coating it thoroughly. Return to evaporated milk, then dust with remaining seasoned flour.
  4. Put enough lard or oil in a deep skillet so there is over 1/2-inch. Heat until it is 360° F.
  5. Stand back and ease each steak into the hot oil (it will splatter!). Do not crowd steaks in the skillet. Cook each steak about 4 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn, and cook the other side, about 3 more minutes, or until well browned. Remove steaks from oil with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  6. Pour off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet. Return the skillet to the heat, and sprinkle 2 tablespoons seasoned flour over the hot oil, stirring constantly for a full minute, scraping the bottom of the skillet as you stir.
  7. Gradually add milk and beef stock, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring, until the gravy is thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with mashed potatoes and biscuits.

FRITOS PIE from the Woolworth's Lunch Counter in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Makes 4 jumbo Fritos pies

Mary Encinias, chili chef at Woolworth's (and former chef at the state police academy) made three five-gallon pans of red chili and one five-gallon pan of green each morning. Hers was not a sophisticated chili; the recipe is quick and simple lunch-counter fare -- the only appropriate kind for Fritos pie.

Red Chili
2 slices bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground chuck
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup tomato paste
1-1/2 cups water (approximately)
1 cup cooked pinto beans

Sauté bacon until fat is rendered. Add garlic and onion to pan and cook until onion softens. Add beef and cook until hamburger is browned, breaking up lumps with a fork. (If desired, excess fat may be poured off at this point.) Add salt, chili powder, and cumin, then tomato paste and enough water to give the chili a loose, but not soupy, consistency. Cook 15 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer until beans are warmed through.

To Assemble Fritos Pies
4-5 cups Fritos chips (the better part of an 11-ounce bag)
Red chili (recipe precedes)
2 cups shredded orange cheese (Monterrey Jack preferred)
Chopped onion, optional
Diced jalapeño peppers, optional

To make four individual servings, use four wide, shallow bowls. In each, arrange a broad bed of Fritos chips. Ladle chili atop the chips, then sprinkle cheese atop chili. Garnish with chopped onions and jalape˜no peppers, if desired.

BECKY’S WHOOPIE-PIE CAKE WITH POOR MAN’S ICING from Becky's in Portland, Maine
Makes enough icing to generously frost a 2-layer cake

The whoopie pie was invented in Maine back in the 1920s: Like a giant, squishy Oreo cookie, it is two discs of chocolate cake sandwiching a creamy-sweet filling. One of Becky's most popular desserts is a cake she makes inspired by the whoopie pie, frosted with a low-cost icing she found while browsing through a World War II era cookbook. The marshallow-soft icing gives this cake an evocative old-fashioned character, totally unlike a modern "sinful" boutique gâteau.

1 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
9 tablespoons cocoa powder

Icing
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup solid vegetable shortening

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Beat together the margarine and sugar. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix slowly, gradually adding buttermilk. Beat, 2 full minutes. Add eggs, then gradually add cocoa, beating another 2 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake, about 40 minutes, until center springs back when gently pushed.
  4. Cool, 5 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. To make the icing, pour the milk into a saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour until a thick paste forms. Do not scorch! Remove from stove and cool this mixture in the refrigerator.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, butter, vanilla, and shortening. Add the cooled paste. Whip, at least 3 minutes until creamy.

Copyright 2001 © 2001 by Jane and Michael Stern

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